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News: New fund to upgrade Scotland's play parks

Posted 25 Aug 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

Play parks across Scotland are due to be modernised with money from a £5 million fund which has been agreed between the Scottish Government and COSLA.

Each of the 32 local authority areas will receive a share of the funding to improve existing playparks and enhance play opportunities for local children and young people.

The funding is the first round of a total planned £60 million investment for play park renovations over this parliamentary term.

Scottish Government Minister for Children, Claire Haughey, said:

“We know that play is an absolutely crucial part of children’s health and wellbeing and as we continue to recover from the pandemic, playing outside will allow children to reconnect with each other and allow them to return to enjoying their childhood.

“Our overall investment of £60 million will ensure that all children across Scotland have access to quality play in their own community and helps deliver on children’s right to play, enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“We will continue to listen to children and young people throughout this process to ensure our funding is spent on play spaces that work for all.”

The plans however have already been met with some criticism.

Just days before the announcement of the fund, the Scottish Daily Express reported on a leaked document from COSLA which expressed scepticism about the play park upgrade plan.

The document reportedly reveals concerns from the local government umbrella body about the “impracticability” of refurbishing all play areas in the country, whilst also acknowledging there may be occasions where “critical maintenance” takes priority ahead of refurbishing or upgrading.


News: Calls to abandon Universal Credit cut

Posted on 25 August 2021 by Jennifer Drummond

Save the Children UK has revealed nearly half of Universal Credit claimants don’t feel they can survive on the impending reduction and is urging the UK government to scrap plans to cut the benefit.

New polling from Save the Children UK shows that almost half (47%) of claimants, equivalent to nearly three million people, are worried about the impact of a reduction to their household budget.

The warning comes as the UK Government prepares to cut the Universal Credit allowance by £20 per week, reversing the increase applied to assist with the cost of living and the impact of the global pandemic.

The rollback is the most significant social security cut since the Second World War and the foundation of the modern welfare state. It is anticipated to hit millions of households by up to £1000 per year.

Asked about their household budgets:

  • 3 in 5 respondents said it would be harder to afford food
  • Nearly half (48%’) said it would be harder to cover essential bills
  • More than 2 in 5 (43%) said it would be harder to pay for clothing
  • Nearly 2 in 5 parents (37%) said it would be harder to afford children’s items such as books and toys

Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children, said:

“The £20 increase is a lifeline for families. People tell us that they’re relying on it for essentials like food and clothing for themselves and their children. Without it, hundreds of thousands more people will be pushed into poverty.

“That’s why we’re calling on the UK Government to abandon its plans to cut Universal Credit this autumn. Across political divides, a growing number of voices agree that our social security net has got to be strong enough to catch people when they need it most.

“This is a test of the UK Government’s levelling-up agenda. Ministers should support families and communities to rebuild, not cut them adrift.”

Save the Children spoke to Gemma, a part-time working single mum to three-year-old Poppy, who said:

“Without the £20 a week increase, I was having to budget but the money just wasn’t stretching to my bills. So for me, £20 a week is a lifeline. It buys Poppy’s packed lunches and her food for the week.

“The government says they are taking away this £20 increase to encourage people back into work, but lots of people claiming Universal Credit are in work and it’s simply to top up earnings because of low incomes or perhaps just one parent having one single income coming in.”

The reduction is due to hit claimants from October.

Additional support service strengthens its online offer to children and families

Enquire, Scotland's advice service for additional support for learning, has re-launched its website.

The new site, available from today, offers families advice and information on education and additional support for learning, as well as practical tips about working in partnership with schools and local authorities.

Enquire has also extended its support to professionals, offering a new dedicated area of for those working with children. The section contains information about their duties towards children with additional support needs, alongside policy and legislative developments and advice on communicating with parents and carers.

Catriona Thomson, Enquire’s Senior Development Officer, said:

“We’ve listened to the views of parents and carers from the thousands of calls we’ve received over the last 18 years, from feedback from our regular evaluation surveys, and from 500 responses we received to our parent information needs questionnaire.

“The result is a website which will help provide parents and carers with the information they need to ensure children are getting the right support in school.”

