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We believe that all children and young people should have a voice. Behind every child or young person we work with there is a story, which they are best placed to tell. They might not have decided the beginning, or the middle, but they can re-write the ending.

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Wed Apr 3| News Policy & Research

Our Transforming Lives Campaign

At includem, our mission is:

“To provide the support children and young people need to make positive changes in their lives, and inspire a more hopeful future for young people, their families and communities.”

As part of that mission, I am delighted to launch our Transforming Lives Campaign!

Across the country, includem is transforming lives. From supporting children and young people through early intervention – changing their journey from risk-taking behaviours to one of a positive destination; keeping families together through our whole family approach or supporting young people with their mental health – we support people to transform their lives.

Our campaign, informed by the children, young people, and families we work with, and our teams across Scotland, will amplify their voices across 5 key themes. We will highlight barriers, share views, suggest solutions and spotlight the incredible work we are already doing to transform. Crucially, it is our role to challenge public perceptions and demand positive change, particularly around child poverty, violence in schools, and youth justice.

 Transforming Lives – 5 key themes:

Children’s Rights

In January of this year, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Incorporation) (Scotland) Act received Royal Assent and will come into force on 16 July 2024. This landmark piece of legislation demonstrates Scotland’s commitment to championing and upholding children’s rights. Despite this, we know that children and young people we support are not having their human rights met, or even respected.

Here at includem we celebrate the incorporation of the UNCRC, but we also remain cautious about the impact it will have on those we support. Central to establishing a culture based on children’s rights is ensuring their understanding of these rights, how to claim them, and how to seek justice when necessary.

So we are excited that as part of our campaign, includem will soon launch a magazine for the children and young people we work with. Our magazine will provide accessible information about the Bill and what it means for those we support. Includem will also explore with children and young people what needs to change to make sure children and young people can access the full spectrum of rights. The magazine will provide another way of engaging with the children and young people we work with, ensuring they have access to information that affects their lives and can share their views on a range of topics that matter to them.

The latest Concluding Observations from the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child highlights areas that urgently require attention such as:

  • the treatment of 17- and 18-year-olds in the criminal justice system,
  • the lack of adequate support for learning in mainstream school settings,
  • and urgently address the waiting times for mental health assessment and treatment.

A structural barrier for children and young people to access their rights remains child poverty and we will continue campaigning on this front.

At includem, we value, respect and uphold children’s rights and it is embedded in our culture and practice. We look forward to supporting the children and young people we work with to contribute to the implementation of the UNCRC in Scotland.

We want to see action on critical areas for change highlighted by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2023.

Read: Voices (2021) report


Youth Justice

If you know includem it will be no surprise that we continue to work with – and advocate for children and young people in conflict with the law or engaging in risk-taking behaviour.

The Youth Justice policy landscape in Scotland is continuously evolving: The Care and Justice (Scotland) Bill is currently at Stage 3 in Parliament and is due to bring a host of changes to the youth justice sector in Scotland. We are also closely following the progress of the Victims, Witnesses, and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill, which is currently at Stage 1 and where we can, we will look to amplify the voices of the children and young people who may be affected by this bill.

Despite reforms, there are gaps in the provision of adequate support for children and young people at risk of being in conflict with the law.

The fiscal framework that we are currently operating in means that despite best intentions, there simply isn’t enough provision of early intervention services. When children and young people do come into conflict with the law this can have damaging and far-reaching consequences for their entire life.

We must remember at all times that children and young people who are in conflict with the law are most often vulnerable and have experiences of poverty, trauma violence, and poor mental health.

We will continue to work with commissioners and partners and lobby decision-makers ensuring children and young people in conflict with the law have their voices heard in the decisions that affect them. These children and young people should never be invisible!

In the latest edition of the includem newsletter, we feature an update on our ADAPT project including our research into MRCs (Movement Restriction Conditions). You can read more about this here.

The provision of early-intervention services that work must be a funding priority for the Scottish Government.

Read: Our Youth Justice Briefing



Education and schools can be, and should be a place for learning, a place of social development, friendships, challenges, support, a safe place, with a sense of belonging. Yet the current picture in Scotland is vastly different.

The latest Scottish Government Statistics reveal that school exclusions have increased. Violence in schools is widely reported with a new story appearing in local and national papers daily. This is not only affecting teachers but also children and young people who are also victims of violence.

We see children and young people who are struggling to engage with education because of a lack of support, in and out of school. Research has shown that exclusions increase the likelihood of a child or young person coming into contact with the justice system, further decreasing the chances of positive destinations.

Many of the children and young people we work with have additional support needs. The current provision of additional support for learning has been widely discussed as inadequate both in provision and quality. Children and young people are missing out on one of the most important aspects of their childhood and youth because their needs are simply not met.

It would also be remiss not to mention the poverty-related attainment gap. Poverty affects all aspects of a child and young person’s life, including education. If the Scottish Government truly wants to ensure that we are ‘Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC)’ then we must provide more support for children and young people, regardless of their needs or the barriers they face if we are to successfully implement the UNCRC and genuinely respect the rights of all children and young people.

