4. Wellbeing of Children and Young People
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the wellbeing of children and young people. Parents, carers, communities and our public and third sector have all worked hard to support children through the pandemic, and many children and young people have benefited from this support and have coped navigating the challenges. However, for many children and young people there have been significant negative impacts on their wellbeing, with impacts being felt more acutely by some than others.
The impact of school closures had an immediate and disruptive impact on children and families. Children in low income households experienced particular challenges regarding accessing digital technology, access to creative experiences and resources and having adequate space to learn at home. Young people also report poorer mental health and overall wellbeing, with girls and young women, minority ethnic groups and disabled people amongst those most affected.,  The experience of young people entering further education, training or employment has also been significantly affected. It is important to consider the wellbeing of parents, particularly mothers, as part of a holistic approach. There is also concern about the impact on pre-school children who have missed out on important developmental opportunities.
Levels of child protection registrations are at their lowest levels since 2002 and there are below average numbers of children in care in Scotland. Evidence, including increased drugs deaths, suggests the potential for hidden harm. The Promise highlights the transformational change required in Scotland’s ‘care system’: focusing on the importance of holistic whole family support, keeping families together where it is safe to do so, and ensuring those in a care environment are loved and nurtured throughout their life.
The Scottish education system benefits from a strong and shared vision as set out in the National Improvement Framework and our revised strategic intent provides an opportunity to review the focus of our education activity and ensure practitioners can continue to help our children and young people enjoy learning and develop to the best of their abilities. The Scottish Attainment Challenge Programme has a vital role to play in building upon the progress being made to tackle the poverty related attainment gap and support the children who need it most. Progress has been made but there is more to do. That is why we have committed to Attainment Scotland Funding investment of £215 million this year. This includes a £20 million Pupil Equity Funding premium to provide headteachers with additional support for the children and young people who need it most. Since the outset of the pandemic, the Scottish Government has provided funding for over 72,000 devices and over 14,000 connectivity packages to ensure disadvantaged children and young people can stay connected with their schools, learning, teachers and peers. We have now committed to ensuring that by the end of this Parliament, every school-aged child in Scotland will have access to an appropriate digital device and connectivity.
Evidence suggests the pandemic has and is likely to continue to have a significant effect on young people. For instance, employees under 25 were about two and a half times more likely to work in sectors experiencing shutdowns as part of responses to the pandemic. Research also highlights that young people who have recently left education and who have recently entered (or are about to enter) the labour market are more susceptible to long-term unemployment and pay scarring as a result of the pandemic.
The pandemic has also had an impact on health, both on physical activity levels and on increased purchases of food higher in fat, salt and sugar, and these are likely to have exacerbated health inequalities, including among children and young people. We will focus on improving the health of our young people, aiming to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and significantly reduce diet related health inequalities, by taking forward the actions in our 2018 Diet and Healthy Weight Delivery Plan.
Our ambition for Scotland’s children, young people and families is to create the conditions that enable wellbeing to flourish. We want Scotland to be the best place to grow up. We want every child and young person to be loved, safe and respected, realising their full potential. Incorporating the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law to the maximum extent possible is critical to ensuring children’s rights are at the centre of all decision-making in Scotland. This approach continues to be supported by evidence and we are building on its implementation through improvement activity and strengthening collaborative local leadership through Children’s Services Planning Partnerships., 
As Scotland recovers from the pandemic, it has never been more important to get it right for every child, young person and family, particularly those who have experienced most disruption and disadvantage during the pandemic.
Over the next 18 months, to improve the wellbeing of children and young people we will:
- Invest at least £500 million over the life of this Parliament to create a Whole Family Wellbeing Fund, to provide whole family support and act as a transformation fund to shift from chronic to preventative interventions as we #KeepThePromise. This will enable the building of universal, holistic support services, available in communities across Scotland, giving families access to the help they need, where and when they need it. Our ambition is that, from 2030, we will be investing at least 5% of all community-based health and social care spend in preventative whole family support measures that will enable us to create a Scotland where more children will only know care, compassion and love, and not a ‘care system’.
- Physical activity and sport can be central to Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic, providing the boost we all need to our physical and mental health, and bringing us together within our communities. We have therefore committed to doubling investment in sport and active living to £100 million a year by the end of the Parliament, ensuring more people can enjoy active lives as we recover, improving physical, mental and social health.
