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Nicole Dempster

28 April 2015

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Alison Todd, CEO of CHILDREN 1st. CHILDREN 1ST is an amazing organisation that supports children and young people living in poverty. It works to ensure every child and young person in Scotland has a happy, healthy, safe and secure childhood. CHILDREN 1STprovides services like ParentLine and assists in how to deal with trauma, while also speaking out on the policy in this area to ensure children and young people are represented and have a voice.

In order to learn more about the work of this fantastic organisation, and find out what role the Scottish Youth Parliament can take on to support this work through our new campaign, POVERTY: See It Change It, Alison and I spoke in detail about various topics.

Alison began by making it clear just how detrimental and traumatising living in poverty can be for a child or young person. It really does pervade every aspect of life, from a lack of opportunities to a lack of hope or aspiration. With the cost of living higher than ever, even for those fortunate enough to be living a life out of poverty, things can be very expensive. As we all know, the cost of things we enjoy carry additional financial burdens: sport and leisure, cinema trips, school trips, and even school resources – the list is endless.

Another really important point that Alison made during our conversation was that having a mobile phone does not mean a child is not living in poverty. We need to stop stereotyping poverty and the type of people poverty affects. We need to stop thinking of poverty as being something that only affects people living on the street. Poverty is so often stereotyped that many do not realise the impact is has and how many lives it affects. It can take many forms, and at SYP we recognise this by emphasising the importance of stopping the stigma that exists around what it means to be living in poverty.

After Alison made it clear just how big an issue this is, I asked her about how she believes we could best tackle it. I was really interested to hear her opinions around the importance of a living wage as this is an issue that is very close to my heart. Alison recognised that working often doesn’t pay, which makes in-work poverty a huge issue as people face real struggles to cover the cost of living because the minimum wage is not a living wage. We are also one of only five European countries not protecting our children and young people from assault in the form of smacking from parents. There is also major work to be done when it comes to addressing issues such as the accessibility of facilities such as transport, sport and leisure.

After such an engaging chat with Alison, I was excited to hear how we can work in partnership together. She gave us her support for our campaign, POVERTY: See It Change It. Her hope is that as the democratically elected voice of Scotland’s young people, we will champion the call to end poverty, and pressure decision makers to actually take real action to combat child and youth poverty in Scotland.

Nicole Dempster MSYP