Enquire also published a number of resources for parents, carers and professionals, including advice on finding a local support service, usedul local authority contacts, and links to relevant policies, legislation and guidance.

Visit the new website

No-one is out of reach

Enquire manages Reach a website for young people, by young people. Reach offers advice to pupils who may be struggling at school, It includes practical tips on what can help and young people sharing their views and experiences on all sorts of life issues.

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Enquire is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Children in Scotland.


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Parliamentary Monitor

We keep track of the latest policy developments relevant to children and families in Scotland, across the UK, and in Europe. 

This week in the Scottish Parliament

Tuesday 9 February

In the afternoon, in Topical Questions, Joan McAlpine to ask the Scottish Government what its response is to figures published by the Scottish Learning Disabilities Observatory, which state that people with a learning disability are three times more likely to die of COVID-19 and twice as likely to experience serious disease.

In Committees, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee will hear evidence on the Climate Change Plan.

Wednesday 10 February

In the main chamber First Ministers Questions will include Christine Graham asking the First Minister whether the Scottish Government is considering children returning to full-time education during part of the traditional summer holiday period.

The Education and Skills Committee will consider regulations on the following legislation: The Repayment of Student Loans (Scotland) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SSI 2021/8) and Redress for Survivors (Historical Child Abuse in Care) (Scotland) Bill at Stage 2 (Day 1).

The Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee will hear evidence on the Climate Change Plan.

Additionally, the Local Government and Communities Committee will look at ‘Community Wellbeing’ – Post-Legislative Scrutiny of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.

Thursday 11 February

In the main chamber, in Portfolio Questions on the environment brief, Bill Kidd will ask the Scottish Government what environmental measures it has in place to support Scotland’s transition to become net-zero, and Elaine Smith will ask what importance it places on access to clean air and environmentally-friendly spaces within the National Performance Framework.

In Committee Business, the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee will take evidence on the Scottish Government's Budget 2021-22 and EU-UK trade and co-operation agreement

The Equalities and Human Rights Committee will consider the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill at Stage 2 (Day 1).
Click here to read Children in Scotland’s response to the open consultation on the Bill.

This week in Westminster

Tuesday 9 February

In the main chamber, Caroline Lucas will present an adjournment on the UK’s response to the Climate and Ecological Emergency.

Thursday 11 February

In the main chamber, Scottish Affairs Committee will hear oral evidence on Welfare policy in Scotland and the International Trade Committee will meet to hear oral evidence on the UK-EU trading relationship.


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Family voices ‘should shape policy' on food, learning and holidays

In a letter published in the Herald newspaper today, our Chief Executive Jackie Brock responded to a call by the Scottish Conservatives that schools should stay open as “community hubs” during the summer holidays, drawing on Children in Scotland’s learning from our Food, Families, Futures partnership project.

This is an edited extract from her letter:

The Scottish Conservatives’ proposal to keep schools open as “community hubs” throughout the summer raises further questions in an already complex policy debate about the best ways of challenging poverty’s impact on education and health.

Children in Scotland’s FFF project was sparked by headteachers telling us about children and parents in their communities potentially going hungry, missing out on meals because they simply couldn't afford food. This was exacerbated in holiday periods when the schools’ free meal provision ended. They were also worried about the children not getting the chance to have a holiday.

Our experience of the project thus far tells us that, when large-scale business (for example, food distribution company Brakes) and small-scale community organisations take action together to fight these problems, it can have a transformational effect. Families have reported to us their enjoyment of learning more about making food, taking part in activities, and simply being together. But this success has been down to a highly localised approach, where families lead the experience, and partner organisations operate from a deep understanding of each community’s differing characteristics and needs.

At the other end of the spectrum are more macro policy solutions. A Westminster Bill being proposed by Frank Field MP would, if enacted, mandate local authorities in England to facilitate delivery of programmes providing free meals and activities for children during school holidays. There may be pressure for equivalent legislation here.

We think a balance should be struck between learning from a bespoke community-level support and a ‘top down’ national approach that, while well-intentioned, might lose sight of important local realities.

