The Children 1st story begins in the overcrowded tenement slums of Glasgow in the 1880s. Our founder, James Grahame, was horrified by the poverty, neglect and abuse that children were suffering in the largest and wealthiest city in Scotland.
From the very beginning, the Society had to spell out that its objective was not to take on responsibilities for the care of children themselves but to ensure that those responsibilities were fulfilled by the parents and guardians.
On 24th July 1884, James Grahame gathered a group of like-minded people to the Religious Institution Rooms at 177 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, intent on founding a society for prevention of cruelty to children. In the minutes of that meeting from 1884, it is noted that Graham wanted it:
“…to be understood in this meeting that the difficulties that surround us in the streets are enormous and that the officers of the society and others are crippled because there is no legal power.”
Grahame, becoming exasperated by the lack of action, bellowed:
“If not us , then who?”
He persuaded his audience not only of the desirability and necessity for legislation to protect children but also of the immediate need for a rescue service which could be provided by the Glasgow society. This meeting led to the founding of the Glasgow Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Later, in 1884, across the country in Edinburgh, Lord Provost Sir George Harrison ushers in the creation of the Edinburgh Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Following a meeting with James Grahame and the General Secretaries of the London and Liverpool societies it was, ‘…deemed appropriate to replicate the societies set up in various other cities.’ The Edinburgh Society merged with the Edinburgh and Leith Children’s Aid and Refuge in 1885.
In 1889 those two separate organisations, upon realising that there was strength in their shared endeavour, merged to form the Scottish National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SNSPCC).
The Royal Charter
In 1921 the SNSPCC received a Royal Charter and became known as the Royal Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (RSSPCC).
Our Royal Charter sets out our purpose - prevention, protection, recovery, through building strengths and supporting families:
1. To prevent abuse and neglect of children and;
2. To assist the recovery of children from abuse and neglect
i. To build the strengths of children who are vulnerable.
ii. To enhance the lives of such children by supporting parents
iii. To champion the rights and interests of such children
The changing work and direction of the RSSPCC in the 1980s and early 1990s led to the decision to change the working name of the RSSPCC to Children 1st in 1995.
Policy and Political Campaigning
There has always been a strong policy and political campaigning element to the work of Children 1st. The society was set up:
"not only to help those children in desperate need but to campaign, vociferously, for enlightened legislation as its long-term objective.”
The first legislative victory came with the passing of the Children’s Charter in 1889. The then SNSPCC, sent a delegation to London to assist with amendments to make sure the Act was workable under Scots Law. Our commitment to protect and fulfil all children’s rights in legislation, policy and practice has been a consistent thread throughout the history of Children 1st.
The Inspectors of the RSSPCC or the 'Cruelty Men'
In the past, the society's inspectors - often referred to as the 'cruelty men' - investigated cases of abuse and neglect reported by members of the public and the Police and latterly local authorities. In 1968, new legislation gave responsibility for investigating child abuse to local authority social work departments. As a result, the role of the RSSPCC Inspectors changed and as new approaches were introduced the role of the Inspector was phased out by the RSSPCC.
The Children's Shelter
The early society realised that, to assist with the work of Inspectors, there would be a need for a children’s shelter for children to temporarily stay whilst Inspectors worked with parents, families, Local Authorities, Police or the Court to work out the best way forward for children and their families. Shelters were opened in Glasgow and Edinburgh, however, after 1921 only one shelter remained open in Edinburgh. The Dundonald House Children's Home was opened in 1950 by the RSSPCC as a shelter in the West of Scotland.
In 1980, the RSSPCC made the decision to close both the Children’s shelter in Edinburgh and Dundonald House Children’s Home and focus on the prevention, protection, and recovery work that the charity was committed to delivering for children in Scotland.
The Redress Scheme
Children 1st is a contributor to the Scottish Government’s Financial Redress scheme, which has been set up for survivors of historical abuse whilst in care. We are aware of how vulnerable children in public care are and that they need the utmost care and protection. Children 1st were part of a public care system that did not always provide the love and care needed for generations of children.
We thank those survivors who have shared their stories and encourage anyone who suffered whilst in our care to get in touch with us. We commit to listening with respect, care, openness, compassion and sensitivity.
If you would like to access your records or discuss your search for information about your past, please email email@example.com
Children 1st then and now
The role of the charity has changed massively since 1884 and perhaps none more so than over the last thirty years. Children 1st works to keep children safe, loved and well and together with their families. Children 1st continues to speak out on issues that affect children and their families and strive to change policy and practice for the better.