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Fond farewells: Celebrating the last edition of Children in Scotland magazine

7 June 2021

The latest edition of Children in Scotland magazine is now available. Celebrating the theme of new beginnings, it also marks the last issue of the publication in its current form.

Our June edition includes a farewell interview with former Chief Executive Jackie Brock and we reflect on the promises and commitments of the MSPs filling the chamber for the sixth session of parliament. In addition, we hear from projects looking to equip children and young people with skills to effectively navigate their future.

This issue also features our regular news round-up from the sector, reflections on the Climate Hot Seat event which saw politicians quizzed on their environmental policies, and the experience of a young first-time voter.

Jennifer Drummond, Editor of Children in Scotland Magazine, said:

“This edition of the magazine celebrates possibilities and embraces the theme of new beginnings, something we ourselves will be doing as we take the next steps in the magazine's evolution.

“After 20 years and more than 200 editions, the magazine is truly embedded in Scotland's children’s sector. I’m incredibly proud of the role it has played in sharing good practice and the platform it has provided for progressive policymaking and ensuring a better understanding of children's lived experience. The changes we are about to undertake will build on that history and reputation."

From late summer 2021, magazine content will move online to a new dedicated area of the Children in Scotland website and will be made available to you via our social media channels and e-news. Articles will be published on a rolling basis covering news, comment and projects.

Following this, in the autumn we'll be launching a brand new publication offering more in-depth analysis of issues impacting the children’s sector and the programmes and personalities shaping its future. The new publication will be available exclusively to members, and by subscription.

Click to read the June-July edition of our magazine

Keep up to date with magazine news: Visit the magazine pages on our website and follow #CiSmagazine on Twitter.

Tell us what you think:  Tweet us your comments @cisweb using #CiSmagazine.

Issue 201: New beginnings

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"Passing legislation is one part of the story"

Amy Woodhouse argues that wellbeing must be at the heart of all decisions made by the new Scottish Parliament – and highlights why good legislation must be accompanied by effective implementation

We now have our MSPs for the sixth session of the Scottish Parliament. At Children in Scotland, we’ve been considering what the next parliament is likely to offer children and families, and how those in seats of government will address their needs and priorities. Parisa Shirazi, our Policy, Projects and Participations Officer provides some immediate reflections on some of the key commitments and opportunities in relations to rights, democracy and learning in a blog published on our website in May.

Parisa’s analysis shows that there is a lot to feel optimistic about. We’ve got cross-party consensus that addressing child poverty as well as poor mental health need further investment. The SNP, returning as the governing party, has also made commitments to continue on its path to incorporating international human rights treaties. If achieved, this will bring benefits across society, reducing discrimination and supporting equity and equality. All this is exciting and positive.

The last parliamentary term saw a remarkable run of success in policy and legislation.

The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 brought in an ambition to eradicate child poverty by 2030, The Children (Equal Protection from Assault)(Scotland) Act 2019 removed the defence of justifiable assault, giving children the same protection as adults, and the UNCRC Incorporation (Scotland) Bill was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament in March this year.

These were such positive steps and we can feel pride in these achievements, knowing the long years of campaigning that went into them. However, we cannot forget that passing legislation or creating a new strategy is only one part of the story.  Implementing change on the back of new legislation or policy commitments is quite a different matter.

The independent review of the implementation of Additional Support for Learning Legislation published in 2020 all too clearly highlighted the gap that can exist between legislation and implementation.The ambitious targets we have around child poverty are evidence of this, currently sitting within a reality where child poverty statistics are going in the wrong direction. It is also impossible to forget that the commitments in party manifestos are made at a time when the country is still reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, which has in itself exacerbated some long-standing inequalities in Scotland.

One thing we can be sure of, is that good legislation is not enough. Implementation is the hard part.

It’s where things get messy, caught up in complex systems, bureaucracy, fatigue, money and capacity issues. But during this new beginning, with new parliamentarians in office at the start of a new parliamentary cycle, it is worth remembering that if we properly implement all the legislation, policy and strategy we currently have on the books, we would make great inroads into achieving the changes and ambitions we’re all calling for. New is not always necessary.

