Associate feature: A happy anniversary for Children in Scotland, but let’s look to the future
This summer Children in Scotland marks its 25th birthday. We started life in the wake of a 1993 report calling for the creation of a new national organisation to encourage ‘progressive child and family services’ and speak ‘across the disciplines’.
1993 seems like a different world. Ian Lang was our Secretary of State. The Poll Tax was replaced. Joanne Rowling began writing her first book. We were pre-internet, pre-devolution, pre-trams and pre-Trump. Since then Children in Scotland has stayed true to our original remit while keeping pace with a sector and society that’s barely recognisable.
A few examples of change. In 1993 legislation supporting educational inclusion was limited, while the issue of young people’s LGBT rights had few visible champions (the ‘keep Clause 28’ campaign now looks ludicrous as well as bigoted). Until 2000, there was no formal entitlement to childcare provision. The aim now is for 30 hours a week. Three decades ago participative ways of involving children were often gestural at best. In 2018 they are essential for anyone hoping to be taken seriously.
Most strikingly, there’s now a genuine sense that what our sector calls for can figure on the government’s agenda. Recent support for equal protection, encouraging signals about full incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and closing the attainment gap being the First Minister’s ‘number one priority’ all evidence this progress.
Our job is to ensure that progress accelerates. We need to keep building partnerships, keep working in a transparent way, and keep sharing our learning about what works for children. Three areas of our activity point to how we can do this well.
Our Food, Families, Futures (FFF) programme was sparked by headteachers telling us about children going hungry because parents simply couldn't afford food. This was exacerbated in holidays when schools’ free meal provision ended. Our response was multifaceted, shifting away from default ‘quick fixes’ to inequalities. Working with community and commercial partners, we provided meals prepared by families but also fun activities run by local groups who understand those families best. FFF is about designing support appropriate to each community, not top-down uniform solutions. Last summer almost 4,000 places were taken up by children and parents.
This learning informs our childcare work. We know good quality, flexible, affordable childcare services can help mitigate the impacts of deprivation and build resilience, helping children for life. But our Childcare and Nurture, Glasgow East (CHANGE) project recognises that, for many communities, barriers to this can seem insurmountable. Working in the Shettleston and Calton areas of Glasgow, we’re supporting a sustainable approach to services focusing squarely on family and the local area.
Finally, in the area of additional support for learning, January’s extension of rights to 12-15 year olds is a sign of how much understanding of the need to include young people in decisions that affect them has evolved since ’93. Enquire, our ASL advice service, has made a vital contribution on that journey.
What’s unique about our role in all this? We use our convening power to bring diverse voices, experiences and learning together. Drawing on our membership, we can influence policy and legislation from a position of strength.
Our vision is that all children in Scotland have an equal chance to flourish. But in 25 years’ time we want evidence of that vision becoming reality. What should 2043 look like for children in Scotland? What should we achieve for them by then? We’re planning a major project to answer those questions, marking our anniversary by looking to the future. We hope you’ll take part.
Jackie Brock is chief executive of Children in Scotland
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