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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.

Winter of discontent: snow is not fun for too many children

This opinion piece is over 6 years old

Rhona Cunningham reminds us that for thousands of children growing up in poverty, snow storms meant being cold and hungry

Spring seems to finally be here, which is a surprise considering just two week’s ago we were struck down with winter weather mayhem.

Like many others we had to shut our offices as travel was a no go, but luckily we are equipped to deal with something like this. Our staff all had their laptops and phones home with them meaning they could work from home and still be available to at least give the families they support over the phone help. We always do everything we can to make sure we provide a continuous service.

Rhona Cunningham
Rhona Cunningham

When we managed to reopen our offices on Monday the general chat was dominated with stories of being stuck in the house for days, being driven up the wall by the kids, keeping the heating on 24 hours a day and feasting on whatever was hiding in cupboards and in the freezer. I even heard stories of a group of parents taking the kids sledging in the morning and going for a pub lunch afterwards.

That’s all fine if you have the money to do this, but we know there are hundreds of families across Fife that rely on free school meals who simply do not have reserves of food, and therefore, with the kids unexpectedly at home, would have struggled to feed their children with what they had in the house.

With the kids off school parents would have also had to heat their home during the day, again adding unexpected costs, and what if the meter ran out and the family didn’t have cosy clothes to brave the expedition to the wee shop? Well they would be in the emergency zone which costs an arm and a leg, ripping money off you the next time you top up.

Running out of bread and milk was a mild inconvenience for most of us, but there are families in Fife that struggle to afford these basics year round, never mind affording a sledge for their bairns to join the crowds on the nearest hill.

I really wanted this blog to be about something happy and uplifting, but shortly after my last one Fife Council published research into child poverty in Fife. The findings were definitely not happy or uplifting, revealing that 1 in 4 children in Fife live in poverty. 1 in 4 on its own sounds bad enough, but when I read exactly how many children that equates to my jaw almost hit the ground, a staggering 17,667. Seventeen and a half thousand kids in Fife living in poverty, how has this happened? How did it get this out of hand?

Poverty is not new, and neither is child poverty, but thankfully there is now a noticeable shift in awareness and action around this epidemic from the government. Scottish Parliament passed the Child Poverty Act in November 2017 setting in law targets relating to ending child poverty, which Scottish Government must meet by 2030.

The Poverty and Inequality Commission was brought in to advise and make recommendations on actions the government should be taking to improve the quality of life for children who are growing up in poverty. It published a report titled Advice on the Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018 which sets 40 recommendations for eradicating child poverty. Sadly there is not a single mention of child maintenance…yet.

I’m delighted positive action to eradicate child poverty is finally happening, we’ve been saying for years that it’s all about the bairns; it finally looks like that message is spreading. Hopefully during the next red alert mass shut down every family will be able to heat their home, feed their kids, and actually enjoy the time together.