The school summer holidays are well underway in Scotland, however, for many families across the country this can be far from a sun-and-fun filled 6 weeks of blissful family time.
Many of the families we support up and down the country live within fine margins between managing their income and struggling financially. The school summer holidays can add pressure to this tremendously with parents having to manage a difficult balancing act with their household budget.
One of the reasons for this is that many children we work with are entitled to free school meals. Having to find extra money to pay for their children’s lunches during the holidays can be challenging for parents, and many have to make difficult decisions in order to provide for their children. This significant additional cost can often mean that some families simply do not know where their child’s next meal will come from.
Keeping their children entertained can be another anxiety for parents. The lack of routine and structure for children can result in challenges for parents which can impact family dynamics and contribute further to stress and anxiety. And trying to afford activities throughout the holidays can mean even more financial stress. Even free activities or events for children and families can cause financial headaches due to the cost of public transport.
ACROSS SCOTLAND ABERLOUR SUPPORTS FAMILIES TO ALLEVIATE THIS TOXIC STRESS
Aberlour Cooking Groups
At Aberlour we do what we can beyond financial support and believe in empowering our families throughout the year who are affected by poverty and not stigmatising them. Our Family Cooking Group in Dundee provides an opportunity to learn cooking skills so families can cook easy, healthy, cost-effective meals. Similarly, our Summer Food Programme in Falkirk supports families to learn how to cook cheaply and healthily.
At these cooking groups, we provide families with their own slow cooker which they are shown how to use to prepare healthy meals. Slow cookers also have the additional benefit of being much cheaper to run than electric or gas ovens or cookers and can help low income families to reduce their household fuel bills. Parents have told us the importance of attending cooking groups in helping to increase their social networks and building their confidence through peer support and shared learning. In our experience, family cook groups where parents and their children learn together about food and nutrition can also help to promote family bonding. This way our families are given as many tools as possible to support themselves when the school holidays arrive.
Aberlour Youth Clubs
Across Scotland we provide youth clubs, such as our Tinto Sports Club in Glasgow. These free clubs provide the opportunity for the children and young people in the local area to be active, exercise and meet new friends. Throughout the school summer holidays we host extra youth clubs to ensure our children and young people have a range of activities and opportunities such as music, arts and crafts, dance, cooking lessons, free play and games to take part in. We also provide a healthy meal and snacks to help parents.
Aberlour Summer Outings
Financial hardship not only has an instant negative impact on the whole family, but there is a significant long-term impact on the social and emotional well-being of children. Younger children are missing out on the activities many families take for granted, while older children are aware of the differences between themselves and their peers, which often results in them withdrawing from friends at important stages of their emotional and social development.
Throughout the school summer holidays, Aberlour provide outings for our families ensuring that the children and young people we support return to school with a positive summer memory and a story to tell their classmates reducing the stigma many of them feel about not being able to afford a summer holiday or to visit a costly, popular, attraction. These outings also help to reduce the guilt parents feel about not being able to provide these memories for their children.
Aberlour Urgent Assistance Fund
A research study commissioned by us in 2018 showed the impact a small amount of cash assistance can have by easing some of the worst effects of financial hardship for families, enabling them to purchase basic household items and reducing the anxiety and toxic stress that comes from living in poverty. Our parents tell us how significant just a small increase in their household budget can be, helping them to feed and clothe their children as well as supporting them to live and function as families.
Our urgent assistance fund provides cash grants to help families across Scotland who are in urgent need of help and have nowhere else to turn. Many of the families we support are working and do not receive Universal Credit, they have exhausted all statutory and food bank support available to them. The Aberlour Urgent Assistance Fund acts as one of the last remaining safety nets for the most vulnerable in our society. In 2018 applications to the urgent assistance fund – which provides cash grants to families in urgent need of help across the country – rose by over 80%. We gave out more than double the amount of money than in the previous 12 months. This dramatic increase is extremely worrying, particularly as we know there are many more families in desperate and distressing circumstances.
These are just some of things that we do at Aberlour to help and support struggling families and reduce the stress and anxiety they can experience as a result of financial hardship. The school holidays can mean more pressure on parents to provide for their children, but with a little extra help and support we aim to make sure that children can enjoy themselves and parents don’t need to worry.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Through your support we can help Scotland’s most vulnerable families. We can support them to learn new skills, do things they never thought possible and alleviate the toxic stress caused by financial hardship.
Help us to continue this support by:
Deputy Director of Children and Families