“If we fail our children, we are failing full stop”. These were the opening words of Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, as she formally launched Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland (CNS) in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock on 9th February in the impressive surroundings of the Glasgow Women’s Library – and how very right she is.
The CNS launch event brought together over 50 people from a range of local and national organisations, across services and sectors, to hear about the background and work of CNS and what we have being doing in the run-up to the launch. The event was also an opportunity to hear from some interesting and influential speakers who provided different perspectives but shared similar outlooks and ambitions: the need to agree a new way of working which will ensure a sustained focus on improving life chances and prospects for children and young people.
The importance of long-term transformational change in the city and the way it does its business was highlighted by Cllr Aitken – if we are to see the change and improvements that we all aspire to achieve for our children and young people. Cllr Aitken also stressed the importance of working collectively to have greater impact, harnessing and building on what is already working locally and learning from what works elsewhere but also crucially ensuring that our approach in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock is bespoke for this community based on evidence and experience. CNS was seen to be “a unique Scottish, Glaswegian and local approach to putting poverty in its place”.
Building on this theme and following this very local perspective, Douglas Hamilton, Chair of the national Poverty and Inequality Commission brought us a Scotland-wide view on the state of child poverty. In his thought-provoking talk, Douglas highlighted that despite national agreement and substantial investment there has been no real change in child poverty figures in real terms over the last five years. Therefore, like Cllr Atiken, Douglas also stressed that more of the same won’t do, we need something different. We need to identify local problems and find local solutions. Douglas also spoke about the role and remit of the Commission, in providing advice, scrutiny and advocacy, and the principles underpinning their work, and which reinforce the values of CNS. The need for honesty (about the scale of the problem), solutions (that are realistic and probable and informed by data) and the importance of lived experience. Douglas left us with the thoughtful quote that “nothing changes if nothing changes”. There is much to be done.
From Glasgow, to Scotland, to Ireland. Next to speak was Jackie Redpath from the Shankill Partnership in Belfast, who shared his stories, experiences and insights of developing the Greater Shankill Children and Young People’s Zone, and who provided some advice and inspiration to us setting out in Glasgow. Drawing on the parallels between Belfast and Glasgow through history and tradition (and even the weather), Jackie emphasised the significance of understanding the “causes of the causes of the causes” and the depth of challenges some families and young people face. Over his years working in the area, Jackie had seen a vast number of projects and initiatives come and go, with mixed success. He told us how they recognised that the challenges faced were too big for any one school, agency, government, community or family to tackle on their own and that they needed was collective action where “working together they could do and achieve more”. With a framework developed to hold it all together, they created their Zone, for the whole of children’s lives (not just while they are at school) and created a space and a place for things to happen in, with long-term commitment by partners to reflect the generational journey of transformation that they were on. Jackie stressed the need to be ‘localised’ in our approach and to find our own way in Glasgow, in response to what matters to local people, and the importance of working alongside communities to “plan a pathway for that something better” that they want for their own children, a better story and a better future. Wise words from a captivating speaker and we hope to continue to learn from experiences in Shankill.
Our morning continued with the opportunity for discussion and exchange at a series of facilitated table conversations around priorities for action and examples of practice at a range of childhood age groups. The room was filled with the buzz of conversation, the sharing of insights, stories and hopes for the future.
Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland and Chair of the CNS Advisory Group, wrapped up the event by sharing her reflections of the morning. Jackie spoke of continuing to value and build on the excellent work already happening locally in Bridgeton and Dalmarnock and paid tribute to those working tirelessly across services and systems to improve circumstances for the whole community… but that we must continue to work, and where possible get better at working together, to build a shared collective vision for the children and young people in the local area.
A brief overview of the event can be accessed here.
Glasgow Centre for Population Health