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Innovative high school project praised for exploring new ways to cut the cost of the school day

Posted 05.10.23 by Alice Hinds

Pupils and staff at Braes High School, Falkirk, have been praised by the Scottish Government for finding innovative ways to help cut the cost of the school day for families struggling to make ends meet

Highlighted as part of Challenge Poverty Week (2-8 October 2023), the Cost of the School Day Pupil Group has been working alongside the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) (click here for more) to develop new cost-saving initiatives, including creating ‘Take What You Need’ trolleys filled with essential school items, toiletries and snacks, clothing pop-up shops, a uniform exchange, and a school starter kit backpack for all S1 pupils.

Although state education is free in Scotland, the cost of uniforms, trips, lunches, gym kit and stationery can be a financial burden for many families, particularly those on low incomes, who may struggle to find extra money in the household budget. According to recent research from CPAG, parents across the UK typically need to find at least £39 per week for a child’s secondary school education, and £19 for a primary-aged child – a total of more than £18,345 for children throughout their schooling.

On a visit to Braes High School, the Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth said: “It was hugely encouraging to visit Braes High School during Challenge Poverty Week and to witness the innovative approaches pupils and staff have adopted to deal with the challenges that, sadly, too many of our young people and their families are facing.”

Joining together a network of children and young people, CPAG has been working hard to break down the financial barriers to education, encouraging people to speak more openly about the costs associated with schooling, while also introducing a free to access toolkit, which includes a variety of resources, information and practical ideas for both pupils and parent.

Sara Spencer, Cost of the School Day Project Manager at CPAG in Scotland: “We have been delighted to work with Braes High School and their Cost of the School Day Pupil Group and see all of the meaningful ways young people have involved their school community and designed supports that help to make sure everyone can take part and feel included.

“Cost of the School Day at Braes is an inspiring example of what can happen when young people take the lead on equity in their own schools and a reminder of the impact that a poverty aware school culture and a clear focus on reducing the cost of the school day can have.”

Schools in Falkirk Council have received more than £26 million from the Scottish Government between 2015-16 and 2022-23 to close the poverty related attainment gap, with Braes High School receiving more than £369,000 from the Scottish Government Pupil Equity Funding (PEF) to support its work.

Braes head teacher Iain Livingstone said: “Our young people, staff, parents/carers and the wider community work well together to challenge poverty and support all learners. Pupil Equity Funding has helped us take forward a number of projects and support to help our young people get the most out of their education.

“We enjoyed being able to speak with the Cabinet Secretary, and seeing our young people discuss the many developments and ideas they lead.”

For more information on CPAG and its work on The Cost of the School Day, click here to visit the website:

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Young people aged 16-25 invited to be anti-poverty Ambassadors

Posted 05.04.23 by Lynn Gilmour

Young people aged between 16 and 25 with an interest in tackling the causes of child poverty in the UK are invited to become Youth Ambassadors for a leading anti-poverty group.

The End Child Poverty (ECP) Coalition works alongside 10 Youth Ambassadors, who have been working hard to both influence the work of the Coalition and develop their own campaign on issues of importance for young people who have experienced poverty.

Their work has included researching, writing and publishing a report about the cost-of-living crisis (click here to read their report)

Now, ECP is looking to recruit at least another five Ambassadors. These young people need to be between 16 and 25 years old, and don’t need to have experience of growing up in a low income family – but young people who do are encouraged to apply.

Applicants should be able to commit to the role for a year, and are compensated for their time and effort.

Being an Ambassador can include: meeting MPs/MSPs, speaking at events, helping to develop a youth focused campaign, writing blogs for the ECP website, and speaking to the media.

The deadline for applications is Monday May 8 2023.

Click here to apply:

End Child Poverty Coalition

The End Child Poverty Coalition is made up of more 80 organisations including child welfare groups, social justice groups, faith groups, trade unions and others. Children in Scotland is a member of the coalition.

Together with a group of Youth Ambassadors the coalition collectively believes that no child growing up in the UK should live in poverty, and together we ask that this and future governments commit to end child poverty.

