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News: Perinatal mental health services receive £1m funding boost

Posted 31 January, 2023 by Nina Joynson

A fund that has supported more 7,000 individuals with perinatal mental health issues has received a new round of investment for 2023-24

The Scottish Government has announced additional funding for the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (PIMH) Fund, to support charities that provide one-to-one and group support and care.

Estimates suggest that up to 20% of mothers and 10% of fathers are affected by poor perinatal mental health, and 10-22% of babies and young children also experience mental health difficulties.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, £1 million will be invested in 34 charities that help new families in the early stages of parenthood.

The PIMH Fund was launched in October 2020 with a £2.5 million investment over two-and-a-half-years. An extension to the existing Fund at the current level was announced by Kevin Stewart, Minister of Mental Wellbeing and Social Care in January 2023.

The Fund is managed by Inspiring Scotland and distributed amongst charities that support parents, carers, infants and families through the provision of counselling, peer support, parenting support and training.

More than 7,000 individuals have been supported by the Fund, through charities including Dads Rock, Starcatchers, MindMosaic and Home-Start branches across Scotland.

Celia Tennant, Chief Executive of Inspiring Scotland, said:

“We’re delighted the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Fund has been extended for another year. This will enable us to work alongside our charity partners to continue offering their essential perinatal services that support families with babies.

“This support is needed now more than ever, and these organisations are a lifeline to parents and families, offering empathetic support with trusted relationships right at the heart of their services.”

A person with long blonde hair holding a child. They are facing away from the camera and towards a blue sky.

News: Cost-of-living crisis is disproportionately affecting women, reveals new report

Posted 16 November, 2022 by Nina Joynson

New research has found women in Scotland face increasing financial difficulties, with low-income jobs and care responsibilities responsible for increased economic concerns.

A new report from the Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Women's Budget group, “It’s hard work being poor” – Women’s Experiences of the Cost-of-Living Crisis in Scotland, has found that women are disproportionately impacted by the cost-of-living crisis. Those particularly affected include women in low-paid work, asylum-seeking women, women with care responsibilities and lone parents.

Of the women involved in the research, from a range of backgrounds, many told researchers they were worried about their winter energy bills, while parents and carers raised concern over the affordability of essential household items such as baby wipes and toilet roll.

Links between women’s and child poverty

Almost all participants in the research spoke about the impact and additional spending involved in care for children and extended family.

Highlighting recent figures from Carers UK, the report estimates the economic value of women’s unpaid care to be approximately £77 billion per year, with women most likely to be primary caregivers for children, and 92% of lone parent families headed by women.

Poverty rates are highest among lone parent families, and lone mothers are more likely to struggle to cover the costs of household items, childcare and bills.

Furthermore, the rising costs of food, transport and household goods have affected those with dependents, and women in particular are more likely to reduce spending on their own meals clothing and heating in order to provide for children.

Making changes

The report makes several recommendations, including that the UK and Scottish Government work to ensure adequate incomes for all, and increasing financial support for asylum seekers, people with no course to public funds, and women in low-paid work or with caring responsibilities.

It also calls on the Scottish Government to give greater recognition to unpaid care work and women’s role as mothers in Scottish policy, and to work towards an education and childcare entitlement for all children in Scotland.

Sara Cowan, co-ordinator at SWBG, said:

“Women are more likely to be poor, have lower levels of savings and wealth, and are less able to find suitable work or increase their hours if they’re in work often due to caring responsibilities that fall disproportionately on women.

“The women in this research talked about the impossible decisions they had to make to prioritise feeding their children, and whether or not to turn the heating on. Or not being able to buy things like baby wipes, incontinence pads, or toilet roll.

“The Scottish and UK Governments can help by increasing and extending the emergency support available to people, and working to put justice and compassion at the heart of social security and our public services.”

Click here to read the full report

A pink piggy bank leaning on its nose, with coins surrounding it on the table

News: Bank launches new account to encourage children to start budgeting early

Posted 5 October, 2022 by Nina Joynson

The Smart Start account has been launched by Bank of Scotland to encourage 11-15 year olds to save, after a survey finds that parents want their children to be responsible for their spending

A new spending and saving account has been announced by Bank of Scotland, designed to give 11-15 year olds financial freedom to manage their money while still providing parents with account oversight.

