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A time to learn, look beyond – and show common cause

30 March 2022

In the midst of despair about the war in Ukraine, our CEO Jude Turbyne reflects on the contribution we can all make to defending children’s rights there and around the world

Two years of wall-to-wall coverage of the pandemic. Two years of high levels of anxiety. Two years of working out new ways of living, being and working. And just as it felt as if we might be coming through the other side, there was suddenly war in Ukraine, with up close and personal footage 24 hours a day.

It has forced us to lift our heads up and look out, and we have seen lots of positive solidarity with the Ukrainian people suddenly affected by violence and displacement.

Conflict will tend to have a disproportionate impact on children. Frequently, wars creep into the domestic setting, essential infrastructure that is needed to guarantee even basic levels of health is attacked, and the vulnerability of children to the outcomes of conflict is profound.

Children in conflict are likely to start going hungry, become ill with preventable disease, lose their chance at an education and be at greater risk of sexual violence. The mental trauma of conflict and war in children is significant and can lead to long-term damage if support is not available.

In short, it becomes almost impossible for the rights of children to be fulfilled in a war setting. And the impact is exacerbated depending on different personal characteristics; for instance, gender, age, disability status, ethnicity, religion and where the child lives. Save the Children and the Children and War Foundation have some good insights into the impact of conflict on children.

Click here for more information on Save the Children

Click here for more information on the Children and War Foundation

It is estimated that already more than 1.5 million children have fled the violence in Ukraine. If you keep going another 4,000 miles south and slightly east of Ukraine, you reach Yemen, where, due to conflict and environmental challenges, at least 11 million children are estimated as needing humanitarian assistance. And Yemen is not even number one in the very depressing top ten of humanitarian crises published by the International Rescue Committee; it is third behind Afghanistan and Ethiopia.

Click here to read the International Rescue Committee’s top 10 humanitarian crises

What can we do in these difficult situations? While we might empathise and sympathise, there is a feeling of powerlessness that comes from the scale of the problems and the fact that they are happening far from home. But while we can’t solve global problems by ourselves individually, there are things that we can do.

Taking the Ukraine situation as an example, there are real practical needs in terms of supporting those affected by the crisis. The best way to help is to donate money. While it might feel tempting to collect goods, it is much easier to source these closer to the conflict, based on the actual needs at the time.

One good route of donating is through the Disasters Emergency Committee which brings together 15 leading UK charities to raise funds quickly and efficiently. As you will see if you go to the site, there is currently also an appeal running for Afghanistan.

Click here to find out more about the Disasters Emergency Committee and consider donating

There will be many people in Scotland who are more severely affected by the situation in Ukraine because of their direct links. Having a listening ear and making sure people have somewhere to go to can be helpful. The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland has produced a good blog where you can find sources of help. It also explains how you can show direct solidarity child-to-child, a suggestion from the Children’s Commission in Ukraine.

Click here to read the blog by the Children's Commissioner

As Ukrainian refugees start to arrive in Scotland, there will be ways of offering practical support and resources at a local community level. The website of the Scottish Refugee Council is a good place go to read about what is happening with Ukrainian refugees.

Engagement with Europe is important to us as an organisation, and always has been. We are members of Eurochild, a network of organisations and individuals working with and for children in Europe. They have a wealth of resources on the Ukrainian conflict available on their website.

Click here to find out about Eurochild’s resources on the conflict in Ukraine

All these examples of partnership and advocacy demonstrate why the power of solidarity should never be underestimated.

Here I’ve reflected mostly on the Ukrainian situation. But I am so aware of the many children around the world who are experiencing conflict or environmental disasters which make it so difficult for their rights to be realised.

Our vision is that ‘all children in Scotland have an equal chance to flourish’. How much better would our world be if, globally, all children had that chance?

About the author

Jude Turbyne has worked extensively in the field of international development

Click here for more

Bringing together 15 UK aid charities...

