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Nominations open for Bookbug Hero Award 2024 – here’s everything you need to know

Posted 13.10.23 by Alice Hinds

The Scottish Book Trust has launched the fifth annual Bookbug Hero Award, and is now calling on people to nominate practitioners who use reading to improve the lives of children and families across Scotland.

Run in association with Walker Books, publishers of award-winning authors including Anthony Horowitz, Angie Thomas and Cassandra Clare, the Bookbug Hero Award 2024 is open to librarians, early years workers, volunteers, health visitors or anyone who uses Bookbug to enhance literacy programmes within the local community.

The biggest nationwide universal book gifting programme in the world, Bookbug sees every child in Scotland receive four free book bags between their birth and first year of school, and around 375 Bookbug Sessions take place each week in libraries and community spaces across Scotland, while Bookbug for the Home practitioners also support families on a one-to-one basis.

Nominations are open from now until Friday 10 December 2023, and the winner will be celebrated with a short film made about their work, as well as a special trophy and a bundle of picture books worth £500.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives with reading and writing, said: “Bookbug reaches children all over Scotland, providing vital access to books. Without the work of Bookbug practitioners, many families would not discover the fun and lifechanging benefits of sharing stories, songs and rhymes. It is fantastic to be able to recognise this important work through the Bookbug Hero Award, for the fifth time. Our thanks to Walker Books for their continued support in recognising these heroes.”

The team at Walker Books added: “We really appreciate all that Bookbug and the heroes who run the programmes do for communities, and we are really pleased that we can continue to show our appreciation and support of that work by sponsoring the award. We love that it shines a light on those practitioners who champion reading, and work tirelessly to change lives through stories and can’t wait to hear more about the next winner!”

Librarian Ian Keane, winner of the Bookbug Hero Award 2022, said tacking home the prize had a huge impact on his local community – and even saw more people come to his library.

“Our library service was losing the battle and losing the war on maintaining Public Services,” he said. “To have a national agency declare that you and your service are doing great was a shock (a good one).

“It reinvigorated the whole team, it inspired us to work harder, we nearly doubled the number of attendees in the 'Hero' year. It has recalled us to life and reminded us of our relevance and worth. The war for public service is still being fought but thanks to the Bookbug Hero Award, for a little while at least we won our battles and found new strength. It won't be long before the early Bookbug toddlers return with their children. Hopefully, if we keep winning, the Library and our team will be there to greet them.”

For more information and to nominate your local Bookbug Hero, click here to visit the Scottish Book Trust website

Want to discover more about how reading can improve children’s lives? At Children in Scotland’s up-coming Early Years Conference 2023, author Laura Henry-Allain MBE, creator of the JoJo and Gran Gran characters, will deliver a keynote address, sharing her personal story of growing up as a working-class, dyslexic child on a council estate in west London, as well as the importance of diversity and inclusion in education. Click here to book your place

Pink and orange text on a white background 'I am super excited to be delivering a keynote speech at the Early Years Conference. The conference is a must for anyone who works within early years education, irrespective of their role. Laura Henry-Allain MBE keynote speaker. On the right an image of a smiling person with long black hair. The image sits inside a pink speech mark. Along the bottom white text on a green background Children in Scotland's Early Years Conference
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New report shows expansion of funded childcare delivers for low income families

Posted 06.10.23 by Alice Hinds

More parents have been able to start work or progress their careers, improve overall health and wellbeing, and develop better relationships with their children thanks to a Scottish Government Fund to expand access to school age childcare, a new report has revealed

Introduced to test and run new models of school age childcare, the second phase of the Access to Childcare Fund saw eight childcare providers across Scotland receive a share of almost £600,000, helping 650 children from low income families access school age childcare.

Conducted independently by Ipsos Scotland, and released today (6 October), The Access to Childcare Fund Phase 2 Evaluation Report aimed to assess the benefits of the Fund, and the findings reveal a range of positive outcomes, including increased opportunities for children to develop social skills and strengthen relationships with both adults and peers, especially for those with additional support needs.

