A group of 12 anti-poverty ambassadors backed by the charity Save the Children launched their campaign “Get In” at a summit to tackle poverty at Glasgow’s Lighthouse yesterday, calling for discounts on services, activities and transport to help deprived youngsters get more involved in leisure activities.
Scottish Government research shows that children living in the wealthiest areas are significantly more likely to have participated in key leisure activities than those in deprived areas, the campaigners say. In particular, the richest young people are three times more likely to play a musical instrument than poorer youngsters and young people from better off households are nearly four times more likely to be a member of a football club or a dance club than the poorest.
The Get In campaign says the stark difference is due to the cost of activities themselves, but also to the cost of travel, equipment or clothing, and a lack of confidence which leads more deprived families to consider certain activities are “not for them”.
Taking part in activities would improve the lives of young people, but also has health, emotional and educational benefits, they claim.
While existing schemes such as the Young Scot card and youth rail and coach cards offer some discounts, the campaigners insist more needs to be done. MSPs, local councils and transport companies are among those the campaign hopes to persuade to take action.
The campaign was developed by the young people themselves. All 12 of the young people involved have taken part in projects run by the Save the Children and were elected by their peers to lead the campaign.
The summit included a Dragons’ Den-style event in which they pitched their ideas for addressing issues of social exclusion to a panel of MSPs and representatives of sport, leisure and transport providers in Scotland.
Lauren Ferguson, 15, from Beith, Ayrshire, who is involved in the initiative, said being unable to take part in activities could lead some young people to become isolated from their peers: “It’s not just about watching the latest release in the cinema – we’re talking about doing everything from gym classes to playing football, or going ice skating or swimming.”
The cuts are also affecting young people, Ms Ferguson said: “Our youth club got shut down because there wasn’t enough money to keep it open. Now we have to go to a session aimed at younger ones.”
Sarah McClune, 15, also from Beith, said transport was a big problem in rural areas, adding: “Sometimes it costs more for travel than for what you actually want to do.”
One of the campaign’s targets is Young Scot, which offers the Young Scot discount card. While useful, this tends to offer discounts at expensive shops only or on travel such as ferries, which is of limited use, McClune claimed.
Douglas Hamilton, Save the Children’s head of Scotland, said: “90,000 children in Scotland live in the most severe poverty and this has all kinds of knock-on effects, including affecting their potential to develop social skills, fitness and educational ability.
“Today’s summit is a unique event created by young people and is designed to make a different to children’s lives all over Scotland.”