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New film shares learning from early years family support partnership project

8 December 2020

A new film about the learning and recommendations that emerged from Children in Scotland’s Open Kindergartens early years family support project is available now.

Click here to watch the film

The Open Kindergarten (OK) approach, widely used in Nordic countries, involves parents, carers and their young children meeting regularly in family centres.

The groups are supported by trained early years staff and specialists who develop parents’ skills, confidence and knowledge.

Children in Scotland’s project saw the charity working with Parenting across Scotland and the University of Stirling for a year from April 2019 to emulate and test out the OK Kindergarten approach here.

The three partners worked with Midlothian Sure Start and the City of Edinburgh Council to pilot the project at two contrasting early years settings in Edinburgh and Midlothian.

In the film, key contributors examine how learning from the project should influence early years policy and practice in Scotland.

It includes perspectives from early years workers based in Mayfield in Midlothian and Tromsø in Norway, and insight from a researcher at the University of Stirling.

David Mackay, Policy and Projects Manager at Children in Scotland, and the charity’s lead for the OK project, said:

“The Open Kindergarten pilot told us a great deal about the value of embedding such an approach in Scotland, what works and what doesn’t, and why family support and early years support are so vital and interlinked.

“The ideas and feedback that came from the pilots in Midlothian and Edinburgh, combined with the experiences we know of in Norway, form important evidence about how we can develop early years policy here.

“We hope this film offers a useful overview of learning from the project and will be of interest to professionals, practitioners – and anyone with an interest in early years family support in Scotland.”

Clare Simpson, manager of project partner Parenting across Scotland and a contributor to the film, added:

“For many families the early years can be a difficult time – parents are often isolated and unsure of who to go to with any queries.

"Open Kindergartens have proved to be a popular way of providing this support. It would be fantastic to see them become available to more families throughout Scotland.”

The Open Kindergarten pilot project was supported by the European Social Fund.

Click here to find out more about the project

"Fulfilling an important need"

The OK Kindergarten film hears from partners about key learning from the project

Click to watch

Project overview

We produced an infographic explaining the Open Kindergartens approach

Click to download PDF

Evaluation report

The University of Stirling published a report analysing the project in the context of improving family suppport

Click to read more

Filling a gap in early years services

Find out more about the background to the project

Click to read more

25 and Up: The ‘old normal’ meant acceptance of injustice for too many families. We can’t go back to it

9 October 2020

In a special blog for Challenge Poverty Week, Clare Simpson revisits her 25 Calls contribution, arguing that UNCRC incorporation and the work of the Care Review provide the scaffolding for change Scotland’s families need

Back in 2018 when we made our call for relationship-based whole family support (click to read), addressing the poverty blighting the lives of too many of Scotland’s families, the world was a very different place.

Things felt more hopeful. The Scottish Government had just announced its commitment to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into domestic law. The Independent Care Review was at the beginning of its Journey towards its final Promise. The need for better support for families, along with the acknowledgement that this could not be done without tackling poverty, was really gaining traction. And perhaps most importantly, we weren’t living through a pandemic with all its consequent disruption of families’ lives.

Families have been thrust right to the forefront during the pandemic, their essential role suddenly visible and prominent where once it was just background. We thought we no longer had a village to raise our children. But we realised when they were taken away that family and friends, education and other services were that village and that without them families were left horribly exposed.

But families’ troubles were not due solely, or even mostly, due to the impact of the pandemic. Years of austerity had already created a society riven by inequalities. Too many families had been swept away by a rising tide of poverty and many more were teetering on the edge. A forthcoming report by Barnardos and the NSPCC, Challenges from the Frontline Revisited, puts the stark reality of life for too many families under the spotlight. The pandemic has highlighted what was already too many families’ everyday reality.

Pre-pandemic, one in four children in Scotland was already living in poverty. The numbers are predicted to rise. Many families were living in poverty regardless of whether they worked or not. Approximately four in 10 people were experiencing in-work poverty (Poverty in Scotland 2020, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, click to read). Insecure employment and zero-hour contracts left many at the mercy of unregulated employers while inadequate social security levels meant that those who were forced to resort to benefits were far from socially secure.

After lockdown, the number of working hours in Scotland fell sharply, with low-paid workers more likely to lose jobs and pay. Universal Credit claims doubled in the six months from March 2020 with areas with higher poverty rates pre-pandemic most significantly affected (JRF, 2020). While many were able to weather the storm and cut back on spending, those living in poverty, especially private renters and younger people, already spent the vast majority of their income on essentials and were unlikely to have savings to fall back on, according to the ONS.

It can’t be fair that some of us can take out a Netflix subscription and buy a comfort takeaway to make life easier during these COVID days, while others can’t afford to keep up rent payments and need to rely on foodbanks to feed themselves and their children.

The call that we made back in 2018 has become more important than ever. Relationship-based whole family support is essential to ensure that every family has the resources to ensure their children can thrive. When families are struggling to keep a roof over their heads, to pay bills and put meals on the table, inevitably mental health suffers, stress levels soar and bringing up children becomes so much more difficult. We need to talk about supporting families rather than about family support, working alongside families to make sure they are not cast adrift in a rising tide of poverty.

Article 27 of the UNCRC states “Every child has the right to a standard of living that meets their physical and social needs and supports their development. Governments must support families who cannot provide this.”

It is a beacon of hope and a mark of a civilised society that Scotland has committed to incorporating the UNCRC into domestic law. Properly resourced and used as a framework to support families, incorporation has the potential to be a gamechanger for families who, through no fault of their own, cannot provide an adequate standard of living for their children. Alongside the strong commitment made to supporting families in the Independent Care Review’s the Promise and its Ten Principles of family support, UNCRC incorporation provides the scaffolding for the change that Scotland’s families need.

But effecting that change will require proper resourcing and genuine cross-departmental working at national and local government levels. It will mean help with work and employability, more affordable homes and more income support for families.

It simply isn’t right that we leave so many families unable to provide for their children. We have to get this right for Scotland’s families. Please don’t let the new normal be the same as the old normal.

Clare Simpson is Manager of Parenting across Scotland

About the author

Clare Simpson is Manager of Parenting across Scotland

Click to find out more

Poverty in Scotland 2020

This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation was published in October 2020

Click to find out more

25 Calls, 25 and Up

Find out more about our campaign in partnership with organisations across the sector

Click to find out more

"Whole-family support is needed"

Clare's 25 Calls campaign call focused on the need for meaningful support for families

Click to read

Incorporation 'to the max' welcome

Find out why we back full incorporation and read our consultation response

Click to read