Scotland’s care system for children and young people: how do we keep the Promise in rural areas?

By Hollie Wilson

At the start of 2020, an independent review was published setting out what needed to be done to bring about changes to the care system for children and young people in Scotland. At the heart of the review is “The Promise” to look after Scotland’s most vulnerable children. It is a promise:

  • to give children a voice in decision-making about their care;
  • to support families and help them overcome difficulties;
  • to offer children a loving home, where possible with their brothers and sisters;
  • to support children in developing relationships in the community; and
  • to support children and their families within a helpful, accountable and responsive system.

For children, families and social workers in rural areas, keeping The Promise presents particular opportunities and challenges. This was the focus of a recent webinar hosted by Iriss, a charity that works with people, workers and organisations in social work and social care to help them use knowledge and innovation to make positive change happen.

Although the webinar focused primarily on care staff in rural areas of Scotland, it became clear that there are common issues that apply across Scotland.

The Promise

Opening the discussion, Brian Houston, Head of Support at The Promise Scotland, and a former social worker in children’s services, gave an overview of the Promise. He noted that The Promise was published in February 2020, only one month before the COVID-19 pandemic began in the UK. This disrupted the process of introducing The Promise, and its effects are still being felt today.

Brian stressed the importance of supporting social workers in rural areas, particularly because of the emotional labour involved in supporting children and their families. In addition, people working in rural areas were more likely to feel isolated and vulnerable, which could affect their relationships with the families relying on their help.

Unique challenges to rural areas

Mandy Sheridan, Service Improvement Officer with Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership  highlighted some of the unique issues and challenges facing rural areas. Even issues facing all parts of the country, such as recruiting and retaining staff, can have very different impacts in rural areas.

Because of recruitment and retention difficulties in rural areas,  it can be hard to provide responsive and timely support. For many islands and rural areas, there may not be a permanent police or social work presence. It can be difficult to choose the social workers who would work best with each family if teams are small or lack training in certain areas due to lack of resources. In turn, that can lead to a lack of trust from families if they feel social workers cannot  respond to their situation or circumstances.

Stigma and privacy

Another issue highlighted was the stigma associated with needing a social worker. This can be present anywhere, but can be more pronounced in rural areas where the communities are much smaller and there is a lack of privacy. Social workers travelling into the area at specific times or seeing the same people, can bring unwanted attention to families or individuals.

And because in rural areas social workers are often living in the same communities they are working in this can raise difficulties in relation to boundaries and enabling social workers to have a separate life away from their work. Even so, some personal experiences raised in the webinar highlighted the positive side of this. For example,  having the opportunity to create relationships with families over time,  – and in a closer way than might be possible in a large city – could foster better outcomes and support.

Care for everyone

Other issues Mandy raised applied to both rural and urban areas of Scotland, such as delivering social work that is accessible and equal to each child or young person and their families. Care has to be flexible in order to adapt to the needs of different families and  situations, while still providing a high-standard of work and engagement. A lack of resources can hinder that ability, and  one of the goals of The Promise is to address these resource issues.

The webinar also underlined that long-term change takes time, and that Scotland must be patient if it wants to meet each of the aims of The Promise effectively, and create long-lasting systemic change in care and social work that can continue on for the following generations.

Final thoughts

The webinar provided an insight into the work of social workers, particularly in rural areas of the country, identifying some of the unique challenges which are perhaps not as clearly understood as those in urban areas.  The COVID-19 pandemic was identified as a barrier towards achieving The Promise over the last few years, but as the country moves forward, there will hopefully be more steps taken to supporting families and children to the level that Scotland is promising.

Image: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Further reading: more from The Knowledge Exchange blog on caring for children and young people

Media and information literacy: navigating a complex landscape

By Hannah Brunton

UNESCO’s Global Media and Information Literacy Week 2022 takes place from 24-31 October 2022 under the theme of “Nurturing Trust”, giving governments, educators, information professionals, and media professionals the chance to discuss and reflect on critical issues that the world is facing in relation to misinformation and disinformation, and the challenges of navigating the online environment.

What is media and information literacy?

Media and information literacy (MIL) is defined by UNESCO as “an interrelated set of competencies that help people to maximise advantages and minimize harms in the new information, digital and communication landscapes”.

Previously, media literacy (ML) and information literacy (IL) have been treated as distinct concepts, with ML focusing specifically on media engagement, and IL referring in a broader sense to information skills such as search, discovery, access, analysis, and management.

In the early 2000s, UNESCO united the concepts under the umbrella term of media and information literacy (MIL), and while there is still some debate among ML and IL experts about whether this is the best approach, it is generally accepted that there is value in grouping them together to develop holistic policies and initiatives.

The UK’s Media and Information Literacy Alliance (MILA) have chosen also to treat the two concepts as one. They define MIL as “the ability to engage fully with media and information in people’s connected daily lives…engaging with media and information safely and healthily, critically and actively, with positive social consequences”.