To do this the coalition engages with young people providing opportunities for them to share their experiences with decision-makers, shares knowledge and develops solutions with coalition members, and campaigns, uniting coalition members and young people to ask central and devolved governments to end child poverty.

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Comment: We know what’s wrong, so what will we do?

Posted 25 January, 2023 by Jennifer Drummond

We need a radical shift and long-term prevention measures to genuinely improve outcomes for Scotland’s most deprived communities, writes David Finch (pictured)

Our Health Foundation report ‘Leave no one behind: The state of health and health inequalities in Scotland (click here to access)’ was published earlier in January. It is the summation of a multi-stranded review undertaken over the past 12 months, focusing on how Scotland has fared on health and health inequalities in the two decades since devolution.

The most glaring predicament revealed by the review is that the fortunes of those living in our most deprived communities are peeling away from the rest.

Compiled from research commissioned from the University of Glasgow, the Fraser of Allander Institute, Nesta in Scotland, and the Diffley Partnership, with the help of our expert advisory group, it has revealed some particularly worrying trends.

Poor childhood health, rising infant mortality rates and a persistent attainment gap

Early childhood development and the school years play a crucial role in determining future health. Poor outcomes in childhood can continue to have significant implications in life. For example, school readiness affects educational attainment, eventual access to job opportunities, lifetime income and ultimately health. Yet there are a number of concerning trends that risk the perpetuation of health inequalities for children now and later in their lives.

Infant mortality is a good indicator of societal health. The rate at which children die before their first birthday is rising for people living in the most deprived fifth of areas but is static or falling among the rest.

Since 2000 infant mortality has declined overall. However, from 2014 infant mortality rose in the most deprived areas and fell in the least deprived 60% of areas. Between 2016-18 infant mortality rates in the most deprived areas were 2.6 times the rate in the least deprived areas.

In the past decade, inequalities have also widened for infant immunisation uptake, low birth weight and childhood obesity. The overall proportion of children at risk of obesity has remained stable over the past 20 years in Scotland, with around 1 in 10 children at risk of obesity at the start of school. But the risk of childhood obesity has gradually fallen in the least deprived areas and gradually risen in the most deprived areas. By 2018-19 children living in the most deprived fifth of areas were twice as likely to be at risk of obesity, than those in the least deprived.

Further evidence of the rise in health inequalities is seen in Early Years. The proportion of 27 to 30-month-old children of development concern from the most deprived areas in 2019-20, only matched outcomes of the children from the next most deprived fifth of areas recorded in 2013-14.

The significant poverty-related attainment gap for primary school pupils in Scotland has not closed over the past two decades. The pandemic has reversed any progress in closing a similar attainment gap for secondary age children.

Life expectancy already varies greatly across Scotland. In the most deprived areas, men are dying more than 13 years earlier than their peers in the least deprived areas – and women almost a decade earlier.

Action is needed now to improve outcomes through childhood to support future health and reduce such inequalities.

Building blocks for a healthy community

A healthy community derives from a range of factors: stable jobs, good pay, quality housing and education. Poor health is almost inevitable when some or all of these factors are absent.

Scotland's wide and sustained health inequalities are being driven by the accumulation of severe multiple disadvantages, a lack of improvement in living standards and public service fragility due to the ongoing impact of austerity.

So, we know what is wrong now, in more detail than ever. The question is, what can we do about it? Because, if we fail to change course, Scotland’s most deprived communities are likely to continue suffering from poor quality of life and to die younger.

A radical shift in approach is needed. The Scottish Government, local authorities, businesses and the third sector must come together and collaborate closely with communities. Ultimately, we must shift focus from short-term measures to longer term preventative interventions. This is a wiser use of the funding available which will create a healthier nation.

Our review has shown that the public will support a longer-term approach, and that existing approaches can be adapted to have greater impact. This includes Local Child Poverty Action reports which can be used more effectively to build collaboration across sectors and drive action on underlying causes of poverty which in turn will support better health.

This is no longer about plans and strategies. It is about political will, and decisive action.

