Scottish Government Covid funding helps Falkirk youngsters enjoy the summer

Almost half of a Scottish Government grant to provide children and young people hit hardest by Covid-19 pandemic a summer of free activities has been used to help them meet the cost of travelling to events.

Friday, 23rd July 2021, 1:00 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd July 2021, 2:26 pm
Falkirk Council received £433,000 from the Scottish Government to set up its ‘Get into Summer’ programme to provide activities for local youngsters.

Falkirk Council received £433,000 from the Scottish Government to set up its ‘Get into Summer’ programme to provide activities for local youngsters, including disabled children, those who had to shield and families who were already struggling financially, even before the virus struck.

And when organisers spoke to young people about what sort of things they would like to see, there was one very clear message about what would would really make a difference.

“When we listen to what young people are telling us, transport and the cost of transport comes up repeatedly,” said Sally Buchanan, Fairer Falkirk co-ordinator.

Their answer was to give families who are entitled to free school meals a payment of £34 per child to help with the cost of transport during the holidays.

At £200,000, it was nearly half of the government grant, but Sally is in no doubt that it was money well spent.

“We’ve got a great programme of activities but if people can’t afford to actually get to them it’s somewhat pointless,” she said.

She’s also proud of the fact that there is such a wide range of free activities on offer that are worth travelling to.

The cash meant Falkirk Council could organise grants totalling for 43 different summer projects run by community organisations across the district. These included free riding lessons for disabled children, fun days and even short breaks for some young people.

Several of the district’s sports clubs also got involved – not only providing lessons for children but allowing older teenagers and young people to get valuable coaching qualifications.

The cash has also meant Falkirk Community Trust was able to more than double its usual summer offer – with everything from gorge walking and kayaking to tennis lessons and even dance classes.

Cameron Reid, the Trust’s Active Schools manager, says the summer holiday programme is always a special time of year – and this year even more so.

“This year we took our programme apart and asked ‘how can we adapt this to make it as accessible for as many people as possible?”, he explained.

The result was a programme that included free pop-up sports festivals that means as many kids as possible could get involved.

These sessions can be booked online and all local children are welcome.

They were also able to offer more outdoor learning, giving a taste of adventure through activities such as bushcraft skills and den-making.

“These are things that can make a huge difference to a child and can actually be life-changing,” said Sally.

Crucially, the funding also meant that the Trust can give lunch bags to every child taking part – and they are careful to make sure that if any child wants to take extra food home they can do so without a fuss.

“We are always talking about how we make things ‘stigma free’,” said Cameron.

“Kids shouldn’t know they are poor just because of the way we run our programme.”

Not all of the cash has funded organised activities – some older teenagers have been given swimming passes, while others got cinema tickets for the Hippodrome, popcorn included.

It’s been a mammoth effort which Sally says has built on the relationships with community groups that became strong during the pandemic.

“I’m just so grateful to our partners and community groups for the way they have responded and I really hope it makes a bid difference to people,” said Sally.

“The great bit for us is when all the coaches and volunteers start to get feedback on what they’ve overheard,” said Cameron.

“It’s probably the team’s favourite part of the year – they love delivering sport and they love working with kids but this is when we realise the impact it can have on individuals and that’s even more the case this year.”