What we need is a coherent approach that will address the entrenched inequalities that persist in Scotland. We know, people’s needs and aspirations cannot be fully addressed without taking in to account the reality of their whole lives – where they live, their physical health, their family’s strengths and challenges. Taking each issue or problem in isolation may do something to address some immediate concerns, but it won’t change the fundamentals. That this parliament better reflects the diversity of the Scottish population, in terms of race, gender and disability, gives me hope that the decisions it makes will be more grounded in an understanding of the complexity and intersectionality of people’s lives and experiences.

Furthermore, I suspect few entering parliament for the first time, or indeed those returning, want to focus on addressing problems in a solely reactive way. We want to, and need to, think about how we can enable children and young people to flourish and reach their potential now and for the long term.

With this in mind I am enthused by a small commitment, tucked away in the pages of the SNP manifesto. It reads:

‘We will deliver a wellbeing budget, ensuring that all budget decisions benefit the wellbeing of people across the country’

In our Manifesto for 2021-2026 Children in Scotland called for comprehensive wellbeing budget by 2022. Wellbeing budgeting provides an opportunity to focus decision making around outcomes and people, rather than targets and services. It also recognises wellbeing as a key driver for us as a country, rather than economic growth, thereby pointing to an ambition for a sustainable future built on reducing inequalities across society.

We believe, if done correctly, it could support that joined up, holistic approach to policy making and implementation we have been lacking. Getting Scotland to this point will take no small effort. But if we are looking for hope and aspiration in this new parliamentary cycle, the enactment of a small pledge on page 48 of the SNP manifesto could be it.

Amy Woodhouse is Joint Interim Chief Executive and Head of Policy, Projects and Participation at Children in Scotland

This is an edited version of a comment first published in Children in Scotland magazine, Issue 201. Published June 2021. 

Latest Issue: 201 New beginnings

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Election aftermath

Parisa Shirazi compares the party pledges to our own

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Children in Scotland 2021-26 Manifesto

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Being Bold: Budgets for Wellbeing

Our calls for a radical system change in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic

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Offering hope in hard times

Children in Scotland’s recently launched manifesto demands action from Scotland’s political parties and calls for a fairer society, with equity at its heart. Amy Woodhouse explains more

In November, Children in Scotland published our manifesto for 2021-26. It sets out our policy priorities for the next five years, identifying cultural, practical and legislative changes we think are necessary to improve the lives of children, young people and families living in Scotland. It also establishes the direction for our own work and reflects our vision that all children in Scotland have an equal chance to flourish. 

In producing each of the 33 calls, we have endeavoured to be aspirational but realistic. Our asks of Scotland’s political parties span a wide range of areas that affect the lives of children, young people and families, and are designed to cover both shorter-term goals and longer-term ambitions. We hope you find here principles, evidence and calls to action you can champion.

We also hope you see yourselves in what we are calling for. We’ve taken our time to develop the Manifesto, engaging with our members at several stages, alongside our staff team, our Board and children and young people’s advisory group Changing our World. We’ve also sought to draw from published evidence to inform our calls and ground them in what we know works. These are all referenced throughout our Manifesto, but represent only a small range of the evidence that’s informed the positions we’ve taken. Crucially, this includes evidence from children, young people and families themselves. 

The Manifesto has been structured into 10 themes covering the priorities that emerged from our consultation process and reflecting our own strategic aims and project findings.

In each section within the Manifesto you’ll also find links to all the relevant Articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in recognition of how children’s rights are embedded throughout.

We are acutely aware we have published our Manifesto at a very unusual time, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Things are ever-changing and it is difficult to imagine what life in Scotland post- pandemic may look like, or when or how restrictions will be lifted.  With that in mind, it is important that we reflect on the huge challenges and difficulties the pandemic has placed on children, young people, families and the sector as a whole.

But we are also keen to look beyond this. 

We want to think about what we can take from our experiences in 2020 to inform the future shape and structure of Scottish society. With incorporation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into domestic law around the corner, we have a wonderful opportunity to forge a society built on respecting and upholding the rights of all children. That is really something to take hope and strength from.  

We’re very proud and encouraged by the range of organisations who have already offered their support, and continue to do so.  Many thanks for your input, guidance and support. It is a privilege to work in a sector where so many share a common vision for improving the lives of children, young people and families.  

Together we are a force to be reckoned with!  