- We will invest £10 million in 2021-22 in relation to childhood obesity and adult weight management recognising that for people living with obesity and diabetes, new vulnerabilities were exposed by Covid. This is an increase of £2.5m compared to last year’s budget. We are supporting pilots and the evaluation of a Whole Systems Approach to diet and healthy weight in three NHS board areas, focussing on children and health inequalities, and will act upon the findings of the evaluation. We will support training for frontline staff across the services working with children, young people and families to have conversations about healthy diet and weight in a non-stigmatising way, which will launch in 2022.
- Provide £15 million to local authorities in 2021-22 to deliver locally-based mental health and wellbeing support for children and young people aged 5 to 24. We will work through the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Joint Delivery Group co-chaired by Scottish Government and COSLA to better signpost and enhance the range of support available, including implementation of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Neurodevelopmental Specifications. We will work together on mental health in schools digital resource, school counselling services and whole school approaches to mental health. We will continue to address the spectrum of mental health and wellbeing needs set out in the Mental Health Covid Transition and Recovery Plan.
- Provide £120 million of further funding through the Mental Health Recovery and Renewal Fund to ensure CAMHS is available, responsive, effective and equitable.
- Safeguard students’ mental health and wellbeing, developing a Student Mental Health Action Plan, and deliver our commitment for an additional 80 counsellors in universities and colleges in the next two years, backed by £4.2 million this year.
- Invest in scaling the Social Innovation Partnership (SIP) in partnership with The Hunter Foundation to promote and embed wellbeing and capability approaches across different service settings. This will include continued investment in the Young People’s Mentoring and Leadership programme announced in March 2021.
- Develop and deliver a programme of activity to improve holistic whole family support, including helping local Children’s Services Planning Partnerships to scale up Family Support services delivered directly to families through universal and targeted approaches. Working in collaboration with Children’s Service Planning Partnerships and other delivery partners, activity will include:
- Collective work to improve commissioning and procurement of family support services, including improving the involvement of children and families in service design and specifications.
- Supporting local Children’s Services Planning Partnerships to scale up Family Support services delivered directly to families through universal and targeted approaches.
- Developing a practical toolkit of support for local areas to ensure consistent standards and evaluation of support within a framework of core national principles.
- Secure high quality recovery and renewal for children’s hearings system in line with the recovery plan adopted in November 2020 and renewed quarterly thereafter. Support professionals and system partners to give of their best to children and families in high need or at high risk and deliver reforms to improve experiences and outcomes, playing a full positive role in system redesign and keeping ‘The Promise’.
- Build on Get Into Summer 2021 to deliver a summer 2022 offer for children and families in low income households which provides coordinated access to food, childcare and activities during the holidays. By summer 2023 we will build on this work to make holiday childcare provision available for all children from low income families.
- Invest in cultural and creative programmes, including Sistema Scotland and the Youth Music Initiative, which help young people grow confidently as citizens, foster wellbeing and support attainment.
- In partnership, develop a new and ambitious package of proposals to reinvigorate the study of Computing Science in Scottish schools; ensuring that the next generation of Scottish talent has the skills necessary to secure high paying work and to drive forward the Scottish economy. To support this agenda, we will establish Scottish Teachers Advancing Computing Science (STACS), an organisation run for and by computing science teachers by the end of the year.
- In this government’s first 100 days, we have established six pilot schemes to provide free bikes for school age children who cannot afford one, with more to follow later in the autumn, which will inform a national rollout. These pilots will run for up to 12 months, testing out different approaches and delivery models to understand how best we can give children access to bikes. Informed by these pilots, we will start to provide free bikes to school age children who cannot afford them, an action which can also improve health outcomes.
- Make up for the opportunities lost to young people during the pandemic by delivering our Young Person’s Guarantee. We will provide up to £70 million this year, so that every person aged between 16 and 24 will have the opportunity to study, take up an apprenticeship, job or work experience, or participate in formal volunteering with targeted measures to support those with experience of the care system, from low socio-economic groups, and for young disabled people. This funding includes provision of up to £45 million to local employability partnerships to deliver employability programmes, as well as providing training and employer recruitment incentives.
- By summer 2023, develop and deliver a package of tailored trauma training resources and support for those contributing to the lives of care experienced babies, children, young people and families as part of the National Trauma Training Programme, to ensure services and organisations recognise and effectively respond to the negative impacts of adverse and traumatic experiences.