Key MIL competencies include the skills and abilities to find, critically evaluate, interpret, manage, create, communicate, store, and share media and information, both online and offline.

Why is it important?

With rapid technological developments in recent decades and the exponential growth of media and information online, it is vital that people are equipped to navigate this increasingly complex landscape. MIL is therefore becoming a growing priority for key stakeholders including librarians, teachers, policymakers, media professionals, and youth organisations.

UNESCO estimates that 60% of the global population are internet users, and as this number grows and social media becomes an increasingly powerful tool, it is vital that people across the world can recognise potentially harmful content and prevent its spread.

MILA and UNESCO have highlighted concerns about the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories around Covid-19, the climate crisis and violent extremism, and have warned that the spread of such misinformation threatens to weaken social unity, undermine democracy, and erode trust in government and the media on a global scale.

Increased access to online environments has led to a blurring of the lines between consumers and producers of information. As it becomes easier to create and share content online, it becomes increasingly difficult to effectively evaluate such content, distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources, and form balanced and informed perspectives.

The skills associated with MIL are crucial to addressing these issues, and there is a clear case for MIL initiatives that help people to develop these skills as a part of their lifelong learning. Being able to understand where information comes from, identify ‘fake news’, recognise bias, think critically about different perspectives, and create and share media responsibly, can encourage greater civic engagement and empower individuals and communities to create positive change.

MIL initiatives and resources

UNESCO are leaders in the global MIL arena in terms of influencing policy and strategy. Their Media and Information Literacy Alliance (distinct from the UK’s MILA) was set up to facilitate strategic partnerships and networks among the global MIL community and is open to all organisations and individuals.

UNESCO have various MIL-related publications including their MIL Policy and Strategy Guidelines, the MIL Curriculum aimed at both educators and learners, the Global MIL Assessment Framework for assessing country readiness, and the MIL Cities framework aimed at key stakeholders in the development of MIL at the city level. The MIL CLICKS campaign has been designed to encourage individuals to critically evaluate information before sharing it online.

In the UK, MILA was launched in response to the government’s Online Media Literacy Strategy, which was published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in July 2021. DCMS have since launched their Media Literacy Programme Fund which is intended to award grants for UK media literacy initiatives.

MILA have recently published the MILA Framework, a draft Information Literacy Impact Framework and a guide focused on disinformation around the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They have also launched a ‘Disinformation Step by Step’ MOOC (massive open online course) for educators, librarians, teachers and journalists, and have previously delivered free webinars during 2021’s Global MIL Week.

Building a media and information literate Scotland

Last month, CILIP Scotland ran an afternoon of online sessions on Building a Media, Digital and Information Literate Scotland, as part of their series of online Autumn Gatherings.

The event included a presentation on UNESCO’s MIL initiatives by Sheila Webber, Director of the Centre for Information Literacy Research at the University of Sheffield. Webber discussed the scope and impact of UNESCO’s work on MIL, noting the value of their publications and initiatives while highlighting the need for stronger partnerships and communication between stakeholders at the global level.

A panel discussion took place on issues around MIL for young people in Scotland and included a conversation about ‘Maddie is Online’ – a project aimed at developing MIL among pre-teen children through a video cartoon series addressing key challenges of the online environment.

The event also included a presentation on Ofcom’s ‘Making Sense of Media’ project, which involved in-depth research on the current state of media literacy in the UK and pilot initiatives promoting MIL among underserved communities.

A session delivered by Dr Ann Wales from the Digital Health & Care Innovation Centre discussed the ‘Information for Wellbeing’ course which was recently developed with NHS Scotland and the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC), to equip library staff with skills to help users find trusted health and wellbeing information. Dr Wales emphasised the importance of literacies in enabling engagement and influencing national policy change.

Final thoughts

There is a clear need for focused efforts to develop MIL and enable people to engage effectively with media and information. As demonstrated by the work of UNESCO and MILA, collaboration and strategic partnerships are key, and initiatives like Global MIL Week offer a valuable opportunity for the international and cross-sectoral communication needed to coordinate the global effort to ensure MIL for all.


Further reading: more about information, media and digital skills on the Knowledge Exchange blog:

Skilling up: the case for digital literacy

Social media: does it influence political participation?

Assessing information quality: sorting the wheat from the CRAAP

Forgotten children: child trafficking in the UK

By Hollie Wilson

One of the biggest stories earlier this summer was the revelation by long-distance runner Sir Mo Farah that he was trafficked from his home in East Africa at the age of nine. In a BBC documentary, he revealed that he was taken from his family by an unknown woman and brought over to the UK.

Sir Mo’s story is sadly not a rare one. Every year, thousands of children and young people are trafficked to the UK, for a variety of reasons, including exploitation, forced marriage, domestic slavery, forced labour or crime. Earlier this year, a report from Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT) noted that local authorities in England have a legal duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area, according to Section 17 and Section 22 of the Children Act 1989. Section 20 also imposes a duty on local authorities to provide accommodation for children in their area if the child is abandoned, lost or has no parental guardian.

