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“The future looks bleak”: children’s sector voices anxiety over rights, services and opportunities post-Brexit

Representatives from 45 national organisations, local youth service providers and schools, alongside 10 frontline experts in the sector, have added their voices to growing alarm over Brexit’s likely impact on children.

Responding to a Children in Scotland survey, they shared worries about children’s services, rights and opportunities, with the effect of EU withdrawal on the economy and freedom of movement, potential loss of work abroad, and the lack of chances to live, travel and make friends in Europe, emerging as key concerns.

European funding and the financial impact of Brexit in the UK were also singled out, with one staff member in a youth organisation commenting:

“We are experiencing significant cuts to local authority services and funding cuts to voluntary organisations now and in coming years… If Brexit causes further uncertainty, it will inevitably impact on public services and those most disadvantaged. Political trust is very low amongst young people. The future looks quite bleak currently.”

On voting reform, our survey shows 89% support for 16-17-year-olds being eligible to vote in local, national and European elections and future referendums, and that the Brexit referendum outcome was not reflective of young people’s views.

“Young people felt that the majority of people who voted to leave were older people who weren't going to be around for the fall-out in years to come and the young people would be left with the consequences of someone else’s decision … They felt disregarded.” - CiS Member, Glasgow

The need for transparency on the rights of EU nationals was highlighted, with fears of “future deportation” and being forced to “leave the country” being cited.

Loss of rights protections was also specifically mentioned. Comments included:

“Our P7 pupils have concerns about 1) the future of them (our international /EU students) in our school and country, and 2) the future of their friends and the uncertainty that Brexit brings.”

“They [the young people we work with] are concerned about changes in the law if European legislation doesn't apply.”

“As a Rights Respecting School, we’re concerned about changes to judicial and human rights once out of the EU.”

Suggestions for next steps included more engagement with young people, and signalled frustration at the lack of involvement of children and young people in the debate thus far.

“They need to be able to express their opinion about what they want for the future as it will affect them.”

“A consultation throughout every nursery primary and secondary should be taken.”

Children in Scotland Chief Executive Jackie Brock said:

“Our members and wider network are telling us in stark terms how concerned they are by Brexit and about the anxiety young people they work with are experiencing.

“Their fear is that opportunities will be undermined, rights curtailed, and services cut.

“We are now eight months from EU withdrawal and we’re faced with an information vacuum from political leaders about Brexit’s impact on children, alongside mounting evidence that points to profoundly negative consequences.”

Other points highlighted by the survey include:

  • Clear, impartial information is needed, with several respondents suggesting forums or roadshows as ways to engage. “Children and young people should be supported to understand what the potential impacts of Brexit are before being asked what they think about Brexit... Decision-makers need to be made aware of the importance of listening to children and young people.”
  • The tone of debate can be concerning, with one respondent worried by the “Anti-Muslim and racial hatred that appears to be spreading.”
  • Children in Scotland could play a significant role in continuing to provide information and build networks, acting as a link between the Government and children and young people. “Once [the deal] is known then CiS could use their position to raise the alarm and ensure people are made aware of what is being proposed and rally the troops to make an educated and informed decision … keep turning up the heat.”

Based on a survey of 55 Children in Scotland members, and professionals, practitioners and young people from across the education and children’s sector.

Media contact: Chris Small, csmall@childreninscotland.org.uk or Lynn Gilmour, lgilmour@childreninscotland.org.uk

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