Minister for Children and Young People, Natalie Don said: “As we mark Challenge Poverty Week this report highlights the impact our support continues to make for children, young people and their families who are most in need, and how childcare providers can be key in supporting these families.

“Improving access to childcare not only brings wide ranging benefits for the children, it also helps parents to get back into work, engage in training or progress their careers. Quality childcare provision is both an anti-poverty and a pro-growth measure.

“This report follows our commitment in the Programme for Government to expand our childcare offering, and sets out the difference that funded school-age childcare can make to support families to enter and sustain employment.”

Currently, all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds are eligible to take up 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare in Scotland, and the evidence collected as part of the evaluation indicates that the Phase 2 projects met the aims to make childcare more accessible, affordable and flexible for parents and carers from low income families, as well as those most at risk of experiencing poverty.

Work is now underway with local authorities and other partners to expand national provision for families with two-year-olds, as well as targeted early delivery of all-age childcare for low income families.

Phase 2 of the Fund, which was managed by Children in Scotland and an expert advisory group, supported the following providers:

· Hame Fae Hame
· St Mirin’s Out of School Care
· The Indigo Childcare Group
· SHIP (Support, Help and Integration in Perthshire)
· SupERkids
· Clyde Gateway
· Stepping Stones for Families
· The Wee Childcare Company.

For more information, and to read the full report, click here to visit the Scottish Government website:

Click here for more about the Access to Childcare Fund:

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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:

A cartoon of two people in formal office clothing and both wearing glasses. A speech bubble in between them says Blah Blah Blah

Innovative animation project shares children and young people’s experiences of the legal system

Posted 14.09.23 by Alice Hinds

Made with the input of young people, a powerful new animation project explores the views of children with experience of the legal system, sharing their thoughts on lawyers and the vital work required to uphold children’s rights.

Created by Clan Childlaw, the Alright? Animation project built on a scoping study about the legal needs of children and young people in conflict with the law, providing attendees to the participation groups Youth Just Us (click here for more) and Inside Out (click here for more) with the opportunity to explore the issues more fully.

Produced alongside arts organisation Braw Talent, the short cartoon draws inspiration from real-life experiences, and saw children and young people write the script, explore themes, craft characters, review storyboards and even perform their own voiceovers for a moving and impactful final piece.

“Alright?" is an important call to action from young people about what they want from their lawyers,” explained Claire Lightowler from Clan Childlaw, Scotland’s law centre for children and young people. “It highlights a significant gap between what young people want and what they often experience.

“Children and young people need better support to identify when a lawyer may be able to help uphold their rights, and where this is the case, they need easier access to highly skilled lawyers. Achieving this requires systemic and cultural change, and greater resourcing.”

Not only did the Alright? project provide a creative output for the participating children and young people, it also shares an important message about the need for lawyers who care about the young people they support, and highlights that young people want lawyers who are able to communicate and connect.

Ruth Kerracher of Youth Justice Voices (click here for more) added: “The Rights In Justice project has been a key feature of Youth Justice Voices work. Young people involved in the project have been able to articulate what they need and want from lawyers.

“‘Alright?’ is a powerful output, it was co-produced with young people and really brings to life the importance of relationships, time and what lawyers can do to uphold children’s rights. We hope that greater training is provided to ensure that support is age appropriate and children and young people understand the decisions or processes which impact on their lives.”

Clan Childlaw was established 15 years ago to give children and young people facing adversity in Scotland their own lawyers, protecting and strengthening their rights, giving them a voice in decision-making that impacts their futures, and to improving their lives.

For more information, click here to visit the Clan Childlaw website:

Cupped hands with a string of four white paper dolls in them. The dolls at each end are smaller

New report explores poverty and the care system

Posted 24.08.23 by Alice Hinds

New report reveals families face further financial hardship when children are taken into care

New research has revealed the detrimental impact of poverty, both financial and emotional, that can occur when a child enters care, highlighting the need for improved support for families as they navigate a sudden change in circumstances and income.

Commissioned by The Promise Scotland (click here for more) and conducted by One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) with support from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the report, ‘Poverty-proofing for families in or on the edges of care', found that parents already living in poverty, and therefore relying on social security support, face even further financial hardship when their child is removed into the care system.