Use of hotels by Home Office

A major issue facing children’s services with regard to child trafficking is finding adequate homes or places of care, particularly for the most vulnerable children. One of the main issues highlighted by the ECPAT report was the use of hotels by the Home Office to house unaccompanied children arriving to the UK. These hotels are outside of the English care system, and therefore increase the risk of these children suffering harm.

Immigration Minister Kevin Foster estimated that around 1606 children were being accommodated in hotels by the Home Office from July 2021 to June 2022. A response to the report found that 45 of those 1606 children went missing. This equals roughly four or five a month, and around one child going missing per week. Some of the children reported were as young as 11 years old.

The ECPAT report identified some of the main safeguarding details that have not been implemented by the Home Office. These include: getting details about the child’s background from before they came to the UK; information on why they have come to the UK; and evaluating the child’s vulnerability and risk of being trafficked. Addressing these could identify children in need, and prevent further exploitation or harm towards those at risk.

Support for survivors

For those who have survived child trafficking, the road to receiving sufficient and appropriate support is not easy. Some of the experiences reported include a young woman who was sexually exploited around the country as a child, yet was fined for being a “prostitute”. Even when she approached the police as an adult, the woman was not identified as a victim of trafficking. Another survivor was trafficked from the ages of 11 to 20, and despite being found by her youth worker numerous times in dangerous situations, was never identified as a victim of child trafficking and exploitation.

Even first responders have been found, in the instance of rescuing a child, to expect the child to declare themselves exploited, rather than using indicators and context clues to declare them so. A child will rarely have the understanding of what has happened to them at that moment, as many are groomed by their traffickers and don’t realise they were abused. This lack of understanding only increases when the child doesn’t understand English.

What has been done and what can be done?

Recommendations have been made for better collaboration and co-ordination between areas of Government. In addition, the NSPCC have argued for better support for children identified as trafficking victims, in order to tackle physical injuries (ill health, STIs or pregnancy from sexual violence), emotional issues (distress, feelings of shame and guilt) and potential lack of access to education or social and emotional development.

On 24 August 2022, the Home Office published news regarding the New Plan for Immigration. One of the changes highlighted is that “the transfer of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) from temporary hotels to long-term care will be sped up.” Minister Kevin Foster stated that councils will have five working days – rather than ten – to transfer UASC from hotel accommodation to care once a referral is made under the National Transfer Scheme. Councils will also receive an additional £2,000 per child per month for the first three months if they make the transfer within five working days.

Cases such as Sir Mo Farah shedding light on their own experiences can also have a significant impact on raising awareness. Anti-trafficking charity Unseen UK has reported a 20% increase in calls to their helpline following his documentary.

With its recent push into the spotlight, it is crucial that this issue not be left to fade into the background before real progress is made and all vulnerable children are cared for.

Photo by Japheth Mast on Unsplash.

Further reading: more from The Knowledge Exchange Blog on children and young people

MyFundingCentral: helping thousands of charities address financial pressures

The effects of the current cost of living and inflation rises are spiralling through society, and the voluntary and charitable sector is on the frontline when it comes to supporting struggling individuals and communities. However, the organisations delivering this support are anticipating significant financial pressures themselves this winter.

Rising demand and rising costs are combining with falling charitable income to create a crisis within the sector. At the start of September, 46 sector organisations issued a joint statement calling on the Government to provide targeted financial support for charities, voluntary and community organisations and to include these organisations in any plans to support businesses.

Funders are already starting to respond to the pressures and an anticipated increase in demand for food, debt advice and mental health support by closing or pausing regular funding schemes in order to launch new emergency funding opportunities, just as they did during the pandemic. It is expected that funders will also provide more support for core costs, in order to help organisations struggling with energy costs or retaining staff.

The importance of grants for the sector

Even in normal times, the voluntary and charitable sector relies heavily on grants from trusts, foundations and government in order to carry out its crucial work.

Recent research from the Law Family Commission on Civil Society has shown, though, that small and medium charities face particularly high costs in accessing funding. On average, they devote more than a third of their total annual grant income to applying for charitable grants. The report suggested that a key cause of this is making applications for funding for which they are actually ineligible.

Smaller charities are unlikely to have dedicated funding officers to search for funding and submit applications. With thousands of funders awarding grants to charities for a wide range of causes and beneficiaries, it can be hugely difficult to keep track of potential funding opportunities and decide which are most relevant.

An affordable, essential solution

It’s for this reason that more and more small charities are turning to MyFundingCentral to help them. Now in its second year of operation, the MyFundingCentral database (produced by software specialists Idox) provides easy access to thousands of grants and social investment opportunities from local, national and international funding sources – all in one place.

The service is available to organisations with an annual income below £1m and is free for organisations whose income is under £30k. Larger charity and voluntary organisations can access Idox’s GrantFinder service, which works with organisations with an income over £1 million.

MyFundingCentral is designed for easy use and around 3000 small charities use the service every month to find funding to keep existing projects going or to expand their work. It is updated every day with new funding opportunities from charitable trusts, foundations, councils, national government and corporate sponsors.

