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New report explores poverty and the care system

Posted 24.08.23 by Alice Hinds

New report reveals families face further financial hardship when children are taken into care

New research has revealed the detrimental impact of poverty, both financial and emotional, that can occur when a child enters care, highlighting the need for improved support for families as they navigate a sudden change in circumstances and income.

Commissioned by The Promise Scotland (click here for more) and conducted by One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) with support from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the report, ‘Poverty-proofing for families in or on the edges of care', found that parents already living in poverty, and therefore relying on social security support, face even further financial hardship when their child is removed into the care system.

Evidence from The Care Review (click here for more) shows that families living in poverty are already at increased risk of coming into contact with the care system, and with a “sudden, significant, and often unexpected reduction in income” when family-related benefits are withdrawn, parents can be pushed into debt and even homelessness, according to the report, further reducing their ability to offer a safe and nurturing home for their children.

Additional barriers that prevent families from being able to live together include some parents being allocated a one-bedroom property after being classed as a “single occupant” when their child was moved into care, and the delay between children returning to the home and full benefit entitlements being reinstated.

Using extensive research into the link between poverty and care, focus groups with parents with experience of the care system, and interviews with professionals across the voluntary and statutory sectors, the report also revealed a lack of appropriate practical and emotional support, with many parents reporting experiences of shock, stigma and shame.

One parent who took part in the research explained: “My money was stopped suddenly, which was a shock – can’t remember when but it was soon after she was taken. I didn’t know that would happen as no one told me. One week X amount, next week nearly nothing. That was really shocking as I still had stuff to pay, including contact [visit costs].”

Findings from the report have now been used to produce both short- and long-term recommendations to help avoid the negative consequences for families when a child is taken into care, including the inclusion of financial awareness and money management support, the use of public sector discretionary funding to bridge gaps in benefit payments when a child returns home, and additional support with housing benefit and rent arrears.

Satwat Rehman, OPFS Chief Executive said: “The overarching ambition of The Scottish Government in its commitment to Keep the Promise for care experienced children, young people and their families is to keep families together where it is safe to do so and to provide the support that is required to make this happen.

“Providing young people with the opportunity to return to a safe and economically stable family environment is therefore central to achieving this ambition.

“The experiences of parents who took part in our research illustrate that policies and practices that were intended to protect and improve the lives of children can actually lead to increased financial hardship for their parents, reducing the likelihood of reunification between parent and child or prolonging the child’s stay in care.

“It is counter intuitive to withdraw financial support from families when there is emerging evidence pointing to the fact that financial assistance can actually increase the rate of reunification of a child with their family.

“Now is the time to invest in actions to mitigate the worst effects of corrosive policies which stand in the way of delivering on the aspirations of The Promise: that children in Scotland ‘will grow up loved, safe and respected’.”

For more information and to read the full report, click here to visit the One Parent Families Scotland website:

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News: Programme launches to engage youth workers in STEM and build wellbeing

Posted 21 March, 2023 by Nina Joynson

Science Ceilidh is launching a new project to explore the impact of STEM on both youth work and on young people’s confidence and wellbeing.

The two-year Curiosity In Action programme will explore the use of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) in youth work by building an evidence base and country-wide network.

The project is facilitated by Science Ceilidh in partnership with YouthLink Scotland, with funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

The project is now looking for ten youth groups to pair with STFC researchers in a collaborative research process. The groups will investigate ways in which participatory STEM activities can support youth work and enhance young people's confidence, resilience and wellbeing.

Learning from the research phase will shape free training opportunities and resources for science educators and community learning and development (CLD) practitioners.

Working from evidence

The programme was born from research for Education Scotland on structural barriers to STEM engagement in schools, highlighting that youth workers lack confidence in teaching with STEM.

The research found that challenges to education include levels of scientific literacy, a need to connect STEM to other parts of the curriculum and how STEM relates to the real world and societal challenges.

Building a network 

An event will take place next week to launch the wider Curiosity In Communities network, to bring science educators, researchers and CLD practitioners together to connect and share learning.

The 28 March event will introduce the programme with a panel discussion and workshops, with all network meetings and training opportunities free to access through STFC funding.

A Curiosity In Action steering group member said:

“We hope to make youth workers feel more comfortable using creative STEM in their work, without feeling intimidated because of them not being a “specialist” in it, and to be able to support young people's wellbeing.

