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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

A sporting chance for looked after children

This opinion piece is about 7 years old

Helen Macfarlane explains how Edinburgh Leisure can boost the life chances of looked after children in Scotland

Helen Macfarlane
Helen Macfarlane

Will 2017 be the year Scotland ensures that children and young people in care are given an equal opportunity to have safe and happy childhoods, with the support and knowledge they need to achieve their potential?

Late last year, The First Minister delivered an impassioned announcement at the SNP conference that there will be a root and branch review of Scotland’s system for looked after children. Many agencies and organisations working in this field will be asking themselves what they can do to ensure looked after children and young people are able to achieve as much as their peers.

A big part of growing up is being physically active and getting the chance to play and take part in sport. Being active and healthy is a huge part of my life and drives me on a personal and professional level. At home I see the positive impact that leading an active lifestyle as a family has on my children.

However, this isn’t always the case for children and young people in the care system who are more likely to have poor physical, mental and social health. Around 34% of children in care are physically inactive, which puts them at risk of developing long term preventable health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Nearly half of children and young people living in care experience mental health issues.

Getting the chance to be physically active has an enormously positive effect on a young person’s wellbeing. Being active and involved in sport improves confidence, helping young people focus in school – resulting in better educational attainment.

It also develops essential life skills like communication, teamwork and resilience. As the head of active communities at Edinburgh Leisure, I am privileged to see the positive impact physical activity and sport has on the lives of vulnerable young people. I am dedicated to the belief that physical activity and sport is a powerful tool to help these young people not only by improve their physical health and wellbeing but develop their social skills and give them an opportunity to achieve their potential.

Edinburgh Leisure is a health and wellbeing charity that deliver leisure services for the city. We’re in the unique position to use our expertise, venues and facilities to help people get active so they can enjoy healthier futures.

Our Looked After and Active project uses physical activity and sport to improve the lives of children and young people in care. It provides free access to leisure centres and supports them to get involved in sport. This improves their health, provides valuable life skills, builds confidence and strengthens family ties – helping them develop positive behaviours for life.

Why not check out our Looked After and Active film to see for yourself how physical activity and sport can improve the lives of children and young people in care. If you know of a child or young person in care that would benefit from being physically active, please get in touch.

Helen Macfarlane is head of active communities at Edinburgh Leisure