Evidence from The Care Review (click here for more) shows that families living in poverty are already at increased risk of coming into contact with the care system, and with a “sudden, significant, and often unexpected reduction in income” when family-related benefits are withdrawn, parents can be pushed into debt and even homelessness, according to the report, further reducing their ability to offer a safe and nurturing home for their children.

Additional barriers that prevent families from being able to live together include some parents being allocated a one-bedroom property after being classed as a “single occupant” when their child was moved into care, and the delay between children returning to the home and full benefit entitlements being reinstated.

Using extensive research into the link between poverty and care, focus groups with parents with experience of the care system, and interviews with professionals across the voluntary and statutory sectors, the report also revealed a lack of appropriate practical and emotional support, with many parents reporting experiences of shock, stigma and shame.

One parent who took part in the research explained: “My money was stopped suddenly, which was a shock – can’t remember when but it was soon after she was taken. I didn’t know that would happen as no one told me. One week X amount, next week nearly nothing. That was really shocking as I still had stuff to pay, including contact [visit costs].”

Findings from the report have now been used to produce both short- and long-term recommendations to help avoid the negative consequences for families when a child is taken into care, including the inclusion of financial awareness and money management support, the use of public sector discretionary funding to bridge gaps in benefit payments when a child returns home, and additional support with housing benefit and rent arrears.

Satwat Rehman, OPFS Chief Executive said: “The overarching ambition of The Scottish Government in its commitment to Keep the Promise for care experienced children, young people and their families is to keep families together where it is safe to do so and to provide the support that is required to make this happen.

“Providing young people with the opportunity to return to a safe and economically stable family environment is therefore central to achieving this ambition.

“The experiences of parents who took part in our research illustrate that policies and practices that were intended to protect and improve the lives of children can actually lead to increased financial hardship for their parents, reducing the likelihood of reunification between parent and child or prolonging the child’s stay in care.

“It is counter intuitive to withdraw financial support from families when there is emerging evidence pointing to the fact that financial assistance can actually increase the rate of reunification of a child with their family.

“Now is the time to invest in actions to mitigate the worst effects of corrosive policies which stand in the way of delivering on the aspirations of The Promise: that children in Scotland ‘will grow up loved, safe and respected’.”

For more information and to read the full report, click here to visit the One Parent Families Scotland website:

Brown front door with number 17 and glass windows

Millions of young people’s physical and mental health worsened by poor quality housing, new research finds

Posted 20.04.23 by Alice Hinds

One in six young people in the UK is living in poor quality housing, according to new research, with dampness and inadequate heating and plumbing facilities harming both the physical and mental health of millions.

Data from a new YouGov survey of more than 10,000 adults, published by the Resolution Foundation, found 2.6 million people aged 18 to 34 are residing in substandard accommodation, rising to more than a quarter of 18 to 24 year olds.

In Scotland, the figures fall to 8% for the same wider age group – however, the study noted this may be due to the demography of country. People from Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds, for example, were most likely to report living in poor quality housing (36%), followed by black families (26%), therefore residents in cities like London, where there is a higher share of young and ethnic minority people than the UK as a whole, were twice as likely to experience poor quality housing than Scots.

The rising cost of living is also expected to add extra pressure for households. Although renters were most likely to report falling behind on housing costs over the past three months – with 15% of social renters and 10% of private renters in this position – more than one million mortgage holders will soon face more expensive fixed-rate deals, leading to an increased number of homeowners facing the same strain on their finances.

The research also found a strong correlation between poor-quality housing and poor health, which was most prevalent among young people, low-income families and those from ethnic minority backgrounds. Living in substandard properties was shown to make people twice as likely to experience health problems compared with people who reported living in decent homes.

In response to the findings, the Resolution Foundation said policymakers now need to focus on tackling the high costs and poor quality that have led to a twin housing crisis, building more affordable housing to rent or buy in high demand areas, and boosting standards in existing housing, particularly within the private rented sector.