For includem, our scaffolding approach aims to bridge the gap between community and school. We know that schools and learning are only one part of a child or young person’s journey in life.

We will continue to amplify the voices of children and young people for education reform and in the development of support and solutions.

Education should be inclusive, accessible, and supportive for all. In our campaign, we aim to highlight the gaps, show examples of best practices, and campaign for better provision of a whole-family approach to improve attainment.

We also welcome the opportunity to work with other organisations and individuals who are experts by experience in the education field and if you think you could help our work, please do get in touch with our Public Affairs team:

Education must be inclusive, accessible, and safe for all children and young people in Scotland. To achieve this, scaffolding support for children and young people struggling to engage with education should be a funding priority.

Read: includem’s School Report (2021)

Mental Health

Children and young people’s mental health is continuing to drastically decline.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising violence in schools, poverty, and the pressures of social media have contributed to declining mental health and wellbeing of households across Scotland.

In the face of this, provision for mental health support is simply not keeping up!

Across Scotland, waiting times for CAMHS and mental health support are increasing, leaving children, young people, and their families in crisis. The Scottish Government must step in if we are to truly avert a mental health crisis in our young people and we look forward to discussing our proposals for transformative change with them.

Protective factors such as good physical health, being part of a supportive family or peer network, taking part in local activities and being part of a supportive learning community are often missing for those we work with.

The children and young people we support tell us that services are inaccessible and policies such as the three-strike rule mean that too often those who need services the most are excluded on account of the barriers they face. This in turn enhances feelings of isolation, loneliness and hopelessness.

Our work to support children, young people and their families to support their mental health is transformative as we are often the only service with ‘stickability’.

More needs to be done to understand the mental health of children and young people and they must be at the forefront of developing mental health services that work for them. Good mental health supports education, healthy social development, physical health and much more. If we want better outcomes for children and young people in Scotland, we must face up to the crisis that they are currently experiencing.

(If you or someone you know are struggling with their mental health, The Mental Health Foundation in Scotland outlines some things that can help keep children and young people mentally healthy).

We want to see mental health services designed with and for children and young people to make support fit for purpose, and accessible to those who need it.

Read: Growing Up Grieving: The National Childhood Bereavement Project Report




Poverty in Scotland is putting incredible strain on families across the country!

Children and young people living in poverty do not have their fundamental needs met and find it increasingly difficult to access education, facing the shame and stigma that is still so prevalent in Scotland today.

Some families we support have told us they feel they are not able to care for their children on account of the poverty they are experiencing. This is Scotland’s shame.

When we spoke to children, young people and families living in poverty, shame and stigma were prevalent themes. Families reported feeling undeserving of support despite the fact that the levels of poverty experienced by families are due to structural inequalities and a punitive social security system. To alleviate shame and stigma, support must be available as entitlements and not hand-outs.

The after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic crisis of 2022 that led to a Cost-of-Living crisis as well as Public Sector debt are keeping families trapped in the never-ending spiral of poverty. Never again should a family we support have to make the choice between providing food on the table or heating their home.

We continue to join and advocate for the eradication of public sector debt, and policies targeted at eradicating child poverty including recent calls for the Scottish Child Payment – though a welcome tool to combat poverty – to increase to £30 and the calls for free school meals for all children and young people in Scotland.

To date, progress has been too slow. includem is determined to contribute to this change. Our anti-poverty work starts through education and with awareness of poverty and stigma. Our teams ensure nothing we do further marginalises the families we support. Some examples of our work with families include support to maximise incomes, to budget where they can and to signpost to specialist community services.

The work we do with families is strengthened by our campaign efforts to reduce child poverty levels in line with targets set by the Scottish Government. We are proud to be members of the End Child Poverty Coalition and will continue to hold the Government to account. Scotland’s children have a right to live a healthy, safe, and full life.  By lifting children out of poverty, we can transform a generation diminished by the effects of poverty.

We want to see public sector debt written off, a strengthened commitment to ending child poverty, and actions to match those commitments.

Read: It is Not a Choice! (2022) an includem Report


Our approach to Transforming Lives

The work we do across the country already transforms lives. But children, young people and families living in Scotland urgently need more support. Investing in early-intervention and prevention, focusing on responsive, relationship-based services and designing interventions and supports alongside families transforms lives.

Our campaign will amplify the voices of children, young people and families across our five themes. We want to share what works, highlight gaps, and be at the forefront of transforming lives.

Please support our efforts to do this by following our campaign and interacting with our work. We have a dedicated page on our website for this campaign, and our social media channels are regularly updated to highlight the latest work of our Comms & Public Affairs Team. If you are an organisation or individual who could contribute to our work, please do reach out.

Finally, an appeal to contribute to our Young Person’s Fund, working to mitigate the challenges children and young people we work with face. Our Young Person’s Fund allows children and young people to engage in activities and have experiences they would otherwise not be able to access.

Some of our excellent colleagues are taking part in Kiltwalks across the country to raise funds for our Young Person’s Fund meaning we can continue to transform lives. If you can, please donate to our Young Person’s Fund:



Martin Dorchester,
Chief Executive

Change a life today.
Our young people and families need your help today, more than ever.