Kirkcaldy’s MP has blasted the impact of poverty and Universal Credit after a spike in demand threatens to bring a vital holiday programme for vulnerable children to breaking point.
Lesley Laird paid a visit to Kirkcaldy YMCA to see the Active Kids programme – which organisers also fear is at risk through uncertain funding.
For 11 years the Active Kids programme has provided holiday activities for ever increasing numbers of referred, at-risk and vulnerable children across the Kirkcaldy area, the majority of whom are aged 6-12 years old.
Historically, funding has been provided in the main by Fife Council and then Children In Need, with various other funders also supporting the project, but, according to Liz Easton, Kirkcaldy YMCA’s manager, “external funding support has become increasingly difficult to access as demand for the service rises, especially in the last two years and we are now in a very difficult position as our Children In Need funding expires this year. Funding cuts and increasing numbers being referred present a real challenge to the future of the project”.
The YMCA team of paid and volunteer workers create a positive, fun environment where children learn about trust, mutual respect and try out a wide variety of activities, such as den building, sporting challenges, as well making short films and music making.
“We aim to increase children’s skills, knowledge and understanding and build their confidence and self-esteem, “said Liz (pictured, right) “We also promote accredited award schemes, such as Dynamic Youth, Hi5, Youth Achievement and Saltire awards, which enable kids to evidence their progress and their sense of achievement.”
“Nowhere else in town has a project on this scale – but we’re full to bursting. The most pressing threat to the programme is the increase in referrals, with last year seeing a hike of 20 per cent to bring us to a total of 552 children over the year.
“It means children and young people receive fewer days of support than before, and for many that’s not enough.”
During the visit Lesley praised the YMCA team for its dedication and pledged support to the group’s fundraising efforts.
She said: “The Active Kids programme – which the YMCA provides over and above all ongoing activities and youth work – is a proven success.
“Many children who take part are so inspired by the care and attention they receive there, they come back as young adults to work as youth leaders and volunteers. That tells you everything.
“There’s no doubt that if the service shut, there would be a serious and negative impact on children, many of whom who would go hungry and stagnate over the holidays, and it’s difficult to envisage how other services could absorb that responsibility in a more cost-effective way.”
She added: “The bigger picture here in Kirkcaldy, especially over the last year, is one of markedly increased poverty. Foodbank usage and rent arrears have gone through the roof and the link to Universal Credit is unquestionable.
“But as levels of child poverty rise, demand on charitable support services – like the Active Kids programme – are brought to absolute breaking point.
“Fife Council has endured crippling Scottish Government cuts – nine per cent in real terms – and no longer have the funds to distribute as fully as they once did.
“Meanwhile, how much more pressure can be brought to bear on groups expected to prop up the welfare state?
“This UK government is hell-bent on pursuing a policy which is nothing more than ‘destitution by design’. It’s utterly shameful that they expect society to apply a balm to the damage created by their wicked and wilful negligence.”