Lalitha Try, economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The UK is blighted by two housing crises. High housing costs are causing many renters in particular to fall behind on housing payments, while poor quality housing is leaving millions of people having to deal with damp and malfunctioning heating, plumbing and electrics.

“High costs and poor housing quality can make life miserable for people, and can damage both their personal finances and their wider health. It is critical that policy makers tackle both of these crises – by building new affordable housing, and improving the quality of the housing stock we already have.”

Paint palette with child's hand holding brush

BBC Children in Need launches coronation portrait project

Posted 20.04.23 by Alice Hinds

Children around the country have been invited to take part in the upcoming coronation by contributing to a “giant digital portrait” of King Charles III.

Launched by BBC Children in Need, The Royally Big Portrait will feature thousands of individual images of the King, drawn by young people and then compiled by artist Sam Barnett, who says the project will “celebrate every child’s creativity and give them the self-belief to achieve”.

Children have the opportunity not only to be part of a “national moment” and see their artwork cemented in history but, if 5,000 submissions are received for the project, as Children in Need hopes, they will also be part of breaking a Guinness World Record for the most online contributions to a digital piece of artwork.

The finished portrait will be displayed on giant screens at The Outernet, London, from 1-8 May, with on-site iPads allowing young contributors to find their own drawing within the compilation.

Barnett, who trained as a lawyer and became a full-time artist in his late 30s, said he wants children to feel inspired by the final piece.

“If you can make a kid feel like they’ve broken a record, they are history makers, they’re part of this national moment.”

Proceeds from the print version of the Royally Big Portrait, available from the charity's website, will support more than 160 BBC Children in Need funded projects, which work with children and young people experiencing food insecurity.

The final date for children to send in their digital drawings to the Children In Need website is Friday, 28 April.

Click here to find out more and submit artwork:

Pots of paint, smiley face stickers and other art supplies

Young people encouraged to ‘step into’ cultural experiences

Posted 12.04.23 by Lynn Gilmour

A new youth-led fund has opened to provide opportunities and support for young people to get involved in the arts.

Step into the Arts is especially aimed at young people who might not usually be able to access the arts or cultural experiences, with a total of £65,000 available to young people aged 5-25 from across Scotland.

The fund, which is managed by Youth Scotland and Creative Scotland, has two parts: First steps into the arts, for young people who have some, a little or no experience of the arts and want to explore them further, and Next steps into the arts, which is for young people who have experience in the arts and want to improve their practice or may be considering a creative career.

The fund is completely youth-led and was designed by a team of 14 young grantmakers aged 14–25, who devised the fund name, format and scope.

When applying, the idea must come from the young person or people; they must decide on what to put in the application and carry out the project if they are successful. Young people can apply as an individual or team of two, or in a group of three or more.

Young people who may need extra support to apply and carry out their project if they are successful can seek help from a supporting adult.

Speaking at the launch of the fund, Mike Strang, Chief Executive at Youth Scotland said: “Step into the Arts is a fantastic opportunity for young people in Scotland who are interested in the arts or are facing barriers in accessing them.”

Sarah Mcadam, TTS Programme Manager, Creative Scotland said: “This programme presents an exciting opportunity for children and young people to step into the arts and bring their creative ideas and projects to life. Developed and led by young people, Step into the Arts enables young people to directly influence decision-making in the arts, develop their own interests and creativity and share these with their communities.”

For full details on the criteria, what funding can be used for and how to apply, young people and youth workers can click here to visit the Youth Scotland website:


“We must not lose sight of our collective goal”

Marking her first anniversary as our Chief Executive, in the first of a two-part blog Jude Turbyne takes stock of how poverty is impacting on families now – and why working in the children’s sector gives her hope 

I have now been with Children in Scotland for just over a year. It has been a fulfilling time, during which my admiration for my colleagues within the organisation and across the children’s sector has been strengthened. So, I feel I should be celebrating but, rather, I find myself a bit gloomy.

I came into post during the pandemic. At the start of 2022, it felt as if we might be on a more positive journey away from Covid, and that we could start to build actively on the learning from the previous two years. There was a sense of hope that we could step out of crisis mode and settle into a new positive rhythm. However, we have moved from that phase into one where the external environment is increasingly hostile.

