We find ourselves in the most challenging of times. The collective response to the COVID-19 pandemic has called on us all to adapt how we live our individual lives – but it too, has ushered in changes to the services we provide at Includem. Our team continues to work tirelessly to develop new, creative ways to engage with and support young people throughout ‘lockdown’ and we still provide vital financial and material support to families through our Young Person’s Fund.
Amongst the chaos of the pandemic it is of paramount importance to us that the voices of our families are amplified and heard on the national stage. With many of the families we support amongst those facing the economic impact of the pandemic most harshly – having already been in poverty prior – their voices are of crucial importance in shaping Scotland’s economic recovery.
We recently released reports on digital exclusion and poverty highlighting key issues faced by our families, and we also spoke with young people on their experience of the criminal justice system, using their lived experience to inform our response to the Scottish Sentencing Council’s consultation on guidelines for sentencing of young people.
Our families told us they struggle to make ends meet. We have heard of families having to make devastating decisions between paying their heating bill and putting food on the table, and the pandemic has only increased this financial insecurity. While cash injections from our Young Person’s Fund, the Wellbeing Fund and Scottish Welfare Fund have provided vital lifelines, our poverty research highlights the need for wider structural changes to lift families out of poverty.
Our ambitions should be bold, with both urgent action and long-term vision. ‘Building Back Better’ must not simply mean a return to our pre-pandemic society with minor improvements, it should usher in a wholesale reimagining of how our economy and society is structured. It should mean that families such as those we support will never again have to worry about putting food on the table. Certainly, it is time to think ‘outside the box’. Conventional parameters and limits of ambition should no longer apply in these extraordinary times. It is time to embrace bold thinking, and act urgently.