Children’s charities in Scotland are urging the Scottish government to invest in family support immediately after years of austerity has impacted on vulnerable families.
A report by the charities, ‘Challenges from the Frontline – Revisited,’ highlights the devastating impact of the rollout of welfare reform on children and their families and the effects of local government funding cuts on the support available to them.
Matt Forde, NSPCC Scotland head of service, said: “Our research reveals that families were facing destitution, isolation and mental health struggles before the Covid-19 pandemic began.
“We found that against a backdrop of years of austerity there was an escalating need for help from families who were struggling with more complex problems, being met with less support than before.
“We know that adverse and traumatic experiences in childhood can have a profound impact on a person’s life.
“And it is crucial this unacceptable situation, now compounded by the Covid-19 crisis, is addressed with a matter of urgency,” he added.
The research provides an insight into life before Covid-19 for vulnerable families in Scotland, describing rising need against a backdrop of lessening resources. Some families struggled to obtain adequate food, secure housing and basic essentials with many families coming to the attention of services at crisis point, despite a long-standing commitment by the Scottish Government to early intervention and parenting support.
Service managers told researchers that welfare reform had financially punished a whole section of the population. One said: “It’s the poverty and disadvantage that we see now. It was always there, but it’s certainly exacerbated by the welfare reform over the past few years. The rise of foodbanks here is massive. Families use them on a regular basis and you can see that, families who come to us and are really struggling.”
The research found that local authorities and other public bodies are continuing to face financial challenges and there was evidence of family support services closing or being offered on a far more limited basis than had been the case in 2013.
NSPCC Scotland and Barnardo’s Scotland are now calling on the Scottish Government to press ahead, as a matter of urgency, with the Independent Care Review’s vision of making intensive family support available to all who need it.
The Scottish Government must also outline a clear vision for family income in Scotland and set out how – within the current levers available – it will ensure that all families have enough money to live with dignity.
Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “Supporting vulnerable families mitigates social inequality and improves children’s life opportunities.
“The Coronavirus crisis provides a huge opportunity to make meaningful, sustainable, transformative change. We need to harness the desire to do things differently, to reach out to families with a strengthened social safety net to prevent longer term difficulties developing in young people’s lives.
“The Independent Care Review’s Promise has given us a blueprint for family support and we must deliver on this without delay,” he concluded.
‘Challenges from the Frontline – Revisited’