Crisis impacts

There have been a lot of insightful pieces written over the past few months highlighting how the cost-of-living crisis is having a devastating impact on families that are already vulnerable and illustrating how many other children, young people and families are sliding inexorably towards poverty.

Citizen’s Advice Scotland, for instance, estimates that one in 10 people in Scotland currently have nothing left after covering the essentials. A Save the Children briefing clearly illustrates the way in which stagnating incomes coupled with the massive hike in costs is likely to have a serious impact on families.

The Living Without a Lifeline report just published by One Parent Families Scotland shows the impact the crisis was already having on single parent families and the cloud of deep anxiety that many families are currently living under. The Scottish Government estimates that one million households across Scotland will be living in fuel poverty.

An unacceptable choice facing families

Action is needed. We had awaited with interest the Westminster emergency fiscal event last week. However, as outlined in the joint statement by the Children’s Commissioners for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this did not result in the targeted action required to support the children, young people and their families who are facing this winter with inadequate resources and increasing anxieties.

Rather it focused its policies on those who already have more than enough, believing that somehow their wealth would magically trickle down to families and young people living in vulnerable situations. It is simply not acceptable that there will be families this winter that are having to make a choice between food and heat.

We will push for better responses to the immediate crisis, but we must never lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is creating a more resilient Scotland, where our children, young people and families are lifted out of poverty and are not in danger of slipping back.

Welcoming the Child Payment increase

That is why the announcement of the raising of the Child Payment to £25 in November is particularly welcome: the evidence already shows that this payment has the potential to impact on child poverty rates. We need more measures like this that will support systemic change.

Last week we held a timely Children Sector Strategic and Policy Forum where leaders across the sector took stock of the situation. It is important that we invest in the right things. We know that money is tight in all sectors and so we need to prioritise those actions that will have the biggest, sustainable impact.

We are currently processing all the different announcements that have come out from Government in Scotland and Westminster, digging into the complexities of the situation now, and seeking to develop clear policy approaches that can have a real and sustainable impact for Scotland’s families. We will continue to reflect and write about our approach as we develop these collective responses.

Pushing for change

I started saying that I felt gloomy, and sometimes it is hard not to. But the children’s sector in Scotland is full of wonderful organisations and individuals that are committed to making Scotland a better place for our children and young people.

Putting our collective effort into pushing for and making the necessary changes can make a difference. And, that does, indeed, give me hope.


About the author

Our CEO Jude Turbyne has worked for a number of charities and in the development sector

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Our Manifesto includes calls on challenging and reducing child poverty, supported by expert partner organisations

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A photo of Christmas gifts wrapped up and surrounded by tinsel

News: Christmas gifting charity struggling to meet demand

Posted 1 December, 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

A Fife charity is calling for help to meet the needs of families this Christmas.

The Gift of Christmas Appeal Fife works to ensure every child has a gift to open on Christmas Day. However, the charity has taken to social media to urge more support, posting pictures of their warehouse, usually full of toys for vulnerable families, still nearly empty.

With only 12 days remaining to accept donations, a spokesperson for the Appeal told Children in Scotland:

“We have received some fabulous donations so far and the public are as usual very generous.

“But this year, we have more applications than ever, around 1,300, and donations have been slower than usual so far. We are really hoping this will pick up before all drop off points soon close.”

Working with volunteers, Trustees and Lloyds banking group, the gifts bought or donated to the appeal go to children and young people aged 0-18 across Fife who otherwise may have nothing to open on Christmas morning.

Children and young people are referred to the service by professionals who have identified them and their families as being in need of assistance at Christmas. Children who receive gifts from the Appeal are likely to be experiencing poverty and deprivation and some may be dealing with other issues such as domestic abuse, neglect, and mental health issues.

On average the charity provides gift bags to 1,000 children and young people across the Kingdom each year.

Gifts for families can be purchased via the Gift of Christmas Appeal Fife Amazon Wish Lists, or donated via one of 60 drop-off points across Fife.

All donations must be made by 12 December, 2021.

Click here to find out more about the Appeal and information on how to donate