Success stories

Charities regularly share their success stories with us.

Paula Baker who is Director of HeadsUp Mental Health Awareness CIC was pleased to report that they secured £14,500 from four grants identified through MyFundingCentral. “It’s an easy-to-use service, which has benefitted us greatly.” HeadsUp is a charity that works with children and young people, promoting understanding, raising awareness, and breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental health issues. Even small amounts of grant funding can have a big impact on the number of children and young people that they are able to help.

Lucy Whitehouse, Founder and CEO of Fumble.org.uk said that “MyFundingCentral’s portal is totally invaluable to us as a tiny, fledgling charity with really limited staff capacity. The service has helped us find and apply for relevant funding opportunities that we otherwise wouldn’t know about or be able to access.”

Easy to use

Subscribers to MyFundingCentral have immediate access to a database tailored to meet the needs of the charities and voluntary sector. Users of the service can:

  • search the database to identify opportunities that match their project;
  • find niche funding opportunities that free funding tools typically miss;
  • narrow searches to funding available in specific geographic areas;
  • receive alerts about new funding opportunities tailored to their needs direct to their inbox; and
  • get the latest news on funding.

The database is easy to use, with key eligibility criteria highlighted, and information on how to apply fully explained. There’s no jargon, and because all of the funding opportunities have been handpicked by MyFundingCentral researchers to be right for the sector, users can be sure that they are current and relevant to their needs.

For further information and to subscribe, visit the MyFundingCentral website.


Further reading: more about the charities and voluntary sector on The Knowledge Exchange Blog

August 2022 issue of SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) out now

The Scottish planning system and planning services are in the midst of a period of significant change at the moment, both as a result of strategic reforms and the transition away from the temporary changes to planning operations which were introduced as a result of the pandemic.

The Scottish Government has completed its public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny of the Fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) and expects to put forward a revised draft for approval to the Scottish Parliament in the autumn.

There is ongoing work to develop the arrangements for the new-style local development plans, which will sit alongside NPF4 as the statutory development plan. Recent months have also seen consultations on the Open Space Strategy and the Play Sufficiency Assessment, as well as the next phase of the review of permitted development rights. The digital transformation of planning programme has also moved into its second year.

At such a busy time within the planning sector, a key resource for planners and planning lawyers is the Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Journal. Bringing together commentary and analysis from leading professionals, lawyers and academics, the journal explores current developments and case law, and is published every two months.

August 2022 issue

The August 2022 issue has just been published and includes articles focusing on:

  • NPF4, place and the 20-minute neighbourhood concept
  • Commentary on the review of the role of incineration in the waste hierarchy
  • Natural capital in the context of Scottish land use management and the goal of a Just Transition
  • The circular economy and implications for the waste sector

Each issue of SPEL Journal includes comment on key court cases. Within the August 2022 issue these include the Court of Appeal case relating to private law actions about unauthorised sewage discharges (The Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd v United Utilities Water Ltd).

Recent developments in environmental planning, law and policy are also covered. The proposed Land Reform Bill continues its progress, with a public consultation underway. There have also been announcements relating to the Scottish Government’s drive to increase hydrogen fuel production capacity. Planning permission was recently granted for Scotland’s first plastic-to-hydrogen facility, which will be constructed in Clydebank, and new funding has been launched to support innovation in the hydrogen fuel sector.

A long tradition of supporting the professions

SPEL Journal (Scottish Planning & Environmental Law) launched over 35 years ago and is one of the leading information sources on land use planning and environmental legislation across the country.

Written by a diverse range of subject experts, SPEL Journal includes accessible commentary on topical subjects and current issues; details of new legislation and significant court cases; expert comment on key planning appeal decisions, government circulars and guidance; as well as notes about ombudsman cases and book reviews.

SPEL Journal is read by decision makers in Scottish planning authorities, planning law practices, planning consultancies, architects, surveyors, civil engineers, environmental managers and developers across Scotland. It is also valued by many outside of Scotland who wish to keep up-to-date with developments.


SPEL Journal is published 6 times a year. An annual subscription is £170. For further details or a sample copy, please contact Heather Cameron at publications@idoxgroup.com.

Guest post | James Lovelock: the scientist-inventor who transformed our view of life on Earth

Mark Maslin, UCL

James Lovelock, the maverick scientist and inventor, died surrounded by his family on July 27 2022 – his 103rd birthday. Jim led an extraordinary life. He is best known for his Gaia hypothesis, developed with the brilliant US biologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, which transformed the way we think of life on Earth.

Gaia challenged the orthodox view that life simply evolved and adapted to the ever-changing environment. Instead, Lovelock and Margulis argued that species not only competed but also cooperated to create the most favourable conditions for life.

Earth is a self-regulating system maintained by communities of living organisms, they claimed. These communities adjust oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, salinity in the ocean and even the planet’s temperature to keep them within the acceptable bounds for life to thrive.