For any policy approach to be effective, it must be sensitive to a multitude of issues. We need to respect school staff’s rights to holidays, and the rights of families not to be bound to their local school outside of term time. We should be wary of thinking that suggests keeping schools open through the summer is a catch-all solution to Scotland’s attainment problem. And we need to be mindful of labeling families as ‘poor’ and communities as ‘deprived’ in a way that doesn’t help them and doesn’t reflect the vitality and fun we saw in Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire over the past two months.

FFF is currently being evaluated by academics at Northumbria University who are looking at whether it has contributed to mitigating learning loss. In developing a policy approach that works we need to be drawing on evidence of this kind ‘in the round’, alongside clear-eyed testimony from children and families about what works for them. They deserve our support and their voices need to be heard as we keep this vital issue on the national agenda.


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Holiday hunger survey: Members’ views wanted

The UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger and Food Poverty has opened a survey on the prevalence of holiday hunger, and has invited Children in Scotland members to respond.

The group, chaired by Frank Field MP, is asking those affected by, or working with those affected by, holiday hunger, to complete a short survey. The hope is that the results will help inform government about the need for a more structured framework of support, policy and funding while at the same time highlighting that the issue of child hunger requires more upstream measures to ensure that child poverty can be tackled.

As a UK-wide issue, mapping projects from across the four nations, including Scotland, should help inform future policy and programme planning to benefit all children resident in the UK.

The results will be published via the Westminster APPG on Hunger.

It is hoped the findings of the survey may also help inform the School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill, presented to Westminster by Frank Field MP on 20 July. The Bill, which has cross-party backing, would give local authorities the duties and resources they need to facilitate the delivery of programmes that provide free meals and activities for children who would otherwise go without.


The survey comes towards the end of the Scottish school holidays, which also marks the end of the 2017 summer clubs run as part of the Food, Families, Futures project programme.

This year, 26 schools signed up to take part, following on from the successful 2016 pilot in Dalmarnock and Ibrox Primary Schools, both Glasgow.

See the latest postings from the 2017 clubs on the Food, Families, Futures Storify.

Food, Families, Futures (FFF) is a partnership programme between Children in Scotland, Brakes’ Meals & More programme, Glasgow City Council and schools across Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire


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Reach website “an advice service like no other” – SYP

An online advice portal, designed by young people for young people, has received high praise from the Scottish Youth Parliament and is being recommended as a resource by all MSYPs.

Reach, the website developed and run by Enquire, can help you understand children’s rights to be supported and involved in decisions so they have an equal chance to flourish in their education.

Hear from school pupils across Scotland sharing what has helped them and get accessible, bitesize advice on additional support for learning.

Reach is part of Enquire – the Scottish Advice Service for Additional Support for Learning – and is managed by Children in Scotland.

The website was the focus of discussion at the Scottish Youth Parliament’s sitting in March of this year, reflecting on the welcome and active participation of young people and the excellent resource produced as a result.

Aqeel Ahmed, previous Convenor of the Scottish Youth Parliament’s Education and Lifelong Learning Committee, took the time to write to staff at Enquire to highlight the Parliament’s support.

“We think the website is not just a resource for those who are struggling with mental health or are being bullied. It’s a resource for all of Scotland’s young people; an advice service like no other,”

“It has everything you want all on the same website! If you need exam advice, contacts for support organisations, are being bullied, or are having trouble with mental health, go visit now, folks!” - Aqeel Ahmed

Reach is run by Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning.


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School pupils' views on STEM: Engineering and Maths 'need boost'

Schools need more support for Engineering activities and to make Maths as interesting and enjoyable as possible for pupils, a Children in Scotland report has found.

The report, which looks at children and young people’s experiences of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM)-related learning and their understanding of STEM jobs, also concluded that:

  • more women need to be encouraged to become Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths teachers
  • more men should be encouraged into careers in primary teaching, and
  • boys and girls should be supported to think about the types of jobs involving Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

The Scottish Government commissioned Children in Scotland to carry out research as part of the consultation process to inform its STEM Education and Training Strategy for Scotland.