David Finch is Assistant Director of the Health Foundation’s Healthy Lives team

Children in Scotland conducted participative research with children and young people about health inequalities from 2019-2020. Click here to find out more about our health inequalities peer research project. 

New edition of Insight magazine available now

The winter edition of Insight, Children in Scotland's biannual membership magazine, is published today.

Providing a space for reflection and aiming to drive dialogue, Insight has been created for our members as a key part of our membership benefits offer and is also available by subscription to non-members.

Across the magazine, we profile the individuals pushing for progress and the projects making it possible; look critically at some of the big issues facing children, young people and families, and share new examples of best practice from across the children's sector.

In this issue Kenny Murray, new Director of Inclusion and Engagement at Who Cares? Scotland, tells us why accountability is key; Dr Lynn McNair reflects on the opportunities a later school start age could bring; Alison Watson from Shelter Scotland comments on the record number of children in temporary accommodation; and Magic Torch Comics share how sequential storytelling can help unlock literacy.

Jennifer Drummond, Editor of Insight, says:

As we approach the end of the year, the conversation continues around how to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis that is impacting so many families.

“From addressing stigma and campaigning for equality for those who are Care Experienced, to supporting those facing homelessness or dealing with childhood trauma, this latest edition considers some of the challenges facing our most disadvantaged communities.”

Insight is available for free to all Children in Scotland members, as both print and digital editions.

Click here to find out more about joining us in membership

Non-members can subscribe to receive Insight for just £10 per year (2 issues).

Click here find out more about subscribing to Insight.


Insight: Issue 3

Find out more about what's inside the latest issue. Image by Mary Buchanan

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News: Bridging Payment to be doubled following calls from across the sector

Posted 11 October, 2022 by Nina Joynson

Families in Scotland currently in receipt of the Bridging Payment will receive a doubled payment in December, after organisations called for the increase amidst cost of living pressures.

Backed by an additional £18.9 million in Scottish Government funding, Nicola Sturgeon announced that the final quarterly payment of 2022 would be increased from £130 to £260 at the SNP conference in Aberdeen.

All children aged 6-15 years who are registered for free school meals are eligible and will receive the payment automatically.


Bridging Payments were introduced in 2021 to provide equivalent support for children under 16 who are not eligible for the Scottish Child Payment.

Currently only available to children under 6, the Scottish Child Payment was introduced in February 2021 as a £10 weekly payment, before being doubled in April 2022. It will increase again in November to £25 with widened eligibility to include all those under 16.

An interim measure for 6-15 year olds, the Bridging Payment is paid quarterly and supports around 145,000 school-age children. In 2021, eligible children received £520 through the scheme, rising to £650 in 2022 due to the increase announced this week.

Coalition calls

The announcement is welcomed by those who have campaigned for its increase in recent months.

In August, over 120 groups signed a letter to the First Minister calling for the payment to be doubled in line with the increased Scottish Child Payment, noting that families "are facing increasing hardship as the cost of energy and food spirals ever higher".

Co-ordinated by the End Child Poverty coalition, signatories included charities, trade unions and faith groups.

Scottish members of the End Child Poverty coalition include Aberlour, Action for Children, Barnardo’s Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland, Children 1st, Children in Scotland, Close the Gap, Engender, Home-Start in Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, Oxfam Scotland, Parenting across Scotland, Poverty Alliance, Save the Children and the Trussell Trust.

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News: Scottish Child Payment to be increased as part of Programme for Government

Posted 06 September, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is today expected to set out a raft of actions to help households through the cost of living crisis.

Currently, the Scottish Child Payment applies if you live in Scotland, are receiving certain benefits and payments and the child you are claiming for is under six years old.

Measures set to be announced include:

  • increasing the Scottish Child Payment to £25 per eligible child per week from 14 November
  • extending the anti-poverty benefit to children up to 16 years old.