Amy Woodhouse is Children in Scotland's Head of Policy, Project and Participation




Issue 199: Manifesto special

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2021-26 Manifesto: PageSuite version

Read our themes and calls on our PageSuite digital platform

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2021-26 Manifesto: PDF version

Download a PDF booklet to read our themes and calls

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News: Manifesto for 2021-26 launched today

Read about the launch of our Manifesto 2021-26 for the Scottish Parliament

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Blog: Time to choose a different path

Our Chief Executive, Jackie Brock, says now is a chance to redistribute power

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Building budgets for children's wellbeing

Dr Trebeck's interim report on this important project links to our Manifesto calls

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“We want Scotland to become the world’s first child-friendly country”

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation working for children in danger. In our October members’ spotlight, Frances Bestley tells us about their work in Scotland and outlines the changes needed to ensure children are brought up knowing their rights

This year is especially exciting for us, celebrating 30 years since the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is essential to our work, was adopted by the UN General Assembly.

Unicef is mandated by the Assembly to uphold the Convention and to promote the rights and wellbeing of every child, everywhere, in everything we do.

In Scotland, we have much to be positive about. At Unicef, our Rights Respecting Schools Award has led a step-change in the way children experience their rights in school. As a result, Scotland now boasts the highest proportion globally of children and young people accessing a whole school rights-based education.

1,400 schools across Scotland are currently working towards accreditation. This number represents more than half of all schools in Scotland, and reaches over 350,000 children and young people every day.

What we hear from our Rights Respecting Schools is that when the views of children and young people are given due weight and consideration the relationships between students and the adults around them improve.

Strong nurturing relationships are vital in helping students make progress in their education. We see educational outcomes improve as children feel a greater sense of ownership and value of their learning, but we also see students’ compassion, self-acceptance and confidence grow. We see them become active and engaged citizens on a local level and on a global one too.   

Unicef UK has a vision for Scotland to become the world’s first child-friendly country – one in which all children and young people are brought up knowing their rights.

National milestones such as the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC), Scotland’s national approach to improving the wellbeing of children and young people, are crucial to achieving this.

For Unicef our challenge is to roll out the Rights Respecting Schools Award across 75% of Scottish schools in every local authority area by 2021, reaching 515,000 children. We’ll also be using our OutRight campaign, which encourages children and young people to speak out on children’s rights, acting as a vehicle to achieving our vision. 

This year the campaign looks back over what has been achieved for children since 1989 and explores the history of children’s rights, before asking children to look ahead and imagine the world for children in another 30 years’ time.

We also encourage young people to get involved in our broader Unicef campaign on vaccinations and ensuring the right to health for children both in the UK and around the world. You don’t have to be a Unicef Rights Respecting School to take part. All those working with young people  can get involved too.

Our ‘call for action’ for the child rights sector in Scotland is for all of us to work together and make sure the Scottish Government delivers on the repeated commitment by the First Minister to incorporate the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law and “to do it in the most effective way possible”.  

The time has come to incorporate the CRC into domestic law. Unicef UK has recommended  that the Scottish Government adopts a direct and full incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law as we consider this to be the most effective model of incorporation to realise the commitments of the Scottish Government and enable the provisions of the UNCRC and the rights enshrined in it to become a reality for children in Scotland.

Direct incorporation means that the UNCRC itself forms part of national law, is binding on public agencies and can be applied by the courts. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child considers this a preferred model to give legal effect to the Convention. 

 We hope that Children in Scotland members will join us in this call for action and work with us to build a rights-respecting future for all.

 Frances Bestley  is Programme Director at Unicef UK

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“Remember, it could happen to any parent”

Two out of five child deaths in Scotland are the result of accidents. Katrina Phillips, Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust, explains why the charity’s prevention and education campaign is vital if that statistic is to change

“The roots of the Child Accident Prevention Trust go back 30 years, to a paediatrician called Hugh Jackson who just couldn’t bear treating children with the same entirely preventable injuries over and over again. He felt that there had to be a different way and was the force behind creating our charity’s main message, which is that the vast majority of child deaths and injuries can be prevented.

Child Safety Week, which has been running for 20 years, developed from that founding ethos. There’s a way of getting this message across which isn’t about wrapping kids in cotton wool and making parents feel bad. The week allows us to resource people working with children and families in their local communities, giving them facts and ideas for events they can run which help bring accident prevention to life.

This is vital because childhood accidents are one of the leading causes of death for children in Scotland. In fact, once you get out of the neo-natal period it’s thetop cause of death of children in Scotland, responsible for two out of five of all child deaths in Scotland under the age of 15.