The project involved a series of engagement activities with children and young people to gather their views on learning and work and their lived experience of STEM.

The aim of the research project is to ensure that policymakers hear children and young people’s voices on the topic of STEM.

Children in Scotland worked with more than 70 children and young people, ranging from P3 to S2-age pupils across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dumfries and Galloway.

Our Participation and Engagement staff enjoyed the work with the children and young people.

Jane Miller, Assistant Policy Officer at Children in Scotland, said: “It was fantastic to find out from children and young people about their experiences of STEM, especially as there are so many possibilities for all young people within the STEM fields.”


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Messages around healthy eating “muddled”, says Scots Masterchef

The public health messages around healthy living are “muddled”, and learning to cook should be recognised as an important life lesson, award-winning chef Gary Maclean has said.

Learning to cook is just as important as learning core academic subjects such as Maths and English, Masterchef winner Mr Maclean said as he paid a visit to one of the schools participating in Children in Scotland’s Food, Families, Futures partnership programme.

Speaking at Dalmarnock Primary School in Glasgow yesterday, he said:

“Sometimes I think the message for healthy eating is really muddled. Every day there is a different message: you need to eat five a day, 10 a day, you have to do this, you have to do that. I think for people, especially on a budget, it’s just too difficult to take in, so you don't take any of it in.”

“Kids should be getting taught to cook”, he added. “It is as important as Maths, English and PE. There is a big deal about physical education, which is great, but if they are doing an hour of physical education then going to the chippy for lunch, it doesn’t matter. Young people need to understand that what they eat is as important as what they do.”

Community chef, Donna Borrokinni, who has been working with parents and volunteers at the four-week summer club, agrees about the importance of teaching nutrition, food handling and planning, and the emphasis on parents.

“Initiatives like this show what can be done in a small space of time and engaging with parents is definitely the way forward”, she said.

With her assistance, parents who attend the club are working towards achieving a qualification in food handling and preparation.

Children in Scotland Chief Executive Jackie Brock, who also visited Dalmarnock primary yesterday, commented on both the short and long-term benefits of the summer programme:

“Through the FFF partnership programme we are working with schools, communities and families to encourage family time, activity and healthy eating over the long summer break.

“With the help of the wonderful charity PEEK, children are being kept active, playing, creating and seeing friends, whilst parents are learning new skills in the kitchen and taking home recipes for easy, healthy, recipes to make with their children thanks to food suppliers Brakes.”

Mr Maclean won the 2016 series of Masterchef: The Professionals.

He visited Dalmarnock Primary School on Tuesday 18 July as part of the Food, Families, Futures partnership to share cooking tips and raise awareness of how it can be possible for families to eat well, even on a tight budget.

His visit was organised by food distribution company Brakes as part of its Meals & More programme.

The summer club at Dalmarnock started on 3rd July and runs until Friday 28 July.


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Championing participation, challenging inequalities and leading the workforce: our key priorities

Children in Scotland has published its strategic priorities for the next four years, making commitments to champion the needs and voices of children, young people and their families, as well as continue to lead the children’s sector workforce.

The strategic priorities outlined by the organisation for 2017-21 are to:

  • Champion participation and inclusion of children and young people
  • Work to ensure that support for children, young people and their families is appropriate, available and accessible
  • Challenge inequalities
  • Lead and develop the children's sector workforce
  • Continue as a sustainable organisation

The organisation has committed to building on the achievements over previous years, including success with key projects tackling food poverty and an ongoing pilot considering childcare provision in Glasgow. Delivery of these such projects, and others, directly support Children in Scotland’s commitment to work with members and partners to prioritise early intervention and work to remove inequalities and combat poverty – a call made in their 2016-21 manifesto.

Children and young people will remain at the heart of all work, with a continued focus on participation and engagement. Last year (2016-17), Children in Scotland projects engaged with 793 children and young people, ensuring their voices were heard and opinions respected, advocating and affecting real change and this approach will remain at the heart of the charity’s work going forward.

The organisation will also continue its work to influence policy and legislation by working with members and partners to contribute to policy development and facilitating discussion around key areas of interest and relevance to children, young people and families across Scotland.

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