DEC raises funds quickly and efficiently at times of humanitarian crisis overseas

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Eurochild resources

This network organisation offers a range of resources on the crisis in Ukraine

Click to find out more

A rights-based view on children and war

A blog by the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland details where you can find sources of help

Click here to read

Leading responses to humanitarian crises

The IRC helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict

Click here for more

Helping children get a future they deserve

Save the Children is working to ensure children keep safe, healthy and learning worldwide

Click to find out more

Why our third sector deserves first class support

26 May 2020

In advance of next week's launch of our new Supporting the Third Sector Project, Vicky Wan explains why we want to support organisations to become equal partners in Children and Family Services – and be ready to respond to any future crisis

In her recent blog (click to read), our Head of External Affairs Jacqueline Cassidy reflected on the vital role of the third sector during the health pandemic and its phenomenal response to the challenges of COVID-19. This was later evidenced in the Scottish Government’s COVID-19: Supporting vulnerable children and young people – data intelligence report (click to read). The large range of examples in the report clearly demonstrate the third sector’s ability to sustain its local and national services by changing the model of delivery within a short space of time.

In her 8 April open letter to third sector organisations , Iona Colvin, the Interim Director for Children and Families of the Scottish Government, emphasised the critical role the third sector has in supporting the needs of children, young people and their families (click to read). But she also recognised that the third sector has an enormous amount of knowledge and intelligence about the communities it serves.

“Third sector organisations are uniquely well placed to help us to understand the nature of the challenges that children, young people and families are facing in their homes and communities at this time" - Iona Colvin, Scottish Government Interim Director of Children and Families

One of the reasons why third sector organisations are able to respond to the emergency rather efficiently is largely because of their long-established relationships with the local communities and their understanding of the challenges families continue to face.

Third sector organisations use their professional knowledge to swiftly adjust their own services. They know what the families need and more importantly what will work. Not only that, they share their skills and expertise with partners in the statutory and in the third sector, so together they are able to offer support in a whole-family holistic approach.

A support worker of a charity told us:

“I’ve been supporting this disabled young person for a while. The family was coping well before the outbreak. Since the lockdown, mum became very anxious that her disabled son would be infected with COVID-19 if he fell ill and had to go to the hospital. Dad is a key worker. Her younger son is now home-schooling but she doesn’t have time to help with his learning because she has to care for her older son nearly 24/7. She feels very guilty and stressed.

Through the local children’s services forum, I found out about a befriending service. Mum is now being supported on the phone every day. I also found out about a peer learning group organised by another charity. The younger son is now learning with other children of similar age.”

The benefits of collaborative working are apparent. However, an effective collaboration takes time to develop. Organisations need to have good awareness of services available in the area, a reasonable level of trust in the quality of each other’s work, and referral protocols without unnecessary bureaucracy.

In Scotland, we already have structures in place to support partnership working for many years.

The local children’s services networks, which are usually facilitated by the local Third Sector Interfaces (TSIs), bring organisations together so they can support their peers, exchange good practice, share resources, develop collaborative working arrangements and help shape local services.

Thanks to this established relationship before the outbreak of COVID-19, we can quickly and efficiently mobilise the third sector to deliver and maintain support to children as part of multi-agency plans during the pandemic. Also due to the communication channels already established via the networks, local organisations can continue to feed their experiences and concerns to inform strategic planning at national level, while they concentrate on meeting the needs of families at this difficult time.

Taking the learning from this, while it is important to continue to invest in the frontline service delivery to children and families, we should not undermine the importance of the structures that support and strengthen the third sector. If we do not resource and fund the local networks sufficiently now, are we confident that we will be able to respond as well, if not better, in any future emergency situation?

Our role

Children in Scotland is committed to supporting the Third Sector Interfaces and third sector organisations to become equal partners in Children and Family Services. This includes increasing local third sector engagement and strengthening local support structures through our new Supporting the Third Sector Project.

Supporting the Third Sector

Vicky Wan is Project Manager and part of our PPP team

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Strengthening the sector: learning online

We're running a series of webinars covering all your CPD needs

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Confronting the crisis

Jacqueline Cassidy asks if the sector is punching above its weight during the pandemic

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Latest podcast

Discussing the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and planning the best way forward

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Responding to the need for connection

Karin McKenny on how we've adapted our training to support the workforce

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Our services

From ASL advice to ELC inclusion funding, find out about what we offer

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