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16 May 2013

Caring for our children and young people

Caring for our children and young people

Christians in Scotland have a long history of caring for our children and young people – we must continue now.

It was John Knox who was first to famously state the Scottish ambition of 'a school in every parish', the mantra that has defined Scottish education ever since, and that continues to this day. Believing that raising Scotland's young people should be a joint effort between the parents, the school and the church, Knox and his colleagues set about building an education system that by the 18th century meant that Scotland had the highest rates of literacy anywhere in Europe.

Ever since those days Christians in Scotland have continued to play a key role in supporting Scottish young people. Many Christians for example are employed as teachers, social workers, youth workers etc. and our churches have built on the historic foundation of Sunday school provision and are now also now providing youth clubs, school support, chaplaincy services, holidays for disadvantaged young people and even wider services such as drop in cafes and support groups for parents. In Scotland today if you look at who is providing our communities with youth and children's support services it very likely you will find it's our local churches at the forefront of that provision.

On 18 April the Scottish Government introduced its Children and Young People's Bill. Stating its ambition that Scotland should be 'the best place for young people to grow up in' the bill aims to strengthen children's rights and also has provisions relating to childcare, early intervention, fostering and adoption, kinship care and counselling services for parents.

It is admirable that the Scottish Government wants to support children and young people in the best possible way, and these are all areas in which we as Christians have a real interest. There is currently an opportunity for us to respond to Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture committee as they consider the bill, and it is important that as many as possible do so – particularly organisations and churches that have relevant experience and expertise. This 'call for evidence' is currently open until 26 July. The committee will consider the responses in the autumn.

There are also wider responses that we can make.The Deep Impact forum of youth organisations offers practical services to young people all over Scotland and many would value additional volunteers and support at this time (be that prayer or financial). The same could almost certainly be said of most local churches. Perhaps this summer would be a time to find a new way to serve the children and young people of Scotland, either in a front line or a support role?

The Home for Good initiative of the Evangelical Alliance, Care for the Family and The Churches' Child Protection Advisory Service (CCPAS) is also incredibly relevant to this area. Home for Good aims to encourage local churches to see fostering and adoption as part of their ministry and for Christians to take action to help meet the needs of the 50 children and young people who are currently taken into care every day in the UK. The next Home for Good event in Scotland is taking place in Glasgow towards the end of June. Perhaps attending this evening could be another way that you could serve Scotland's children and young people (for details contact the Evangelical Alliance Scotland office on 0141 548 1555, or email m.barr@eauk.org).

Whatever way we choose to respond, we must not let our forebears be the only ones remembered for their actions in serving the next generation. Scotland's children, young people and families need an active church willing to meet the needs we see all around us. We must respond in some way whether that engagement is political, practical or pastoral. Let's get on and do it…

You can email k.turner@eauk.org for further information about any of the topics raised, or advice on how to respond to the consultation.

   Photo credit: Kate Lapin via Creative Commons