Smart Start allows children to begin budgeting and managing finances themselves. The account is split into two sections; one for spending and one for saving, and activity will be displayed alongside parents’ own accounts in their online banking.

The spending account comes with a Visa debit card, while the saving account gives instant access savings to encourage regular saving habits in young people.

Children can also get support on money management topics such as card controls and making payments with new Smart Start Guides that were created for the new account offer.

Early financial independence    

Conducting a survey of 535 UK parents, Bank of Scotland found that parents want and trust their children to manage their own money, and expect them to do so from an early age.

Most parents said that they believe children should contribute towards or pay for the things they want, counting non-essential luxuries like jewellery, video games and toys amongst those that children should use their own money for. Fifty percent of parents said that children should be doing this before the age of 12.

However, 92% of parents still think that it is important to know what their children are spending their money on, showing that oversight is a priority for parents who want their children to be more in charge of their finances.

Emma Abrahams, Head of Savings at Bank of Scotland, said:

“We know it’s a real balance for parents whose kids are ready for more financial independence to not feel like they’re taking the stabilisers off too soon.

"Smart Start gives children the ability to manage their money, prioritise how they spend and what they save for, while giving parents the visibility and oversight to help them if needed.”

Access to childcare services ‘has strengthened relationships and wellbeing for children and parents’, new report finds

Media Release

Projects across Scotland supported by the Access to Childcare Fund (ACF) have made a difference to families’ lives, bolstering children and parents’ health, relationships and financial security.

That’s the key finding of the final report into phase one of the ACF, which also reveals that access to childcare opened up new work opportunities and reduced costs for many participating families.

Funded school age childcare provided through the projects offered a safe, supportive place for children to come together and, while families may have experienced difficult times through the pandemic, children were able to have fun, make new friends, get outdoors and play.

Click here to read the report

The Scottish Government’s Access to Childcare Fund was designed to increase access to childcare for those families most at risk of experiencing child poverty.

Between October 2021 and March 2022, the Fund invested more than £2 million into 15 projects across Scotland. National charity Children in Scotland managed the fund on the Scottish Government’s behalf.

A short film about the Fund and projects it supported has been produced (click the link on this page to watch the film).

The final report into the Fund provides an overview of its impact and shares learning from funded projects. Its key findings and recommendations include:

  • Funding must be targeted at subsidising childcare costs so families on low incomes are no longer locked out of services
  • Childcare services must have longer funding periods to enable them to develop, plan, deliver and evaluate their approaches
  • As specialist services for children with additional support needs are particularly expensive because of the greater number of skilled staff required, additional funding must be available across Scotland to ensure children with ASN get equal access to school-aged childcare
  • Support for targeted and specialist childcare providers must be given to help all families access these services. Targeted services for minority ethnic families, for example, help to foster inclusion
  • Evidence from projects should be explored to show how incorporating whole family support into services from early years to school age can increase the uptake of places and may enable progression from poverty
  • Childcare should be recognised as an important part of the wider children’s services landscape, and childcare providers should be included in children’s services planning processes
  • Transport must be viewed as part of a holistic childcare offer. Transport provision can help families overcome childcare barriers including cost, lack of transport options, and parents/carers work or study commitments.

Welcoming publication of the report, Children in Scotland’s Head of Policy, Projects and Participation Amy Woodhouse said:

“The Access to Childcare Fund experience has taught us many valuable lessons, including the importance of relationships, the complexity of poverty, and the fact that childcare does not exist in a vacuum but is deeply connected to other basic needs in families and communities.

“Children and young people have had a lot of valuable things to say about their experiences of the childcare provided through the Fund. A recommendation of the report is that childcare providers should consider how they incorporate children’s views into service design, delivery and evaluation. We are hopeful that Scotland’s move towards incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child will provide further impetus for this.”

Access to Childcare Fund Lead Alison Hay said:

“Although funded projects had to operate in the most challenging of circumstances, the Fund has shown that our vision for childcare as a service that nurtures the child and the wider family, exists as part of a wider community, and is responsive to individual needs, is possible and achievable.”

Children’s Minister Clare Haughey said:

“This report shows that almost 1500 children from 1000 low income families were supported through the Access to Childcare Fund (ACF) between October 2021 and March 2022.

