Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hidden costs put activities off limits for poor children

SCOTS children living in poverty are being denied access to basic services such as swimming pools and youth clubs, a report has shown.

Serving Children, published this week by Save the Children and the University of Glasgow, highlights the barriers that keep many of those in low-income households from taking part in activities most people would take for granted.

The charity yesterday called on the Scottish Executive to ensure that services reached the children and families who needed them most.

Douglas Hamilton, head of policy and research for Save the Children, said: "It is a disgrace that 250,000 children in Scotland live in poverty. What makes it more disgraceful is that those children are not able to access the services that are supposed to be there to help them.

There are important messages in this research for anyone who seeks to provide a service for children affected by poverty. The changes required are not expensive or difficult. The key is to make sure they are all addressed at the same time. We must ensure quality services are available for all. Children can't wait."

The report points out that some of the most disadvantaged young people in Scotland are missing out on opportunities for help and support, with a knock-on effect on their immediate wellbeing and longer-term development.

It states that even when a service is free, children in low-income families are often denied access because they cannot afford the costs of travel, essential equipment or food.

One case study says: "Not many children are going swimming, because their mums can't afford to give them £1 every time - and give them money to get something to eat."

Fiona Wager, the main author of the report, said it was vital that the Executive and other governing bodies listened to the needs of young people. She said: "Listening to children's own experiences and perceptions is an important means of increasing our understanding of the issues that children from lower-income households in Scotland are facing in terms of their access to services."

The report follows a warning from the children's charity Dr Barnardo's that the Executive risked missing child poverty targets.

The group said last week that, without an investment of £3.8 billion, the UK and Scottish governments would miss the target to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020.

Barnardo's also commissioned a poll which showed that almost three out of four Scots believed the numbers of children in poverty were much lower than the figures showed.

Source: The Scotsman

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