“Youth workers will no doubt already be using STEM in their practices without realising it - this project will hopefully just show them that STEM is everywhere.”

Click here to learn more about the programme

Click here to learn more about the launch event on 28 March, 10:30-16:00, Edinburgh

Impact report reveals the benefits of peer research in participation projects

Children in Scotland has published an impact report on evaluation from the Participation through the Pandemic project.

The report reveals the benefits of taking a peer research approach, where a group of people with lived experience of an issue come together to research it.

Funded by the Young Start programme (click here for more), the Participation through the Pandemic project explored how coronavirus changed the ways in which children and young people got involved in projects or accessed services.

Within it, a group of four young researchers aged 14-18 years worked together to examine how engaging online rather than face-to-face  changed the way children and young people share their views.

By taking a peer research approach, the young people were able to learn by doing, learn from each other and gain skills and confidence in their own abilities.

On the process, one of the participants said:

“The analysis of the projects, especially the tasks following the discussions with the projects, gave me an insight into the depth of analysis and evaluation needed for research. This has allowed me to improve my research skills as I know what is required to gather excellent research.”

To help bring the report and its findings to life, the group worked with artist Victoria Geary to produce a short animation that explores what peer research is and the benefits it can bring to research and evaluation projects led by young people.

Children in Scotland is hosting a free webinar event on Thursday 23 February (10am-12pm) to share learning from the project, this report and the experience of taking a peer research approach.
Click here to find out more and register to attend

On the impact report, Chris Ross, Senior Policy, Projects and Participation Officer said:

“'Our evaluation of the Participation through the Pandemic project has shown the value of peer research as an approach. It gives children and young people a chance to take the lead and drive change. We found that building relationships and learning together were key in supporting our peer researchers, so was having fun!

Our upcoming webinar on the findings of the report will be a great opportunity to share good practice and learn new approaches. Please get signed up if you want to find out more."

Click here to read the impact report

Click here to find out more about the Participation through the Pandemic project

The Peer Research Impact Report

Explore the findings from our evaluation of the peer research approach

Click here to read the report

Participation through the Pandemic

Read the final report from this project published in June 2022

Click to find out more

Participation with young people

Find out more about our how we embed children and young people’s inclusion across all our work

Click here for more
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News: Young men's mental health and participation is the focus of new research

Posted 11 January, 2023 by Nina Joynson

A new two-year study led by Children and Young People’s Centre will focus on understanding the mental health challenges faced by three marginalised groups of young men aged 16-24.

The project, Men Minds, will see collaboration between academics from three universities with up to twelve young men aged 16-24 to explore masculinities, mental health, wellbeing and help-seeking.

Participants from three groups of marginalised communities will form a Young People's Forum: those who are migrants, those who are LGBTQ+ and those in conflict with the law. 

All three groups are more likely than other groups to face challenges to their mental health, as well as additional barriers to accessing support services and opportunities to participate in research. 

The study aims to understand how research engagement with marginalised young men can be improved, and to co-produce new knowledge on adolescent mental health and help-seeking.

After designing accessible research methods with the initial 12 participants, the Forum will then use these methods to conduct further research with a wider group of up to 80 young men.

More widely, Men Minds aims to engage with non-academic partners to ensure its output contributes to policy and practice change.

The study is funded by UKRI and will bring together academics in Scotland and Australia from the Universities of Strathclyde, Dundee and Monash. 

Dr. Nina Vaswani, research lead at CYCJ, is Men Minds' principal investigator. On the project, she said:

“It’s about creating an environment in which we can explore these ideas, to make information more inclusive and to support young men to lead on developing better research.

“The knowledge that we will gain from having more accessible research methods will also feed into service provision, practice and policy. Our non-academic partners will help with translating this new knowledge into tangible change for young men.”

The project will soon start seeking young men aged 16-24 to join its Young People's Forum.

Click here to visit the Men Minds website

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News: Children younger in school year more likely to be treated for ADHD

Posted 6 July, 2022 by Nina Joynson

A new study has revealed that children who are younger in the school year are more likely to receive treatment for ADHD, suggesting immaturity may influence diagnosis.