"The Scottish Government is committed to building a system of school age childcare, where the least well-off families pay nothing. This evaluation of the ACF will help our understanding of what families need as we take our next steps.

"I would like to thank Children in Scotland, the projects, and the families involved, who provided valuable input for this report.”

More than 1479 children from 1000 families were supported through the Fund. It supported projects to test out new approaches to childcare, including expanding services through providing free and subsidised places; increasing the hours and days of operation; and increasing the types of services on offer.

In the context of a challenging winter, the cost of living crisis, and evidence of how projects supported by the Fund reacted to rapidly changing circumstances, it is hoped that the report’s learning and recommendations can be widely shared.


Media contact: Chris Small, Communications Manager - Children in Scotland,

Notes for editors

About the Access to Childcare Fund

The Scottish Government’s £3 million Access to Childcare Fund (ACF) was opened in July 2020. The purpose of the Fund was to support childcare solutions that enable more accessible and affordable childcare for families with school-aged children and to help to reduce the barriers parents and carers can experience in accessing childcare. These barriers include the cost of childcare, the hours available, and accessibility for children with additional support needs. The awards aimed to make services more accessible and affordable for low-income families, particularly the six identified priority family groups most at risk from living in poverty and as set out in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

The Fund was managed by Children in Scotland, with strategic input from an expert steering group. Both evaluation and improvement were at the heart of the Access to Childcare Fund and Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) has provided significant input and support to services throughout. A mentoring and peer network also operated across the projects. The fund was launched shortly after the Covid-19 pandemic took hold in Scotland, and in the context of a number of national lockdowns and ongoing restrictions.

The funded services were:

  • Action for Children, Moray
  • Clyde Gateway, South Lanarkshire
  • Flexible Childcare Service Scotland, Aberdeenshire
  • Flexible Childcare Service Scotland, Dundee
  • FUSE, Glasgow
  • Hame Fae Hame, Shetland
  • Hope Amplified, South Lanarkshire
  • Indigo Childcare Ltd, Glasgow
  • Inverclyde Council
  • Low Income Families Together (LIFT), Muirhouse, Edinburgh
  • Supporting Help and Integration in Perthshire (SHIP), Perth & Kinross
  • St Mirin’s Out of School Care, Glasgow
  • Stepping Stones for Families, Glasgow
  • SupERkids, East Renfrewshire
  • The Wee Childcare Company, Angus.

Click here for more information about the Fund:

About Children in Scotland

Giving all children in Scotland an equal chance to flourish is at the heart of everything we do.

By bringing together a network of people working with and for children, alongside children and young people themselves, we offer a broad, balanced and independent voice. We create solutions, provide support and develop positive change across all areas affecting children in Scotland.

We do this by listening, gathering evidence, and applying and sharing our learning, while always working to uphold children’s rights. Our range of knowledge and expertise means we can provide trusted support on issues as diverse as the people we work with and the varied lives of children and families in Scotland.

ACF Final Phase One Evaluation Report

Our report into the Access to Childcare Fund identifies successes and shares learning

Click here to read

Enabling childcare that's more accessible

The Fund supports childcare solutions and helps reduce barriers facing parents/carers

Visit the website

2021-26 Manifesto

Our Manifesto includes key calls on poverty and improving access to childcare

Click here for more

Our projects

Our range of projects focus on young people's voices and participation

Click here for more

Organisations from Shetland to Shettleston announced as successful applicants to Access to Childcare Fund

11 September 2020

Fifteen childcare providers from across Scotland have been announced as the successful applicants to the Access to Childcare Fund.

The fund, launched in July, is one feature of the Scottish Government’s Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan which focuses on tackling and reducing levels of child poverty in Scotland.

It recognises that the cost and availability of school age childcare round about the school day and during the holidays is often prohibitive for low income families and can limit opportunities for parents to work, train and learn.

The Fund aims to make childcare more accessible and affordable, particularly for children and families most affected by low incomes – unlocking improvements for both parents and their children.

The organisations will be supported by a total of £3 million by March 2022, and have committed to testing a range of approaches to increasing the availability and accessibility of their services and working together to share their learning across the range of children’s services.

