Physical activity is not a magic wand, but it can be a way to reduce inequalities - Andrew McIntosh

Back in February 2020, The Promise Scotland was launched in response to the findings of the Independent Care Review with the aim of ensuring care-experienced children and young people in Scotland grow up loved, safe and respected.
Andrew McIntosh is the Active Communities Development Officer for Children and Young PeopleAndrew McIntosh is the Active Communities Development Officer for Children and Young People
Andrew McIntosh is the Active Communities Development Officer for Children and Young People

Children and young people in the care system are amongst the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society. The stark reality for many is that as they grow up, they are far more likely than their peers to experience poor physical and mental health, leave school without qualifications, have difficulty finding and sustaining employment, and experience poverty.

While Covid-19 has disproportionately affected this group, it is not a new problem. Even before the pandemic, 45 per cent of care-experienced children and young people aged five-17 had a diagnosed mental health condition compared to ten per cent of their peers.

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Physical activity is by no means a magic wand that will make their problems disappear but it can be an effective way of reducing the health and social inequalities they face. Improving health and wellbeing, boosting confidence and self-esteem, reducing loneliness and social isolation, increasing resilience, and helping them to cope with challenges life throws their way are just some of the benefits that being active can bring.

At Edinburgh Leisure, we are a charity on a mission to help people stay active and well. Through our Active Communities programme, which supports around 10,000 people affected by health conditions, disabilities, inequalities and poverty to get active, we are committed to doing our bit to #KeepThePromise and help care-experienced children and young people enjoy the active childhood they deserve.

We offer care-experienced children and young people free access to our sports and leisure facilities to enable them to try a range of activities, such as swimming, fitness classes and going to the gym, without having to worry about the cost.

For children up to the age of 13, we offer free places in our sports coaching programmes so they can play football, learn to dive or give climbing a go with other children their age. For teenagers looking for more independence, we offer 1:1 support to be active from one of our Active Communities Instructors, who give them the practical and emotional support they need to weave physical activity into their lives, and weekly group activities, which give them opportunities to make new friends with shared experiences.

Fifteen-year-old Tammy, who goes to the gym every Monday morning with her friend Orla and her Instructor Gemma, is one teenager who has benefitted from being active. Before she started working with Gemma, Tammy struggled with mental health issues, poor attendance at school and difficult relationships with her family. She says: “Now I look forward to going to the gym with Gemma. Even if I’m not feeling 100 per cent, I’ll never miss a session. My gran, who I live with sometimes, always reminds me about the rush of feel-good endorphins I get after I exercise and I know she’s right.

“Since I started going to the gym, my fitness has improved, my mood is better and getting out of the house on a Monday morning helps me get my week off to a good start. I always feel more motivated to get things done and I’m far more likely to go to school.”

A lot has changed in the world in the two years since The Promise was launched but our commitment to care-experienced children and young people remains the same. We hope that by playing our part to #KeepthePromise, we can help children growing up in Edinburgh’s care system to live healthier, happier and more active lives.

For more information on how we support care-experienced children and young people to be active, contact Andrew McIntosh at

Andrew McIntosh is the Active Communities Development Officer for Children and Young People

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