For under-fives there are five main types of injuries that keep recurring – falls, burns, poisoning, drowning and choking. These are strongly linked to how young children develop, how they explore their environment, how they test their abilities.

As an organisation we try to keep a balance of awareness between these common, continuing threats and the new ones related to products such as lithium button batteries, nappy sacks and laundry capsules. It’s also about strong links with clinicians. We were first alerted to the danger of lithium button batteries by a clinician who saw the problem.

We look at what can be done to improve safety standards and ask: is there something that the manufacturer themselves can do to improve the safety of their products? As an example, we are working now with the British and Irish Portable Battery Association to establish whether there are technical solutions that would stop the electrical charge being released from the lithium button battery having such a devastating impact on a child.

Economically and financially, it makes sense to invest in prevention because the cost of child injuries to the NHS and local authorities are huge. Just one serious accident to a child under five can cost the NHS £33,000. But most of these injuries are preventable. Rather than treating what’s gone wrong, that money could go into services to help children and their families thrive. The Scottish Government gets that. But I don’t think that understanding is necessarily shared by the government in Westminster.

Each year we do an impact evaluation and part of that is a survey of parents and carers. We see a much higher awareness of Child Safety Week and the safety messages in Scotland compared to the UK as a whole. We’ve seen a real difference in understanding by putting resources into the hands of people working directly in their local community.

People need to know that in terms of hospital admissions it is children from the most deprived communities in Scotland who are over-represented.So it’s vital that we enable the agencies working with children and families who are at greatest risk. They must have the tools they need, and we need to understand the kind of barriers they experience and the extra support they require.

We try to have strong links with parents. Particularly in terms of accidents in the home, there can be a powerful feeling that they’re to blame. When we’ve done research, parents have told us they feel their home should be a safe place for their child. So, when an accident happens parents can be very reluctant to talk about it because they feel a terrible misplaced guilt.

Unfortunately, social media can open up parents who do come forward to quite a lot of judgment, which is so unfair. Anyone who has children knows that they’re designed to catch you out. They can use products in the home in a way you’d never think of doing! That’s all part of child development.

But social media can also be a force for good. Last year a dad whose daughter died after swallowing a button battery was willing to be interviewed. That YouTube video has had more than 90,000 views and a hugely positive response. There is a real power in parents sharing their experiences, because it could happen to any of us.”

Katrina Phillips is Chief Executive of the Child Accident Prevention Trust

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Is the future 50:50?

With a new Cross-Party Group on Shared Parenting launched this year, and the government’s consultation on family law due soon, Ian Maxwell puts the case for change and suggests how it could benefit Scottish children

When looking for ideas on how to improve children’s welfare, Scotland’s politicians regularly look at other countries’ approaches, and take inspiration from Scandinavian countries in particular, where the importance of parental leave, play and outdoor learning are recognised. Most recently, for example, the Finnish baby box idea was adopted in Scotland. Political leaders here also seem increasingly willing to use the law to bring about social change in areas such as alcohol consumption and smacking.

The Scottish Government is about to launch a comprehensive review of Scottish family law, recognising that family life has evolved considerably since the 1995 Children (Scotland) Act.

On the economic side, women’s participation in the workplace has never been higher. The number of households in which the woman is the higher earner is also rising, affecting the pragmatic decision about who should be the stay-at-home parent.

On the cultural side, more men than ever are present at the birth of their children and they are expected and encouraged thenceforward to be hands on parents.

Politically, there is endorsement of these changes as being good in themselves in addition to their economic desirability.

However, nearly half of the Scottish babies who now start life with a well-stocked baby box are likely to experience separation of their parents at some point during their childhood. And when a relationship founders the legal presumptions tend to revert to the old paradigms.

In many separated families in Scotland, and children or dependents involved become the sole or main care of one parent, usually the mother. Fathers who previously played as full a part as they could in parenting their children can suddenly find themselves battling for time with them as a visitor. This is bad, I would argue, for everyone concerned.

Although successive Holyrood administrations have loved to claim that our wee nation is ‘world-leading’ in many areas of policy, in family law it is a long way behind.

So at this early stage in the family law review process I urge political leaders and opinion formers alike to look up from the way it has “always been” in Scotland and recognise how  the tide is flowing in favour of ‘shared parenting’ in similar advanced economies around the world.