Researchers at Swansea University and the University of Glasgow have found a relationship between age within school cohort and treatment for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Health and education records of more than one million children were linked in order to study associations between age and ADHD in primary and secondary pupils.

The research also considered the impact of holding children back in school. It accounted for pupils that were held back by one year either due to a belief that they would manage poorly when competing against older peers, or because they might benefit from additional schooling.

Research findings

The results of the study, which looked at children in both Scotland and Wales, revealed that:

  • Less than 1% (0.87%) of children in the study were treated for ADHD (0.84% in Scotland; 0.96% in Wales)
  • Children who were amongst the youngest in their class were more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis and treatment
  • More children started school later than the school-starting age in Scotland (7.66%) than in Wales (0.78%)
  • Children who did not start school the same time as their peers were more likely to be treated for ADHD. Of these, 81.18% would have been the youngest in their school year
  • Children who started later more likely to be male, affluent, preterm and low birth weight
  • The prevalence of ADHD was higher in boys, and increased with deprivation, maternal smoking during pregnancy, lower maternal age, birth weight and APGAR scores.

Overall, the findings suggest that relational immaturity may influence whether a child is treated for ADHD. This discovery could have potential future clinical and policy implications.

Professor Michael Fleming, joint first author from the University of Glasgow said:

“Our findings revealed that children younger within the school year are more likely to be treated for ADHD, suggesting immaturity may influence diagnosis. However, this trend looks to be masked in countries with flexible start date policies where younger children with attention or behavioural problems are more likely to be held back a year.

"Holding back children does not appear to reverse the need for ADHD medication. It is possible that holding back children with ADHD might, nonetheless, improve other outcomes."

The Scottish part of the study was sponsored by Health Data Research UK.  The Welsh research was supported by the National Centre for Population Health and Well-Being Research (NCPHWR).

Click here to read the full press release from Swansea University

Young people ‘must be able to help shape life of museums’, participation project finds

20 January 2022


Major reforms are needed to make museums more accessible, inclusive and relevant to young people, according to
a new report published today.

The Living Museums project, delivered by national charity Children in Scotland from June 2020 - December 2021, aimed to ensure that 14-21-year-olds were included and heard within museums and that their views and experiences were represented.

Recommendations made in the project’s final report address changes required to better recognise young people’s right to participate fully in cultural life; improve staff training on participation; and strengthen collaboration to make museum content more appealing for younger audiences.

They include:

  • Funding bodies in the heritage sector should continue to provide opportunities for museums to engage with young people on projects that are led directly by them, and allow them to share their views and experiences
  • A training and development package should be rolled out by national heritage and culture organisations to support engagement and co-design work in museums and heritage settings
  • All museums should be supported to develop an advisory group or board so young people can feed into their ongoing work
  • Leaders in the museum sector need to push for a change in approach that moves away from KPIs focused on targets of ‘numbers of young people engaged with…’ towards high quality, ongoing engagement
  • Museums should be encouraged to undertake Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments on their work to ensure they are embedding children’s rights and maximising the impact of their work
  • Museums should explore new, relevant issues with young people through co-design projects, and build these into museum programmes
  • Recruitment for roles in the museum and heritage sector should aim to actively encourage staff with a background in community engagement or participative approaches.
  • Whilst recognising that a lot of good practice already exists within the heritage sector in terms of engagement with young people, the report stresses that this must be strengthened.

The project worked across three different museums in Perth and Kinross, Stirling and Dumfries and Galloway, bringing together museum partners and youth work organisations in each of these three localities.

Groups of young people were recruited in the three project areas to engage with local partners and establish new ways of involving 14-21-year-olds in the sector. Each group also devised their own exhibitions, which ran in the project areas last autumn.

The report’s author and project lead Chris Ross, Senior Policy Officer at Children in Scotland, said:

“Living Museums has shown routes for engaging young people and highlighted that co-design approaches can support a sustainable future by engaging new audiences and creating links that will last beyond the life of the project.

“However, commitments to changing approaches are needed. Participation of communities needs to be at the heart of future strategic planning in the sector, such as that currently being conducted by Museums and Galleries Scotland.

There needs to be a package of training rolled out to support staff within and across the sector to develop their knowledge and understanding of participation and engagement. Responsibility for participation and engagement also needs to be embedded within senior roles to ensure that it is promoted.

