International Day of Charity
The critical role that charities play in all our lives

On the United Nations’ International Day of Charity (5th September) Mary Glasgow reflects on the critical role that charities play in transforming our lives, communities and societies.

“When I began my life in social work, thirty years ago, I was clear that it is for the state to provide the services that meet our fundamental and collective human needs – to be safe, to be healthy, to be educated. As a local authority social worker, inspired by my Mum - a community activist in Edinburgh’s Westerhailes - I have always known the power of good support, built on understanding relationships and focused on amplifying families’ strengths to keep children safer and to help families be happier.

Today, I still believe that it is the state’s duty to provide this support, at an early stage to prevent families reaching crisis point and to stop children’s lives being irrevocably damaged by trauma. I also believe that without charities we cannot thrive - as individuals, communities and societies.

Charities, like Children 1st play a critical role in developing better support for individuals, amplifying the voices of the people our politicians most need to listen to but, are least likely to hear; and influencing changes in services and legislation that benefit us all.

At Children 1st we have two charitable objectives which are inextricably interlinked – to support individual children and their families and to influence policy and social change. Everything we do in these areas fulfils our mission to prevent and protect children from harm and to ensure they get the support they need to recover from trauma and abuse.

Much of the support we offer children and families across Scotland is offered in partnership with the public sector and or Scottish Government but not because we are providing the services they don’t want to. Our charitable status enables us to bring children, families, communities, public sector partners and our supporters together to develop innovative support which becomes a catalyst for structural changes that make life easier and better for us all.

For example, thanks to a £1.5 million award from the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Trust, we are leading a partnership with Victim Support Scotland, Children England and the University of Edinburgh supported by a local Health and Social Care Partnership and the Scottish Government to open Britain’s first Child’s House for Healing next year. The House, designed to feel like a family home will offer safe and welcoming place for children and young people to go to as an alternative to courts, social work offices and police stations. Children will be able to give evidence, receive medical care and support to recover from trauma and be involved in decisions about their protection in the House, which is based on the internationally renowned Barnahus approach.  By testing, developing and learning from what can be done the Child’s House for Healing will inform wider structural change so that all child victims and witnesses in Scotland can give their best evidence and get full support to recover from their experiences – support which is sadly lacking across Scotland at the present time.

Our charitable status enables us to receive grants from Trusts like the Robertson Trust who are helping us to expand on our work with the Health and Social Care Partnership in East Renfrewshire. Together we are ensuring there is more rapid support for children and young people who are experiencing mental ill-health and to help their family to better support them to recover.

And as a charity we can shine a light on the collective experiences of the children and families we support and challenge the structures that make life harder for us all.

Last week, the Scottish Parliament passed the Children (Scotland) Bill which has its roots in concerns we raised about the unsafe decisions civil courts were making about children our services were supporting. After five long years of campaigning, we have now established in law that children’s voices, views and rights must be central in the decisions made by civil courts.

This took sustained campaigning by ourselves and others, particularly our partner Scottish Women’s Aid – who like us work to support individuals and to change policy and legislation. The support we provide to individuals and communities is unique from other charities, but together through our services and supports we are influencing major system and structural changes that make a difference to all children and families across Scotland.

When you donate, fundraise or provide a grant to Children 1st, you are transforming the lives of your own children, family and community, as well as the lives and communities of the children and families that we work directly alongside. You are bringing about a critical and transformational change in the cultural and structures of  Scotland society so that all our children are better protected from harm, in ways that my long experience of work in the public sector tells me that the state can’t do alone

This International Day of Charity, with the world feeling the financial impact of responding to an international pandemic the critical role of our charities has never been more needed, but nor has it ever been under so much pressure. So today please take a moment to celebrate and reflect on the incredible difference that charities make to all of our lives.