Save the Children Scotland

Case study

Save the Children Scotland works towards a fairer Scotland where no child or family experiences poverty and every child has an equal chance to flourish.

We want to make sure:

  • every child grows up in a family that has enough money to live with dignity, and can provide varied and rich childhood experiences;
  • every child has opportunities to play and learn;
  • parents/carers are able to get help from services which develop their skills, confidence and relationships;
  • what matters to children and families who experience poverty shapes policy, society and communities;
  • any action taken to tackle poverty is inclusive of all children and advances equalities.

Poverty – and by extension child poverty – are both gendered because poverty affects women more than men. The gender pay gap currently stands at 12% for full time work and 32% for part time work – with women much more likely to take up part time employment to combine caring for their children or other family and work. Women are twice as likely to give up paid work in order to care.

A staggering 1 in 4 children in Scotland are experiencing poverty at any one time, yet we know certain groups are at an even higher risk of poverty.  For lone parent families, the rate of poverty raises to 36% and we know that this is highly gendered, with 92% of lone parent families being headed by women and women being twice as likely to give up paid work in order to care for their children.

Poverty can have a significant and direct adverse impact on children’s outcomes. Poverty increases family stress levels, while reducing play and early learning opportunities that parents are able to offer their children. Mothers are particularly likely to juggle insecure low paid work with caring for children.

What Save the Children is doing to challenge poverty and support families:

We test new ideas and programmes to inform policy or improve practices in communities. We collect evidence and testimony from those experiencing poverty which we use to advocate for better policy and evidence-led solutions.  This work helps to influence change, which both reduces child poverty and improves outcomes for children now.

Families Connect

We know that regardless of family income, where parents are engaged in their children’s early learning, children thrive. Our Families Connect programme helps nurseries and schools to work with parents to build their confidence, knowledge and skills to support their children’s early play. It is overwhelmingly mothers (92%) who take part in Families Connect. The programme also supports schools and nurseries to work in partnership with parents. People who have been through the programme have found it to be extremely beneficial:

“I now feel more confident as a parent with my child as I see you can learn from everything around you, we now have fun on the way home from school.” (Parent)

Early Years Grants

For the past few years we have been providing Early Years Grants which are direct financial support for essential needs. They are open to families with a young child who experience a financial crisis. We deliver these through community-based partner organisations and they can pay for food, household items, furniture and white goods. Most of the 692 grants issued to families in 2021 supported mothers (93%) and almost three quarters (72%) were single parents, who are overwhelmingly (96%) women. These grants help to alleviate immediate material needs, but also provide age appropriate play packs to enhance early play and learning:

“I felt like there was a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel when I got the grant. It was like, we’re going to get through this. This was like somebody just going, here. Here’s a helping hand, pick yourself back up and go. And the play pack, my child still plays with it today.” (parent)

“[It] allowed me to do a big family shop that I can’t normally do. The toys were great […]. [It] allowed me to purchase a laptop so I can do Facetime counselling sessions.”

“This grant has taken some stress off me. I felt I didn’t have to say “no” so much to the children.”

Children’s Play

Play is critical to the health, wellbeing and learning of children. Children learn primarily through play; it is how they understand the world, develop language, problem solve and build resilience. Poverty limits the resources and access of families to play opportunities. Over the past few years we supported a local community group run by women in Glenburn to develop a new playpark for their community which opened in 2021. With partners Play Scotland and The Beano we also support children’s play through our free Play Well Packs

Policy and Participation

We work with families’ to ensure their voices and experiences are at the centre of challenging poverty in Scotland. We listened to mothers with young children who experienced financial hardship during the pandemic in our Dropped into a Cave report. We also supported mothers of under two-year-old children to influence the development of the next Child Poverty Delivery Plan and to highlight the particular barriers to accessing employment and childcare for this group in the It Would be Nice Just to Feel Secure report.

Our calls

We are calling on the Scottish Government to:

• Prioritise the needs of families with young children experiencing poverty to ensure that they have a decent income to live a dignified life.
• Ensure that every family has access to holistic, and relationship based family support according to their needs
• Provide accessible opportunities for children to play, learn and build relationships
• Listen to families who experience poverty when developing solutions.

Learn more about our work and get involved by following us on twitter @SaveChildrenSCO