The successful applicant organisations include Action for Children, which will be operating in Elgin; Flexible Childcare Services Scotland, offering provision in Dundee (Fintry) and Fraserburgh; Hame fae Hame Shetland; Inverclyde Council; Edinburgh’s Muirhouse Millennium Centre; SHIP, in Perth; and Wee Childcare, which is based in Angus (Kirriemuir).

In the Glasgow area, Stepping Stones (Possilpark); Indigo Childcare (Castlemilk); St Mirin’s Out of School Club; and Hope Amplified, which serves African families in the city, have all been successful.

Clyde Gateway’s provision, based in South Lanarkshire, and supERkids (East Renfrewshire), will also be receiving funds.

Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell said:

“I’m pleased that we are supporting these innovative projects to make childcare more accessible and affordable for low income families.

“School age childcare is critical to enabling parents to enter and progress in employment, education or training – helping to increase household incomes.

“However, it is equally important for children themselves, with high quality childcare offering further opportunities to grow, learn and play. These projects, and the models they establish, will help shape the future of school age childcare in Scotland and progress our ambitions to eradicate child poverty.”

Children in Scotland CEO Jackie Brock said:

“The successful applicants to the Fund demonstrate the depth, quality and innovation of childcare provision across Scotland in 2020. These organisations have all seized the opportunity to test and adapt their services for the benefit of the children and families in their communities.

“Most importantly, the childcare provision that will be backed by this funding has a strong focus on supporting families who are often the most excluded from the benefit of high quality out of school and holiday services. This needs to change and the learning from the Fund could contribute to every child benefitting from such services.”

The successful organisations are:

Action for Children

Clyde Gateway

Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (funded in two locations)

Fuse Youth Café Shettleston

Hame fae Hame Shetland

Hope Amplified

The Indigo Childcare Group

Inverclyde Council

Muirhouse Millennium Centre

St Mirin's Out Of School Club

SHIP Perth

Stepping Stones for Families


The Wee Childcare Company

The Access to Childcare Fund is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by Children in Scotland.


Media contact:

Chris Small, 

Notes for editors 

Click here to read our news release about the launch of the fund

About Children in Scotland

Giving all children in Scotland an equal chance to flourish is at the heart of everything we do.

By bringing together a network of people working with and for children, alongside children and young people themselves, we offer a broad, balanced and independent voice. We create solutions, provide support and develop positive change across all areas affecting children in Scotland.

We do this by listening, gathering evidence, and applying and sharing our learning, while always working to uphold children’s rights. Our range of knowledge and expertise means we can provide trusted support on issues as diverse as the people we work with and the varied lives of children and families in Scotland.

For more information, click here to visit

Unlocking routes to affordable childcare

Launched in July, the fund is a key feature of the Child Poverty Deliver Plan

Click to find out more

Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan

The new fund addresses one of the actions highlighted in Every Child, Every Chance

Click to find out more

Out of School Care

The fund complements the Scottish Government’s draft Out of School Framework

Click to find out more

"Another generation can't go through this"

Earlier this year we commented on new child poverty statistics

Click to find out more


Our CHANGE project is working to develop a new and sustainable model for childcare in the East of Glasgow

Click to find out more

“When a child moves from primary to secondary, there is a drastic upping of stakes in social comparison”

14 December 2018

For our 25 Calls campaign we interviewed Professor Richard Wilkinson, co-author of the groundbreaking book The Spirit Level and its 2018 follow-up The Inner Level. In part four of an extensive interview, he discusses how intersecting identities of gender, race and more are affected by increased inequality, and why family environment shapes our perceptions of the world

Children in Scotland: What do you think about intersectionality and discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, age, sexuality, how that might figure in producing poorer wellbeing in children and young people?

Richard Wilkinson: They’re spin-offs of the same issues. Given that there is this huge differential in how much people are valued, no one wants to belong to a group who are seen as inferior whether that is a matter of class, ethnicity or gender. If you’re black you mind all the discrimination against ethnic minorities very much. And if you’re gay or female similarly. These aren’t separate issues. I often say that when anything becomes a marker of low social status it then attracts what are basically the same forms of discrimination, so whether it’s lower class accents, or whether it’s skin colour, or religious affiliation, or in some societies the language group, when any of those become markers of inferiority or low social status, they attract the same sort of stigma and discrimination. And the way we must get rid of them is making sure that there isn’t this huge differential in how people are valued.

