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News: Study finds social work interventions vary widely by Scottish local authority

Posted 2 March, 2023 by Nina Joynson

New research has found that, nationally, 26.5% of children were referred to social work before the age of five, but figures are not consistent across Scotland.

A new study provides a longitudinal view of Scotland’s social work interventions in the first five years of a child’s life.

From data on children born in year ending 31 July 2013, 13,784 were found to have been subject to social work referral due to welfare concerns before their fifth birthday, a rate of 26.5% of children. 

One in 17 (5.9%) children had been subject to a child protection investigation, and one in 26 (3.8%) had been placed on the Child Protection Register. 

The research was carried out by Emeritus Professor Andy Bilson and independent researcher Marion Macleod at the University of Central Lancashire. They used data collected from Freedom of Information requests relating to child protection information systems from all 32 local authorities in Scotland. 

Disparities in intervention

In 2020, the Independent Care Review in Scotland called for fundamental changes to child welfare services. The Scottish Government issued new national guidance on child protection as a result, with the objective of promoting greater consistency across Scotland’s support and protection for children and families. 

However, the study found large disparities in referrals across local authorities. For example, 18.5% of children were investigated for child protection in Clackmannanshire compared to 2.1% in Aberdeenshire. 

It shows that there is considerable progress to be made to create greater consistency in what families can expect from welfare services. 

The likelihood of investigation was largely unrelated to levels of social deprivation. Four of the five local authorities with the highest referral rates were in the least deprived half of all authorities (Dumfries & Galloway, Falkirk, Midlothian and South Ayrshire).

Independent researcher Marion Macleod said: 

“There are huge financial and emotional implications for families involved in social care child referrals and once they are caught up in the system, they are swallowed up by the whole bureaucratic process. 

“Local authorities in Scotland are being put in an impossible position by the Government and are bound by statutory legislation that isn’t tailored to the needs of the local area. Instead, what is needed is more investment into early years, mental health services, community groups and improved parent advocacy so that the families can get help instead of being victimised.” 

Click here to read the full paper

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News: Rewind welfare reform says new report

Posted 13 April 2022, by Nina Joynson

A new report estimates that 30,000 children in Scotland could be lifted out of poverty if key UK Government reforms were reversed.

The Scottish Government's Welfare reform – impact on families with children report, outlines the impact of UK Government welfare reform on families and children in Scotland.

It estimates that 70,000 people in Scotland, including 30,000 children, would be lifted from poverty in 2023-24 if key reforms introduced by the UK Government since 2015 were reversed.

They suggest that, even in isolation, each of the following interventions would lift 10,000 children out of poverty:

  • Reinstate the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. This temporary measure was introduced at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic and removed in October 2021.
  • Reverse the benefit freeze. The freeze was in place between 2015 and 2019 and affected several UK Government benefits. These have now been uprated for inflation, however the residual impact of the freeze is retained in the new rates.
  • Reverse the two-child limit and removal of the family element. Both reforms were introduced in 2017 to limit child tax credit and Universal Credit awards to two children per household and make the family element only available to households with children born before 6 April 2017.

The report claims reversing all reforms would also increase disposable income for households with children on the lowest 10% of incomes, and for those in poverty, by 11% and 10% respectively.

Children in single-adult households would be particularly affected by intervention, with 20,000 children pulled from poverty and a poverty rate reduction of 7 percentage points.

The cost of intervention

The total cost of reversing reforms is estimated to be around £780 million per annum.

Reversing the two-child limit and removal of the family element is suggested to be the most cost-effective way of reducing child poverty.

Scottish Government action

The report comes after the Scottish Government published its second Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Report which sets out both short and long-term action to support people out of poverty and tackle its causes.

Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, said:

“Tackling child poverty is our national mission and we are helping to lift thousands of children out of poverty in Scotland within our limited powers. This report lays bare the cost of repeated UK Government welfare reforms since 2015 and the challenge we face in lifting children and families out of poverty for good.

“We have introduced a package of five family benefits, including the Scottish Child Payment that we will raise to £25 a week by the end of 2022. We are also investing in employment support for parents, through new skills and training opportunities and key worker support to help reduce household costs and drive longer term change.”

Click here to read the Welfare reform - impact on families with children in Scotland report

Click here to read Best start, Bright futures: tackling child poverty delivery plan 2022-26

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

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Childminder resource

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Learning summaries

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Project partners

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Alternative Future (2015-2017)

An ALTERNATIVE FUTURE for young people who have lived with violence

Alternative Future was an innovative project aimed at improving the lives and life chances of young people who have experienced violence.

It was delivered by a partnership of organisations across six European counties – Spain, Bulgaria, Scotland, Italy, Germany and Austria, and was funded under the Rights, Education and Citizenship programme of the European Union.

We produced a series of newsletters summarising the progress of the project.

Read our blog summarising the work and conclusions of the project

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Alternative Future newsletter 1

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Alternative Future Transnational Good Practice Catalogue

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Alternative Future newsletter 2

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Alternative Future newsletter 3

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‘Benefit cap will increase child poverty and perpetuate health inequalities’

Children in Scotland has responded to the recent Westminster benefit cap inquiry, warning that the implementation of the cap will increase child poverty and cause vulnerable families to be more reliant on government welfare and services, both now and in the future.

Our response highlights concerns about the implication that those on benefits merely require an incentive to work and identifies barriers such as unaffordable childcare and a lack of skills or training, which make it difficult for people to move straight into work. We urge Westminster to consider positive and active policy measures relating to the provision of childcare and the labour market, which may help make positive inroads in getting more families out of poverty.

Our response also warns of a knock-on effect on other areas of public spending, and states:

“We suggest [the cap] will increase child poverty rates and impact negatively on health and wellbeing of both the adults claiming and their children. This is likely to contribute to an increasing level of pressure on the NHS, CAMHS and a wide array of other services, and contribute to increased costs for the government and local authorities.”

Last year, the UK Government introduced a benefit cap. It limits the income households can receive in certain benefits to £20,000 a year outside of London and to £23,000 in London.

The inquiry, launched by the UK Work and Pensions Committee, aims to identify how it impacts on the estimated 88,000 British households affected by the new cap.

Alongside our own response, we also fully endorse and support the response of the Child Poverty Action Group to the inquiry. We hope the committee take on board fully the recommendations made, taking account of the impact of the benefit cap on the day-to-day life of children, young people and families across the UK.

Benefit cap inquiry

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Benefit cap inquiry launched

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