“There is a desire to take this work forward from our project partners and we look forward to seeing where that leads. However, it will also require systemic change to move to a place where museums are truly spaces for and by young people which they feel ownership of.”

“As the project concludes, we’d like to thank our projects partners, our funders – and particularly all the young people who took part.”

Click here to download the report

Click here for more information about the project

Media contact: Chris Small,

Notes for editors:

The Living Museums project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic Environment Scotland, with the support of Holywood Trust and Fort Teviot Foundation. It brought together young people, youth workers and museum staff to develop new approaches to supporting young people’s engagement with museums.

It built on Children in Scotland’s learning from our Heritage Hunters project (click here to learn more).

Click here for more information about Children in Scotland

Living Museums Project Final Report

The end of project report highlights successes and how to maintain the momentum

Click here to download

Open door policy

Blog: Chris Ross on the potential for the museums sector to share its value with a young audience

Click here to read

Living Museums

Working in partnership with the museums sector to engage young people

Click to visit the project page

Participation and engagement guidelines

Refreshed guidance, putting young people at the heart of engagement work

Click here for more

Our Manifesto for 2022-26

Our Manifesto is backed by organisations from across the children's sector

Click here for more

Evidence bank

A unique resource which directly captures the views of children and young people

Click to visit the website

New Emerging Minds project will examine how live music could boost young people’s mental health and wellbeing

5 February 2021


A unique multi-partner research project will examine evidence for the impact of live music experiences on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Click here to learn more about the project and to find out how you can take part

Children in Scotland is collaborating with Scottish Ensemble on the research, joined by the University of Stirling, the Scottish Government and the charity’s children and young people’s advisory group Changing our World.

The project, announced today as part of Children’s Mental Health Week 2021, stems from the partner organisations’ shared interest in exploring evidence about the impact of live music on children’s wellbeing.

It reflects their hope that, in the wake of the pandemic, live music can be made an accessible part of mental health improvement activity.

The University of Stirling will bring research expertise to the project, while the Scottish Government’s Mental Health Division will have direct access to learning from the research to help shape government policy.

Young members of Changing our World will steer the group’s focus and collaborate with other members to discuss the findings and agree recommendations.

The Special Interest Research Group led by Children in Scotland and Scottish Ensemble is one of 18 supported by Emerging Minds, a UK- wide research network aiming to reduce the prevalence of mental health problems experienced by young people.

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

“Through this project we want to understand what it is about experiencing music live that may have a positive impact on mental health. We’ll be studying the evidence for this from the perspective of children and young people, looking at the impact of different factors such as location and performance type, and how experiences vary based on age and protected characteristics, such as disability, sexuality or race. We want to identify how barriers such as poverty and other forms of disadvantage can be overcome.

“Much work has already been conducted on the impacts of learning and playing an instrument on young people’s attainment and wider learning outcomes. But our emphasis will be on the wider holistic benefits of using music as much for wellbeing purposes as for curriculum-related priorities.

“We plan to engage with others working in related areas for a series of research discussions, and we look forward to a programme of workshops over the summer which will take the project forward.”

Scottish Ensemble Project Manager Duncan Sutherland said:

“I think many of us have had a moment in our lives at a live music performance that’s connected with us in a special way. Music has that ability to inspire deep emotional connections and it’s those connections and that impact we’re looking to explore in this project, and how we can use that to enhance wellbeing for young people.

“We’re really looking forward to working with organisations from different sectors for the shared learning and discussion that will bring, and hopefully that learning will contribute to making a real impact for young people in the near future.”

Lynne Gilmour, ESCRC PhD student at the University of Stirling, said:

“I’m really excited about this project and exploring how we might take forward research into practice and see real benefits to children’s mental health through live music. Listening to live music is completely experiential, and can be a vehicle for emotional expression, and regulation, both mood enhancing and altering.

“Working together with people from different organisations, and children and young people themselves, to explore ways to capture how children and young people engage with, and benefit from, the experience of live music in their everyday lives will help to ensure any impact is measured effectively.”

Welcoming the project, comments from members of Children in Scotland’s children and young people’s advisory group Changing our World included:

“We all have songs and music experiences that we remember. Music can be a very powerful tool and we want to remind people of the impact it can have on us and to find out more about how it can support mental health.