Being at the bottom of the social ladder would not of course feel much better if you knew that equal numbers of men, women, black, and white, and so on were at the bottom of the social ladder. We have to make sure the differences are smaller and the social ladder is not so steep.

CiS: You describe in The Inner Level how inequality penetrates family life from the earliest age. Could you say a bit more about how that comes about and how we might be able to prevent it?

RW: The quality of social relationships in the family, from very early on, shape the development of children. People have always talked about the quality of family life as being crucial – indeed more important than whether you have one parent or two parents is the quality of your relationships with whoever your carer or carers are. And, again, I think we need to see this in terms of evolutionary psychology. I’m sorry to keep repeating this, but people’s social environment, their subjective experience, can influence gene expression meaning not that it changes your genetic make-up but that it switches genes on and off so you develop differently according to your social experience. The point of those mechanisms, why we have them and why they exist in animals and even plants, is to allow the young to adapt to the kind of world they’re growing up in.

So a plant which experiences drought early on becomes better able to deal with drought when fully grown. In human beings it’s a matter of: what kind of social relationships are we going to have to deal with? Am I going to have to fight for what I can get? Learn not to trust others because we’re rivals? Or am I in a world where I depend on trust, on reciprocity, on cooperation? Although family life is no longer a good indication of what the world out there in wider society is like, early social experiences still affects our emotional and cognitive development in a way that would have made perfect sense if you were part of a hunting and gathering band, where you interacted with lots of adults and you should learn whether everyone is cooperative and helpful or whether there’s a lot of conflict.

The strong tendency to much higher rates of bullying in more unequal societies is perhaps because children are almost programmed into hierarchical relationships. I don’t think we’re in a position to make a clear distinction between how much comes from family life and how much comes from school experience, but it is clear that when children move from primary school to secondary school and into their teenage years, suddenly finding themselves in this enormous social environment with a thousand or more other kids, it’s an incredibly difficult process. It drastically ups the stakes on social comparisons and puts you in a framework where you feel vulnerable to being judged all the time rather than being amongst a small group of people who know you well and have bonds with. And the experience of bullying can leave life-long scars. It affects how people see themselves and feel others see them; it makes social interaction much more fraught.

CiS: In terms of a family that might be struggling, exposed to violence, or dealing with poverty, do you think we’re any further forward in policy terms in early intervention? In Scotland, it could be argued, it’s talked about, paid lip service to, but there’s little sign of a substantive policy and legislative shift around it.

RW: I think the Labour government was making some progress in reducing child poverty and providing some preschool support but some of that’s been undone, and of course child poverty is forecast to rise. It’s very damaging. Not only in the way I’ve described, but also because there is a sense in which part of the function of parenting is to pass on the experience of life, so if you as a parent have experienced a lot of adversity and felt you had to fight for what you can get, then you probably feel you need to toughen your children up to prepare them for that same experience. I sometimes refer to a court case where women were on trial because they’d been making their toddlers fight. On trial they apparently showed no remorse, but said it was important to toughen [the children] up. If that’s your experience of the social world then you can’t let your children grow up too soft. And yet, if they find themselves in a different world they may not be good at being cooperative and trusting, which would have looked soft in another world. So, it’s not a matter of whether we should all be either more cooperative or harder, in about adjusting to the reality of the society you’re in. Why I focus on inequalities, is because I think it makes a fundamental difference to the social reality – the quality of social relationships – in the wider society.

Click here to read part one of the interview

Click here to read part two of the interview

Click here to read part three of the interview

Richard Wilkinson is Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, Honorary Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College London and Visiting Professor at University of York. He co-founded The Equality Trust with Kate Pickett.

The Inner Level is published by Penguin.

Interview by Chris Small. Edited by Morgaine Das Varma.

About the interviewee

Co-author of 'The Spirit Level', Richard Wilkinson is a world renowned expert on inequality

Click here to find out more

Read part 3 of the interview

“There is so much more bullying in schools in more unequal societies. But why?”