Just like Charles Darwin before him, Lovelock published his new, radical idea in a popular book, Gaia: A new look at life on Earth (1979). It was an instant hit that challenged mature researchers to reassess their science and encouraged new ones. As my friend and colleague Professor Richard Betts at the Met Office Hadley Centre put it:

He was a source of inspiration to me for my entire career, and in fact his first book on Gaia was a major reason why I chose to work on climate change and Earth system modelling.

Not only did the book challenge the classical Darwinism notion that life evolved and prospered through constant competition and dogged self-interest, it founded a whole new field: Earth system science. We Earth system scientists study all the interactions between the atmosphere, land, ocean, ice sheets and, of course, living things.

Lovelock also inspired the environmental movement by giving his ideas a spiritual overtone: Gaia was the goddess who personified the Earth in Greek mythology.

This antagonised many scientists, but created a lot of fruitful debate in the 1980s and 1990s. It is now generally accepted that organisms can enhance their local environment to make it more habitable. For example, forests can recycle half the moisture they receive, keeping the local climate mild and stabilising rainfall.

But the original Gaia hypothesis, that life regulates the environment so that the planet resembles an organism in its own right, is still treated with scepticism among most scientists. This is because no workable mechanism has been discovered to explain how the forces of natural selection, which operate on individual organisms, birthed the evolution of such planetary-scale homeostasis.

An aerial view of morning mist over a rainforest.
Organisms alter their environment to make it more favourable to life. Avigator Fortuner/Shutterstock

An independent scientist

There was much more to James Lovelock, who described himself as an “independent scientist since 1964”, because of the income generated from his invention of the electron capture detector while studying for a PhD in 1957.

This matchbox-sized device could measure tiny traces of toxic chemicals. It was essential in demonstrating that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere, which originated in aerosols and refrigerators at the time, were destroying the ozone layer. It also showed that pesticide residues exist in the tissues of virtually all living creatures, from penguins in Antarctica to human breast milk.

A small device resembling a spindle with a white band in the middle.
The electron capture detector Lovelock invented for measuring air pollution. Science Museum London, CC BY-SA

The money he earned from the electron capture detector gave him his freedom because, as he was fond of telling people, the best science comes from an unfettered mind – and he hated being directed. The detector was just the start of his inventing career and he filed more than 40 patents.

He also wrote over 200 scientific papers and many popular books expanding on the Gaia hypothesis. He was awarded scientific medals, international prizes and honorary doctorates by universities all around the world.

Dr Roger Highfield, the science director at the London Science Museum, summed Jim up perfectly:

“Jim was a nonconformist who had a unique vantage point that came from being, as he put it, half-scientist and half-inventor. Endless ideas bubbled forth from this synergy between making and thinking. Although he is most associated with Gaia, he did an extraordinary range of research, from freezing hamsters to detecting life on Mars … He was more than happy to bristle a few feathers, whether by articulating his dislike of consensus views, formal education and committees, or by voicing his enthusiastic support for nuclear power.”

Jim was deeply concerned by what he saw humanity doing to the planet. In his 1995 book The Ages of Gaia, he suggested that the warm periods between ice ages, like the current Holocene, are the fevered state of our planet. Because over the last two million years the Earth has shown a clear preference for a colder average global temperature, Jim understood global warming as humanity adding to this fever.

Jim did despair at humanity’s inability to look after the environment and much of his writing reflected this, particularly his book The Revenge of Gaia in 2006. But at the age of 99, he published Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence (2019), an optimistic view which envisaged humanity creating artificially intelligent life forms that would, unlike us, understand the importance of other living things in maintaining a habitable planet.

His dwindling faith in humanity was replaced by trust in the logic and rationality of AI. He left us with hope that cyborgs would take over and save us from ourselves.

Mark Maslin, Professor of Earth System Science, UCL

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Opening image: Photo by NASA on Unsplash

Further reading: more on protecting the planet from The Knowledge Exchange blog

Guest post: insulate Britain or miss net zero

Jack Marley, The Conversation

The UK is failing to enact the policies that would put it on track to reach net zero emissions by 2050, according to a progress report by the Climate Change Committee. The head of this expert body, which advises the government on its climate strategy, described the UK’s record on home insulation in particular as “a complete tale of woe”.

Gas heating in draughty homes is one of the country’s biggest sources of carbon emissions – and a leading cause of poor health and poverty as energy prices remain sky-high. So what would it take to turn this around?

“The transition to net zero emissions is often framed as a race to make new stuff – such as electric vehicles and wind turbines – as fast as possible,” says Ran Boydell, a visiting lecturer in sustainable development at Heriot-Watt University.

“That’s actually the easy part. The hard part will be modifying what already exists – and that includes people’s homes.”

Cavity wall insulation, triple-glazed windows, solar panels, low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps which run on electricity: all of these things and potentially more are needed to neutralise the contributions to climate change made by 26 million homes (the number of existing homes Boydell anticipates will still be around in 2050). That would eliminate 68 million tonnes of CO₂, which is about 15% of the national total.