“We are interested in finding out more about the benefit of going to gigs and live music. There is sometimes a bit of a stigma with classical music among young people and the project gives a chance to challenge that.

More details will be announced soon.

Click here to watch a short video previewing the project 

Media contact:
Chris Small,

Short film: 'Music has the ability to inspire'

Scottish Ensemble and Children in Scotland staff preview the research

Clock to watch the film

Emerging Minds

This UK-wide research network aims to reduce the prevalence of young people experiencing mental health problems

Click to find out more

Project partner: Scottish Ensemble

A pioneering string orchestra regularly performing across Scotland, the UK and the globe

Click to find out more

Project partner: University of Stirling

Offering world-class research and innovative teaching

Click to find out more

Project partner: Changing our World

Our children and young people's advisory group will help to steer the project

Click to find out more

Project partner: Scottish Government

The government's Mental Health Division will use project learning to shape policy

Click to find out more

Strengthening arts access after Covid

Contributors to our 25 Calls campaign have highlighted how the arts can support children

Click to read the blog

Young people’s peer research into health inequalities launched

5 February 2020

Children in Scotland today launched a new peer research report into health inequalities in communities, undertaken by young researchers from Dalmarnock Primary School in Glasgow and Baldragon Academy in Dundee.

Funded by the Wellcome Trust and developed with guidance from Niamh Shortt, Professor in Health Geographies at the University of Edinburgh, the participative research project engaged a group of young researchers aged 10-14 to find out what they think needs to change in their communities.

Taking a mixed methods approach which combined focus groups, ethnography (exploring areas using mapping and photography) and analysis, the peer researchers decided to focus on three topic areas which for them had the most relevance in considering the impact of place: ‘Safety’, ‘Littering’ and ‘Family and Friends’.

The launch event at Tynecastle Park was led by some of the P7 students who contributed. Amber, P7 at Dalmarnock Primary said:

“It was fun and we got to learn new things. It was exciting and it always felt like an equal relationship working with the team from Children in Scotland. It helped us think about the places we live in, in a different way and working towards the things that we can change.”

Amy Woodhouse, Children in Scotland’s Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, said the project – which aligns with Children in Scotland’s strategic goal to challenge Inequalities – provided a great opportunity to give young people the chance to do a professional job as researchers.

“This research has brought a fresh perspective and some really simple solutions under their recommendations. We have an opportunity through the UNCRC being brought into Scots Law to make some of these recommendations a reality,” she said.

The peer researchers’ recommendations for adults included:

  • More visible responsible adults in our communities
  • Access to free or cheap fun activities
  • Improved green spaces
  • Regenerating abandoned spaces
  • Support services for children, young people and adults. Support not stigma.

The launch event was attended by representatives from statutory, voluntary and third sector organisations keen to get a fresh perspective from young people on the impact of place on health, wellbeing and inequality.

Lorna Bellany of Pennypit Community Development Trust, based at Prestonpans, said: “It’s so unique that this report is led by young people. Kids just aren’t heard enough.”

Darren Rocks, attending on behalf of NHS Health Scotland, said: “NHS Health Scotland, Architecture & Design Scotland and the Scottish Government have commissioned Play Scotland to deliver a children and young people’s version of the Place Standard, the framework to structure conversations about place.

"I’m interested in increasing children’s participation and hearing the voices of young people within that discussion so today has been a great opportunity to hear a bit more from the young people themselves.”

Bringing proceedings to a close at the launch event, Chris Ross, Children in Scotland’s Policy Officer and project lead on the report: Health Inequalities: Peer research into the role of communities, said:

“We want to see meaningful change in health inequality and in the next couple of years, we will be actively campaigning for that.”

Click here to read the full report, Health Inequalities: Peer research into the role of communities.

Media contacts:

Catherine Bromley,
Chris Small,

Notes for editors:

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.

The report

This report outlines the research undertaken by young peer researchers

Click to download the report

The context

Professor Niamh Shortt discusses health inequalities in a short video

Click to watch the video

The animation

We've produced a five-minute animation about the young researchers' findings

Click to watch the video

The project

The project explores how community and place impacts on the health of young people

Click to find out more

Related work

One of our strategic aims is to challenge inequalities – a focus of various projects we run

Click to browse our projects