Cole-Hamilton calls for life-changing experiences for all young people

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today set out new proposals designed to help children and young people escape the impact of poverty with new guarantees that they will be able to experience life-changing activities outside of school.

Part of the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and former youth worker’s commitment to give New Hope for Young People, it would see:

  • Design of an easy automatic access ‘play wallet’ to ensure young people living in poverty have access to activities outside of school hours.
  • A new national legal entitlement for young people to properly funded youth work.
  • The establishment of a permanent year-round nationwide ‘Holiday Fun Fund’ for children and young people to use for experiences and activities during school breaks. This week the Scottish Government allocated just £10 million to a summer 2022 programme – half of the £20 million provided last year following a Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign for a ‘Summer Fun Fund’.
  • Libraries, youth centres and residential centres to be protected as a priority to help deliver these experiences and activities.
  • Provision combined with food and family support.

24% of children in Scotland (240,000) are living in relative poverty and there are fears that the legally binding child poverty targets will be missed.

Alex Cole-Hamilton commented: 

“The cost-of-living crisis is about to hit family budgets hard and the impact on vulnerable young people could be catastrophic. Poverty is not just about a lack of money. It often means children being excluded from the activities and opportunities that are so vital to their happiness, mental wellbeing and even their cognitive development. Opportunities that children from more privileged backgrounds are able to benefit from.

“The design of a new play wallet for children from families on low incomes could open doors to life-changing experiences from music to sport, dance to science. We know that activities and trips give young people confidence, boost mental and physical health, provide structure and routine, reduce feelings of exclusion and drive-up attainment.

“Last year the Summer Fun Fund called for by Scottish Liberal Democrats helped deliver everything from photography workshops to holidays for young people in residential care that staff said would never happen otherwise. The Scottish Government shouldn’t be cutting that funding in half.

“One in eight libraries have shut for good under the nationalists. Lifeline youth work has felt the squeeze of years of SNP/Green council cuts. Residential trips have been lost to the pandemic. It’s time to start expanding opportunities for young people instead of shutting them down. These are spaces, opportunities and relationships that Scottish Liberal Democrats will prioritise.

“Lifting children out of poverty altogether is critically important, but at the same time the Scottish Government can do so much more to reduce the impact of poverty on young lives.”

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