Speaking ahead of her statement to Parliament on the 2022-23 Programme for Government, the First Minister said:

“The Scottish Child Payment is unique to Scotland, the most ambitious child poverty reduction measure in the UK and an important action to mitigate the growing cost of emergency. We doubled the payment to £20 per week per child in April and a further increase to £25 from November means a rise of £150 in less than eight months.”

The First Minister also suggested all those newly eligible will have payments backdated to the date their application is received.

Success of the Scottish Child Payment

Figures published last week identified a total of 104,000 children are in receipt of the payment, with families in Scotland benefiting from a total of £84 million since the payment was first introduced in February 2021.

It is expected more than 400,000 children will be eligible when the payment is extended to those up to 16 years old.

The actions will be announced as part of the Programme for Government, which is due to be presented to Parliament at 2pm today (Tuesday 6 September).

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News: School meal debt wiped for Edinburgh families

Posted 30 August, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

The City of Edinburgh Council has voted to clear school meal debts for families in the capital.

The debt, totalling approximately £64,000, will be cleared by the Council in a bid to help ease the financial burden on families during the ongoing cost of living crisis by using excess finances from last year’s budget.

The Council has also voted for a one-off £100 payment made directly to more than 8,000 families who are entitled to free school meals.

The cost is anticipated to be covered with £1.2m which remains unallocated from the 2021/22 budget. A further £128,000 is to be set aside to help alleviate the pressure on families for school meal payments in the coming year  - though this will be subject to audit.

SNP Group Leader, Councillor Adam McVey, whose colleague Marco Biagi lodged the motion calling on the Council to consider additional action to support Edinburgh citizens through the cost of living crisis, said:

“I’m grateful to colleagues across most parties for supporting the SNP motion by Cllr Marco Biagi to take forward action to help folk through the cost of living crisis.

“The council has now signed off payments of £100 for every child in receipt of free school meal vouchers that will be paid directly to people’s bank accounts.

“The council also agreed to clear family debts for school meals – helping to take another burden off hard-pressed families. This will all make a real difference for families struggling to make ends meet.”

Free school meals for all

In 2020, Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced an ambitious expansion programme which would see all primary school pupils in Scotland entitled to free school meals by August 2022.

Currently, pupils in P1-P5, as well as children from families in receipt of Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit are eligible for free school meals in Scotland. However, older pupils have been left waiting with the August 2022 commitment dropped from the latest budget plans.

Action needed now to tackle 'worrying' rates of child poverty

Research revealing that levels of child poverty remain disturbingly high in Scotland has prompted renewed calls for action.

The End Child Poverty coalition, of which Children in Scotland is a member, released the new research yesterday (Tuesday 12 July). It identifies high levels of poverty across Scotland and the rest of the UK, despite mitigations put in place in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Campaigners say the data strengthens the case for additional investment in the new Scottish Child Payment to support families through the cost-of-living crisis and drive down poverty rates across the country.

The research, which covers the period of 2020-21, shows child poverty rates ranged from one in eight children in East Dunbartonshire at its lowest, to one in three in Glasgow at its highest.

Under the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017, the Scottish Government have set out targets to ensure less than 18% of children are living in poverty by 2023/24 and 10% by 2030.

Amy Woodhouse, Head of Policy, Projects and Participations at Children in Scotland said:

“Child poverty rates across Scotland are still worryingly high and are likely only to get worse as we continue to see the impact of the cost-of-living crisis. There can be no doubt we need more, and urgent, action if we are to reduce the number of children living in poverty across the country.

“We know from our work across the sector and as part of the End Child Poverty coalition, the difference investment of time, money and resources can make to low and no income families. Ultimately, we need to increase money in the pocket if we have any chance of meeting the child poverty targets that have been set."

In order to ensure continued progress towards these targets, councils and local health boards are required to publish annual local child poverty action reports, setting out action being taken at local level to tackle child poverty.

The End Child Poverty coalition members are urging the newly elected councillors across Scotland to use local powers, including over economic development, housing and financial support, to maximise family income and reduce the costs parents face.

The group has also reiterated their call for the bridging payments being made in October and December to families with school-aged children on the lowest incomes to be increased.