“The idea is to ensure that no home emits greenhouse gases by burning fossil fuels for energy and that, eventually, each home could produce as much energy as it uses,” Boydell says.

According to analysis by the Climate Change Committee, the average cost of retrofitting a single home to net zero standard is £26,000. Energy savings would make up for this after 20 years, but most households would struggle to make such a big upfront investment.

“Considering energy efficiency measures purely in terms of financial payback will never stack up,” Boydell says. “They must be considered in terms of carbon payback. Carbon payback is how quickly the reduced carbon emissions from daily life in a net zero home take to make up for the carbon emissions that went into making and building all the different parts.”

A home operating at net zero standard would compensate for the carbon that went into building it after just six years, Boydell estimates. But it’s the responsibility of the government – and not individual homeowners – to juggle these considerations, he says.

“Infrastructure, like roads and railways, is the only stuff people build which counts its payback periods in decades. The government needs to think of a mass retrofit programme for our houses in those terms: as critical national infrastructure.”

Fund, regulate and overhaul

Matthew Hannon and Donal Brown study green policy at the universities of Strathclyde and Sussex. They say that:

“At an absolute minimum, the government should be aiming to install insulation in 1.3 million homes a year – a rate it managed pre-2013.”

To reach that level, Hannon and Brown have four suggestions. First, increase annual funding for retrofitting homes from £1 billion to £7 billion – enough to retrofit 7 million homes by 2025, they claim. Next, shift the burden of raising this money into general taxation and away from energy bill levies which strain the poorest households and inflate the cost of heating homes with zero-carbon electricity.

Insulating hundreds of homes at a time, neighbourhood by neighbourhood and coordinated by local authorities, could help to retrofit housing deeper and faster than tackling homes one by one,” they say. For this, collaboration with local groups and businesses who know the community well will be key. Hannon and Brown argue the government will also need a separate, well-funded programme to install heat pumps and other low-carbon heating systems, while phasing out support for gas boilers.

An engineer adjusts the external fan unit of a heat pump on the side of a house.
Heat pumps, if powered by renewable electricity, can decarbonise heating. I AM NIKOM/Shutterstock

Once a national campaign to renovate Britain’s homes to net zero standard is underway, there are certain to be teething problems. The Labour Party offered a comprehensive programme of home insulation at the 2019 election. At the time, Jo Richardson, a professor of housing and social inclusion at De Montfort University, and David Coley, a professor of low-carbon design at the University of Bath, described the obstacles that will need to be overcome.

“The UK construction sector is highly fragmented – and different subcontractors are often responsible for the walls, roof and electricity in a single house. This makes quality control difficult. There’s also a skills shortage, especially when it comes to the detailed knowledge required to build a zero-energy house. And if energy-consuming extras such as underfloor heating or electrically driven windows are added, the energy savings from design may be lost,” they say.

The Climate Change Committee noted that new homes are rarely net zero standard, with 1.5 million built in recent years that will need to be retrofitted. The preferred solution for Richardson and Coley is to mandate each new home to Passivhaus standard, which certifies that it produces as much energy as it uses.

“Passivhaus only works if the right design decisions are made from day one,” they caution. “If an architect starts by drawing a large window for example, then the energy loss from it might well be so great that any amount of insulation elsewhere can’t offset it. Architects don’t often welcome this intrusion of physics into the world of art.”

Increased funding, new regulations and an overhaul of architectural norms will be necessary to roll out zero-energy homes and retrofit existing ones. “That’s a tall order,” say Richardson and Coley. “But decarbonising each component of society will take nothing short of a revolution.”

Jack Marley, Environment + Energy Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence. Read the original article.

Further reading: more on energy efficiency from The Knowledge Exchange blog

“I’m treated as an individual, not a problem:” The “No Wrong Door” policy

The “No Wrong Door” (NWD) programme means exactly that – there is no wrong door to turn to for young people seeking support.

NWD works on several core principles, which include working with young people’s birth family or guardians, allowing care leavers to “stay close” to continue accessing support, and working closely with young people to identify ways to help their self-esteem and give them opportunities. NWD has been introduced in several areas of the UK.

England

The term “No Wrong Door” was coined in North Yorkshire, where two hubs were created in Scarborough and Harrogate. The North Yorkshire County Council website provides details on the work their teams do.  

Each hub has a dedicated team which includes a life coach, a speech therapist, two community foster families and community supported lodging places for 16- and 17-year-olds with trained staff. On top of this, every young person in the NWD programme has their own key worker who is supported by another team. Many young people struggle when they are moved around as they grow up; new teams or workers don’t know their history or personality well. Having one consistent key worker for each young person makes it easier to build trust and create a more positive relationship.

Wales

A report from the Children’s Commissioner for Wales has described the steps taken by the Welsh Government to implement a ‘no wrong door’ approach to supporting children and young people. Funding has been earmarked specifically for children with complex needs, and all regions of Wales now have specific multi-agency groups for young people.

