Circle is once again supporting Challenge Poverty Week. Challenge Poverty Week (2nd-8th October) is a Scottish-wide campaign that aims to highlight that too many people are living in poverty and showcase the positive action being taken to combat this.

To show our support to Challenge Poverty Week, our Fundraising Officer, Rachel wrote an article outlining the importance of empowering families to find their own solutions to challenges. It also highlights our commitment to ensure a decent and dignified life for all in Scotland, regardless of circumstances.

 A Scotland where we all have enough to live a decent and dignified life

Circle are writing in support of policy briefing three as we too believe in a Scotland where we all have enough to live a decent and dignified life. We believe that every child, no matter their background or circumstances should have the support they need to live a happy and healthy life. Children at the centre of our practice, and all of our work is underpinned by the Scottish Government’s Getting it right for every child principles.

Circle are based in the heart of the communities we support to ensure that we are meeting the specific needs of our community. North Edinburgh has high levels of poverty and persistent socio-economic disadvantage that are proven to influence poor outcomes for children in their early years and continue into their later lives.

The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) states that 17 of the 36 zones in North Edinburgh are amongst the most deprived in Scotland. This impact on children’s learning and development outcomes was shown in the Growing Up in Scotland (GUIS) study, which revealed a significant gap in cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioral development between the lowest and highest income groups.

Whole Family Approach

We firmly believe to improve the lives of children who are affected by poverty, we must strengthen the whole family. This can only be achieved through inclusion and coproduction with families.

We listen to, talk with and work alongside our families to understand what they truly need. In 2021, Circle Manager, Angela Gentile, and Dr Gary Clapton (Reader in Social Work and Programme Director for BSc (Hons) in Social Work) demonstrated the disconnect between the referring ‘problems’ often given by statutory bodies and the challenges identified by the families themselves. For instance, top priorities for referrers included parenting support, children’s behavioural support or support for parental drug or alcohol use. In contrast, top priorities for families revolved around housing and living conditions, benefits and debt.

This research highlighted that families themselves identified their biggest challenges as meeting basic needs, often a result of poverty or financial hardship. There is a strong focus on addressing the presenting ‘symptoms’ of poverty, e.g., substance use, imprisonment, abuse, or trauma as the cause, rather than poverty itself. We have found that issues affecting families have been categorised as individual failures (blaming individual parents or carers for their problems) rather than focusing on the wider social context of poverty, financial stress, or inadequate income, and this needs to change.

Supporting Our Communities

At Circle, we seek to educate ourselves and our community about the true impact of poverty and structural inequality. We seek to highlight the nuances and misunderstandings surrounding poverty and the consequence on Scottish children and families. Our Family Outreach Workers offer non-judgemental, needs led support allowing families to determine their required level of assistance. This could be support for getting to appointments, support with school uniforms or accompanying families to buy groceries.

Our Haven Project, based in North Edinburgh, has been delivering support to children and families experiencing poverty in North Edinburgh for 22 years. In the last four years, we have supported over 400 families. Thanks to the National Lottery Fund, we were able to provide our families with much needed support in the form of food vouchers, gas and electricity vouchers, emergency food boxes and warm items (clothes, hot water bottles, warm socks). The vouchers alleviated food poverty and increased household budgets for a short period of time. The harsh reality for a lot of the families we support is choosing between food and warmth. The financial strain on families is ever increasing in this current climate and we need policy change now more than ever.

“The voucher I got for Morrisons really helped me and my son. With the cost of living and food going up, this voucher was a life saver and helped massively. So helpful when things like these are handed out to struggling families”. – Mother supported by Circle

Summer Programme at Circle

This summer all our Projects: Haven, Harbour, FABI, East Lothian and West Lothian have been busy organising fun and supportive activities for the families supported by Circle. Our summer programme provides essential support for many of our families, who are often vulnerable and isolated during the summer holidays. Holiday periods often bring increased financial pressures, lack of structure and lack of support from school and nursery. As a result, children and young people may have limited opportunities over holiday periods and may not socialise with peers as they would if school or nursery was available.

“Thanks so much for your help I am not sure where I would be without the trips in summer. I feel there is always someone there at Circle to speak to”. – Parent attending summer programme

Call To Action

Circle are urgently calling on the Scottish Government to ensure that everyone has access to an adequate income by taking the steps needed to deliver a Minimum Income Guarantee. We strongly believe that families are best placed to provide their own solutions to the challenges they face. We will continue to #KeepThePromise and work towards a Scotland where we all have enough to live a decent and dignified life.