Click to read the Q&A

Read part 2 of the interview

“Inequality makes us more antisocial so we use social media more antisocially than in an egalitarian society”

Click to read the Q&A

Read part 1 of the interview

“How do we challenge inequality? We need to build a mass movement”

Click to read the Q&A

What can you do about child poverty?

Professor Wilkinson contributed context and analysis to Call 2, on tackling child poverty

Click to read the call

25 Calls to improve children's lives

We spoke to Professor Wilkinson as part of our 25 Calls campaign

Click to find out more

Children, parents and teachers 'could pay price for testing policy'

Children in Scotland has issued a further statement about the impact of testing four and five-year-olds. Children in Scotland’s Chief Executive, Jackie Brock, said:

“Testing of four and five-year-olds is an example of policymaking that has little or no evidence base to support it. There is a complete lack of clarity about its purpose, and it is in direct conflict with the principles of Curriculum for Excellence, which emphasises the fundamental importance of play up to the age of six.

“Children, teachers and families risk paying the price for these weaknesses in the policy, in the form of anxiety, confusion and unnecessary tension in relationships between schools and parents.

“This comes at a time when ensuring a positive transition experience for P1 children and an enjoyable, confident and inclusive start to P1 for all pupils, teachers and parents should be the absolute priority.”

The warning comes after it was revealed earlier this week that the Scottish Government had issued a letter to directors of education, telling them that parents would not have the option to withdraw their children from the tests.

The advice was informed by Scottish Government discussion with Solar, the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators in Scotland.

Children in Scotland supports Upstart Scotland’s Play Not Tests campaign.

Find out more about the campaign here.

Watch an animation from the Play Not Tests campaign here:


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?

What do you think?

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Families Need Fathers

Families Need Fathers Scotland is registered Scottish charity. Find out more about what they do.

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CHANGE: Childcare and Nurture, Glasgow East

CHANGE (2016-2020) worked to create improved childcare for communities in the East of Glasgow. Led by Children in Scotland, the project was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

It was informed by community engagement and relationship-building with children, families, professionals and organisations across Calton and Bridgeton, Parkhead and Dalmarnock and the Tollcross and West Shettleston neighbourhoods.

The project developed a number of workstreams that looked to increase the availability and accessibility of childcare, and to create more flexible childcare options in response to the needs of local families.

The work done by project staff was underpinned by the CHANGE Hub, a network of professionals working in a range of services across the area, supported by the Children and Young People’s Improvement Collaborative.

The Hub carried out some tests of change including low-cost food provision, access to information for families and the impact of mental health support on the uptake of holiday provision.

The CHANGE project concluded in December 2020, with a final report and animation with key findings released in February 2021.

For more information contact:

Click above to view the CHANGE animation.
Click here to access the transcript of the animation

A series of infographics with themed findings from the CHANGE
project. Click an individual image to open it full screen.

Further reading

Explore the project reports and research papers from the project

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Childminder resource

Explore children’s thoughts and opinions about Childminding and what makes a good Childminder

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Learning summaries

Read these helpful resources

Read the summaries

Project partners

Find out more about the CHANGE partners

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Review of Parental Involvement Act published

The National Parent Forum of Scotland has published it's Review of the Impact of the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006, recognising the benefits that the Act has achieved, but calling for further partnership working between parents and practitioners.

Joanna Murphy, Chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said:

“This review has been an opportunity to research whether the 2006 legislation fits with today’s landscape. Although a great deal has been achieved, there is more to be done.

“I hope that this Review will allow all of us to continue to keep parents at the heart of their child’s learning. I will continue to strive for a political and legislative environment which champions the voice of parents.”

Launched today (Tuesday 23 May), the report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, makes a series of 38 recommendations to Government, national agencies, authorities and schools.

Key observations and messages include:

  • A desire to improve and update key aspects of the Act and accompanying guidance
  • A need to extend the legislation to cover the early years
  • A requirement for further partnership working between parents and practitioners
  • A need to protect and promote the role of the parent council
  • A desire to further implement the Learning At Home strand of the Act

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, who also attended the launch, welcomed the report and committed to considering the recommendations in the context of the Scottish Government's review of school governance.

Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement)

Review of the impact of the Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006

Read report

Education Governance Review

Read the latest on the Scottish Government's review of school governance here

Find out more


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