Regions like Cardiff and Vale have been implementing some of the common core principles of NWD, such as continuity of staff, key workers and streamlined appointments, in addition to a “proactive not reactive early intervention response.”

Scotland and Northern Ireland

NWD was introduced in Scotland by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Board (CYPMHW). In addition to building the original programme, it gave young people the opportunity to identify wellbeing priorities. These included having a job, a safe and warm place to live, food and clothes, good relationships, safety, feeling happy and confident, good health and opportunities to learn.  

There seems to be less evidence of NWD being implemented in Northern Ireland, although it has been proposed as a way to support children of parents with mental illness.

Impact

There has been a great amount of evidence that NWD is effective in helping young people. The Department for Education (DfE) published a report in 2017 which looked at the initial success of the “No Wrong Door Innovation Programme.” They found that for young people who were supported under NWD, there had been a decrease in arrests and incidents of them going missing, which indicates that giving young people more stable support systems leads to an overall higher level of happiness.

The report also found that under NWD, 25% of those who were not previously in education, employment or training went on to become engaged in education, training or work. 87% of young people who were using substances when they entered the NWD programme had also stopped when they were interviewed as a follow-up.

What can be improved?

There are a number of aspects under NWD that can be improved. A lack of long-term funding has meant that staff were not given the security of knowing if their contract was being extended. This meant many workers found permanent jobs elsewhere to ensure their own job security, and those who stayed were anxious about their future which impacted them negatively. It also had a negative effect on the young people under NWD if staff leaving was not handled appropriately.

On top of this, some young people had mixed feelings around their transition out of the support network. While many felt they were being supported efficiently, others described the transition as “abrupt” and “too fast.” This is definitely something that can be improved on with more training for staff and more structure in place for those who need more time when moving forward into the next stage of life.

Final thoughts

While NWD is by no means perfect, it has significantly given young people support during the most transitional period of their life, from adolescence to adulthood. Having key workers develop consistent relationships has allowed them to more strongly advocate for young people as they see them as more than just a case number. As stated by one young person in one of the studies, with NWD, “I’m treated as an individual, not a problem.”

As the programme evolves and more structure is put into place, there is hope that many more young people can be encouraged and given the platform to achieve their full potential.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

Further reading: more from The Knowledge Exchange Blog on children and young people

Photo essay: celebrating street art

For those of us living in, working in and passing through towns and cities, street art has become as familiar as road signage and commercial advertising. Usually taking the form of murals, street art has multiple purposes: it provides artists with a means of displaying their talents and expressing themselves; it  can help a place tell a story about itself, highlighting the people and things that have made it what it is today; and it can contribute to the regeneration of a place, demonstrating that communities care about their environment.

Using images from Glasgow – a city with a strong tradition of street art – this photo essay highlights some of the historical, social and artistic elements that have helped to transform parts of the city. It also features extracts from articles and reports that have underlined the importance of street art.

“Artists have embraced the street and the built environment as integral to their work and practice, individual pieces reflecting context and location as surfaces become living canvases, rehumanizing the urban landscape.”
– Asli Aktu: Shaping Places Through Art

“In the process of creating and searching for street art pieces, both the artist and the viewer often get to explore parts of the city they would rarely visit otherwise. Places such as alleys or empty lots, dead spaces below or around bridges and other infrastructures, even off-limits terrains such as abandoned tunnels.”
– Javier Abarca: From street art to murals: what have we lost?

“According to a research on the effect of mural on personal crime and fear of crime conducted by Md. Sakip, R. et. al. (2016) in Ipoh, Malaysia, most … strongly agree that they are feeling safe when using back alleys with the art mural on a wall. A safe environment is achieved as there are better opportunities for public surveillance caused by the increase in tourists and local community’s awareness. If the environment continues to be safe, the more tourists will be attracted to visit the city.”
– Siti Syamimi Oma: Bringing the New to the Old : Urban regeneration through public
arts

“Murals are a reflection of the community. They can be historically significant because they serve as a reminder for a particular struggle or victory for the community. They can be beautiful and uplifting, generating a source of pride for residents of a particular neighborhood.”
Summit Learning & C3 Teachers: Does street art make communities better?

Art can celebrate the qualities that make one place different from another. The best of public art can challenge, delight, educate and illuminate. Most of all, public art creates a sense of civic vitality in the cities, towns and communities we inhabit and visit.”
Americans for the Arts: Public Art Network Council Green Paper

With its ability to embrace multiple urban subcultures and visual styles in a globally distributed practice, street art provides a new dialogic configuration, a post-postmodern hybridity that will continue to generate many new kinds of works and genres.
– Martin Irvine: The work on the street: street art and visual culture

Whether sanctioned or unsanctioned, murals are a key component of place-making. They may even have the power to change neighbourhoods.
– IBI Group: Street murals – the power of public art

Many of the murals included in this blog post are featured in this guide accompanying Glasgow City’s Council’s Mural Trail.

