Circle,Supporting families in Scotland
Circle is a charity working to strengthen the lives of families across Central Scotland. We work with families facing multiple disadvantages due to structural inequality and poverty. Stemming from poverty, our families also face issues surrounding substance use, imprisonment, physical or mental health, trauma, abuse, and loss. We work to alleviate the real multi-generational impact of structural inequality and poverty whilst also working to prevent it in the future.
We 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. We place 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.
Whole family approach
We firmly believe that 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 example, top priorities for referrers were for parenting support, children’s behavioural support or support for parental drug or alcohol use, compared to top priorities for families being housing and living conditions, benefits and debt.
The research, ‘Thinking Family, Acting Family’, 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 are non-judgemental and needs led in their approach – meaning that the family dictates what level of support they require. This could be support for getting to appointments, support with school uniforms or accompanying families to buy groceries.
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
Haven Project – at the heart of North Edinburgh
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. The impact this has on learning and development outcomes for children was evidenced by the Growing Up in Scotland (GUIS) study which highlighted the significant gap in cognitive, social, emotional, and behavioural development between children of the lowest and highest income groups. We have seen this deprivation in our families’ lived experience.
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
Call to Action: A Scotland where we all have enough to live a decent and dignified life
We 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 toward a Scotland where we all have enough to live a decent and dignified life.
Circle is a registered charity improving the lives of Children by strengthening families - https://circle.scot/