The research, conducted by Dr Juliet Stone at the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, was published by the End Child Poverty coalition on Tuesday 12 July.

Children in Scotland’s Manifesto for 2021-26 calls for action to to tackle poverty and inequality, including bolstering the support for low-income families. Click here to read the manifesto in full

Working to end child poverty

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Archive: Child poverty statistics 2020

News: "We can't witness another generation go through this"

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News: More demanded from Holyrood to tackle cost of living crisis

Posted 17 June, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Charities and trade unions are demanding the Scottish Government does more to address the cost of living and ease the burden felt by thousands across the country.

A summit, being held today in Glasgow, is bringing together more than 40 civic organisations to develop a joint platform on how to tackle the crisis.

Led by the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC) and the Poverty Alliance, the event is thought to be the largest of its kind in the country.

Roz Foyer, STUC General Secretary said:

“Poverty is a political choice. The pandemic has exposed the deep-rooted inequalities across Scotland, exacerbated by the cost of living crisis, not of workers’ choice or making.

“We cannot – and will not – be held responsible for the negligence of our political class to tackle rising inflaction coupled with falling wages.

“This summit, the largest seen in Scotland on this crisis, calls for the Scottish Government to go further, using the powers of the parliament to mitigate this emergency.”

Foyer also criticised the Government’s latest spending review highlighting the harmful impacts on those most impacted by the crisis.

Cost of living an ongoing issue

The summit comes as the cost of living continues to increase.

In April, the rate of inflation was 9% - the highest in nearly four decades. Meanwhile, energy prices are set to increase again in October, the second time in six months, according to industry regulator Ofgem.

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance is calling for co-operation and collaboration in order to make real change when it comes to poverty. He said:

“By bringing together trade unions and voluntary and community groups, we want to build a movement that puts compassion and justice at the heart of public life, in our communities, in Holyrood and in Westminster.”

Find out more

Clare Simpson from Parenting Across Scotland (PaS) calls for renewed political will in tackling poverty in the latest issue of Insight.

Members can access Insight via the members area.
Not a member? Click here to find out how to access


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News: Grant launched to help families of children at school-starting age

Posted 8 June, 2022 by Nina Joynson

Applications for the Best Start Grant School Age Payment, which will provide families with a £267.75 payment towards care for young children, are now open.

The Scottish Government is urging eligible families to apply for the Best Start Grant School Age Payment, a one-off payment aiming to help families with children of school-starting age.

Families are eligible if they receive Universal Credit, tax credits or certain other benefits, and have a child born between 1 March 2017 and 28 February 2018.

Now in its fourth year, the £267.65 payment can be used for anything that is helpful for children in that age range, such as clothes, books or craft materials.

Eligibility is linked to the child's age, rather than when they started primary school. Therefore parents who have deferred their child’s entry to school from August 2022 to 2023, or those who are home schooling, should still apply or they will lose out on the payment.

The payment is one of the government’s five family payments administered by Social Security Scotland:

  • Best Start Grant Pregnancy and Baby Payment; Early Learning Payment; School Age Payment: helps towards the costs of being pregnant or looking after a child
  • Best Start Food Payment: helps towards buying healthy foods through a prepaid card
  • Scottish Child Payment: helps towards child care through ongoing financial support.

From the end of 2022, the Best Start Grant School Age Payment and the Best Start Grant Early Learning Payment will be automatically paid to families who receive Scottish Child Payment.

Ben Macpherson, Minister for Social Security, said:

“When a child is due to start school it comes with additional costs, and so I would encourage parents and carers to check if you are eligible and, if so, to apply for our Best Start Grant School Age Payment.

“This money can be used for whatever your child needs and is one of the Scottish Government’s five family benefits, which are only available in Scotland.

“We have built our new social security system to make it as straightforward as possible for people to access support. This is why people can apply online, by post or over the phone.

“You can also apply for all five family payments for all the children that you are responsible for, in a single straightforward form – and we put no cap on the number of children who can get these payments. We want every child in Scotland to have the best start in life and our social security system is here to help with that.”

Click here to find out more or apply