Challenges from the Frontline - Revisited

Supporting families with multiple adversities in Scotland during a time of austerity

This new report investigates how six more years of austerity has affected the most disadvantaged children and families in Scotland and the services designed to support them. Researchers returned to speak to the staff at the 14 Intensive Family Support Services run by Barnardo’s Scotland who were first interviewed in 2013. Primary school headteachers were also interviewed about the barriers to learning experienced by their pupils.

The report highlights the impact of the roll out of welfare reform on families and the effects of local government funding cuts on support for them and their families.


Key findings

  • Poverty remains the core issue for families but increasingly services are seeing families experiencing destitution.
  • Services attribute the worsening conditions for families to welfare reform, universal credit roll-out and the sanctions regime.
  • Severe hardship is affecting parents’ mental health and family relationships, as well as leading to social isolation and exclusion.
  • As a result, families referred to services have more complex difficulties and greater needs than was the case in 2013.
  • Intensive Family Support services report significant cuts in local authority funding having taken place since 2013, or anticipated imminently.
  • Six of the 14 Intensive Family Support services visited in 2013 have now closed and access to services has either reduced or been removed altogether in five local authority areas.
  • The purchase of family support by individual schools using Pupil Equity Funding has developed in parallel with a loss of access to intensive support services across the wider population as mainstream revenue funded services are cut.

The report concludes that the following are necessary:

Family support: The financial enablement of local authorities, Health and Social Care Partnerships, and Integrated Joint Boards to deliver on the Independent Care Review’s recommendations for family support.

Family Income: The Scottish Government to articulate a clear vision for family income in Scotland, and set out how – within the current levers available – it will ensure that all families have enough money to live with dignity.

Rights require resources: the incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law must be adequately resourced. As the report shows, structural and legislative change does not automatically lead to improved outcomes. Higher levels of public investment must be shifted towards children and family services.