Further reading: more from The Knowledge Exchange on arts and culture

Could arts and culture hold the key to the digital divide?

From rainbows to Banksy – have lockdowns created a new appreciation for the value of the arts?

‘Culture towns’: how small towns are leading the way

Ending violence against women and girls: a renewed commitment

Instances of reported violence and misogyny against women and girls are rising. The high profile murders of Zara Aleena, Sarah Everard, Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman, Maria Rawlings, Sabina Nessa and Ashling Murphy have again raised questions about what can be done to tackle the rising incidence of violence against women and girls.

Violence against women and girls, as set out by the United Nations, is any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

More broadly, the agenda around tackling violence against women and girls seeks to tackle more inherent and systemic attitudes towards women and girls, their “roles” in society and the actions, of both men and women, which further entrench the gender biases that women and girls experience on a regular basis.

Under-reporting and challenging everyday behaviours

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that across the UK, 22% of women report having been a victim of sexual assault. In addition,14% of women aged 16 to 19, and 10% of women aged 20 to 24 say they have been a victim of domestic abuse.  Research by UN Women UK has also found that 71% of women in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space, with this number increasing even further to 86% among women aged 18–24.

However, the prosecution rates for crimes associated with VAWAG, such as rape or domestic abuse are low, and there is a general consensus that more needs to be done within criminal justice to try and improve confidence in the system.

Under-reporting of harassment is also extremely common and for that reason, even the research which is conducted, will often not capture the full scale of the issue. Looking at dis aggregated data is also important. Research shows that LGBTQ+ and minority ethnic women and girls’ experiences tend to be even worse than those of their straight, white counterparts, but their experiences, and the disproportionate impact these have are not always accurately reflected in research.

A renewed commitment to women and girls

In 2022 the Scottish Government published Misogyny: a human rights issue? The report outlines the findings of the Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice and explores misogyny as a human rights issue in Scotland, and the ways in which current legal protections around misogyny can be improved.

The recommendations set out by the Scottish Government commission seek to place Scotland as a world leader in the fight to tackle misogyny and improve the experiences of women and girls. In October 2021 the “Don’t Be That Guy” public awareness campaign was also launched, which called on men to interrogate their own and their peers’ behaviour towards women.

The Mayor of London has also published a refreshed Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy (June 2022) which sets our his ambition to eradicate VAWAG in London and for every woman to be able to participate fully in life across the city. The Mayor of London also recently launched a new campaign which focused on

addressing the sexist attitudes and inappropriate behaviours exhibited by some men, in order to tackle the epidemic of misogyny and violence towards women and girls”.

It is hoped that, along with the night-time charter and Violence Against Women and Girls strategies which have been well received by businesses in London since their respective launches, that the combined efforts will make it easier for people to report sexual harassment and violence in London and also help make the city a safer and more enjoyable place for people to work and spend time.

Other sectors are also becoming increasingly aware of their responsibilities in trying to drive change in attitudes towards women and make spaces easier and safer for them to navigate. The RTPI published a report in 2021 which looked at the importance of gender based design, not only from the specific perspective of the built environment, but how design of spaces and environments can also inform other behaviours and attitudes and contribute to wider factors such as health, employment, leisure time or the accessibility of services for women and girls.

Misogyny: a human rights issue?

Research conducted by the Scottish Working Group on Misogyny and Criminal Justice, and more broadly by those working across gender equality highlights that there are several laws (in Scotland and in other countries) that are capable of being applied to misogynistic behaviours. However, there is what they describe as a “critical gap” in the implementation and application of these laws to violence against women in public and private spaces.

The development of a specific offence in relation to misogyny aims to both meet the gap in terms of legislation to prosecute, but also to raise the visibility of such offences, not only to improve rates of reporting, but also to encourage police and prosecutors to take offences of this nature more seriously. The working group have also suggested a change to the approach to violence against women and misogyny more generally, treating it as a human rights issue, as well as a specific criminal offence.

Another approach changing the way we are thinking about VAWAG is adopting a public health, whole system approach to VAWAG. This approach places an emphasis on education and partnership working across multiple disciplines and sectors and focuses on prevention as a key tool in tackling what has been called the “endemic” VAWAG which exists within our communities.

One of the biggest challenges to policymakers and service providers of this type of approach will be evidencing impact, and creating robust and thorough processes for evaluation, particularly when multiple partners are involved in delivery.

Final thoughts

Tackling violence against women and girls is about far more than tackling individual instances of crime and abuse, but rather about wider perceptions and attitudes, and the ability of women to live, work and interact in public and private spaces freely and without fear.

In Scotland, legislators hope that the findings of the working group will be the first step on a journey which will see Scotland become among the most progressive nations when it comes to legislating to protect against VAWAG.

For women and girls, it remains to be seen if the steps and actions proposed actually have any impact on promoting meaningful changes to attitudes and behaviours towards women and make our communities and public spaces more equitable and safe for everyone to live and contribute to their fullest potential.

Photo by Chelsi Peter on Pexels.com


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