From Sweden we have strong research evidence that shared parenting either in intact families or after separation is better on a range of measures of wellbeing for children. Shared parenting (50:50 joint physical custody) has grown from 2% in 1984 to 35% in 2013. Data from the child supplement of the annual Swedish Living Survey from January 2017 showed that for children aged 10-18, most measures of wellbeing were similar for children with shared residence after separation and those still living with two parents in the same household, whereas outcomes were measurably worse for children living solely or mostly with one parent. For example, children living with one parent were significantly more likely to report experiencing health problems, more psychosomatic complaints, and more stress than children in shared care or living with two parents.

In 60 studies from around the world recently reviewed by Professor Linda Nielsenof Wake Forest University, North Carolina, 34 showed that children in joint physical custody (more than 35% of time with each parent) had better outcomes than children in sole physical custody on all the measures of behavioural, emotional, physical and academic wellbeing. They also had better relationship with parents and grandparents.

Shared care is often dismissed as not working for parents in poorer situations or where conflict levels are high, but Nielsen’s meta-analysis found better outcomes for children independent of household income or conflict.

In Sweden old gender stereotypes have been eroded. There is now an expectation that both parents share parenting throughout their child’s life. Eyebrows are raised in mothers’ groups and fathers’ groups alike when one of their members isn’t sharing. Dr Bergström quotes one mother from her research who said, "Why should they live more with one of us when they are children to us both?"

But legislators should be aware that the expansion of shared parenting needs more than fine words and wishful thinking. Even in Sweden it didn’t happen by itself. This shift in family structure has resulted from building in positive incentives and tackling the disincentives over several decades.

Sweden has had far better parental leave and comprehensive childcare provision since the 1970s. In Scotland there are active disincentives to shared parenting that need to be addressed, such as the systems of child support and child benefit. Employers have to be on board too, accepting that both parents have obligations to their children.

In Belgium, where family law changed in 2006 to include a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting, the percentage of children spending at least 33% of time with each parent has risen from less than 10% to more than 40%.

A “rebuttable presumption” of shared care means that if separated parents have to go to court because they can’t agree about arrangements for time with their children, the judge‘s starting point will be an equal split of time with each parent. Both parents can advance reasons why the time share should be different. Starting from this point wastes less time, money and emotion on the petty attacks by each parent on the character or competence of the other that characterises so many cases in the “winner takes all” approach of the current adversarial system in Scotland.

Simply changing the law alone can’t force every separating couple to practice shared parenting. For some it isn’t practicable or desirable for the children for a range of reasons, but experience from an increasing number of countries and many states in the USA shows that it can make a significant difference to parenting patterns for the majority.

The existing family law in Scotland has no such presumption, which means that sheriffs have tended to opt for the more cautious “every second weekend and half the holidays” approach. One sheriff stated in a judgement last year that “even with the greatest degree of co-operation between parties it [shared parenting] can rarely, if ever be sustained”.

We know from our own casework and from evidence in other countries that his sweeping pessimism is not justified.Many Scottish sheriffs are more positive towards shared parenting, and many examples do exist of successful shared parenting in Scotland.

As Scotland begins its national consultation on family law reform in the coming months, we will urge legislators to consider inserting a rebuttable presumption of shared parenting into the law. It would give a clear lead to the judiciary without removing their independence to make whatever order is best for the children.

Inserting shared care as a standard starting point sets a norm. Even for those who don’t end up in court we believe a change in the language of the law will encourage parents to focus their attention on their children rather than their own grievances with each other.

And for those whose parents separate even before birth, perhaps the Scottish Government should think about providing two baby boxes!

Ian Maxwell is National Manager of Families Need Fathers Scotland: Both Parents Matter. 

This comment piece first appeared in Children in Scotland Magazine, issue 185 (April-May 2018)


Children in Scotland response

Mindful that child custody is a hugely emotive and complex issue, we plan to explore the following points in a future issue of Children in Scoltand Magazine:

  • Welfare of the child must remain paramount. Any changes to family law must ensure the needs and best interests of the child are the basis upon which decisions are taken
  • Children have the right to a safe and loving home. This may involve one, both or neither biological parent
  • The role of courts. The reason some separated parents parent well together is the joint decision to put their child first. Courts can’t order good behaviour only compliance. Is court mandated behaviour really the answer?

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