Child poverty is history in Scotland. This is a statement which we all wish were true. But the reality is that 20 per cent of children across our nation currently live below the poverty line. There are so many things for Scots to be proud of but this is a horrible reality in a progressive, modern society.
There are children in school today whose education is hindered because they are hungry and children who are cold in winter because their families can’t afford to buy them warm clothes. In some parts of Scotland, child poverty affects as many as half of all children.
Sometimes it’s hard to picture what “living in poverty” really means. You can think about it in terms of having fewer choices and less control over your life and your children’s lives. Being deprived of choice and control results in daily humiliations and disappointments for parents and children alike. Some of these disappointments may be huge, others might be less significant but over time they wear you down and break your spirit. Growing up in deprivation seriously limits children’s hopes and dreams and the cycle of poverty can carry on for generations.
As chair of the STV Children’s Appeal board of trustees, I see that a lot of the work is about listening to the families and children our projects support so that we really make a difference with the projects we fund. We can’t do it without the generosity of so many Scots. It is humbling to know that one in five people in Scotland has so far trusted us with their hard-earned cash to help children living in poverty today.
We need to tell their stories as best we can. STV’s ability to communicate with 95 per cent of Scotland sets us apart. This is one of the key reasons, I believe, we have attracted so much support over the last five years. We have the platforms and opportunities to highlight the problems our Scottish families are going through to everyone else. With understanding comes the desire to do something and it is that engagement that will change these statistics.
Recently, we learned that Ferguslie Park in Paisley is the most deprived community in Scotland. For the last two years, the appeal has funded a project there working with families experiencing homelessness, often multiple times.
We have learned that we need to prioritise giving families stability and dignity before change can happen. There is, of course, lots more to learn, but one thing is for sure, real change happens when we invest in people through local groups who have their own appropriate, sustainable solutions to problems in their own areas. It’s not about “delivering a service”. We keep seeing that time and time again.
Money raised by the STV Children’s Appeal stays in Scotland and moreover, it stays in local communities.
The support and generosity of Scots never ceases to amaze me, but as we look ahead we seek to establish a model for a sustainable appeal that continues to deliver for the children in Scotland that most need our help. Until they don’t need us anymore.
I am delighted that the appeal’s operating costs continue to be met by STV and The Hunter Foundation. This ensures that every penny donated goes straight to the children that need it most. We are also extremely lucky to have the commitment and financial support of The Wood Trust. Since the charity launched, we have also had the support of the Scottish Government, which has match-funded the first £1 million raised every year. I am delighted that this year the appeal raised the remarkable sum of £2,568,369.
I believe the STV Children’s Appeal is ideally placed to raise awareness for children living in poverty today and in doing so we can hopefully bring it to an end in Scotland. By shining a light on the stories behind the statistics we help break down the stigma that surrounds child poverty. By bringing the issues to the fore we engage Scotland in a debate that has to involve each and every one of us.
We all need to play our part in striving for a day when no child is disadvantaged because of the financial circumstances in which they happen to be born.
Baroness Margaret Ford is chair of the STV Children’s Appeal