The white paper and the voluntary sector

Thoughts on the white paper by Jenny Bloomfield, Policy Officer for SCVOJenny Bloomfield

Should we be swayed by current government promises when deciding on the fate of our country?  How can we decide which way to vote?  Should we get involved in the debate?

Covering economics, health, welfare, culture, and a myriad of other issues, Tuesday’s 670-page Scottish Government white paper certainly kept me busy.

Much of what has been set out seems appealing, and the white paper contains things many people will want to vote for in a government election.

However, the 18th September 2014 will see people vote on the fate of the country, not on what government they want to see.

So we should perhaps be wary of politically driven arguments (e.g. tax, privatisation versus public ownership, the nuclear issue, welfare, poverty etc.) playing a large part in our consideration of the independence debate.

After all, we cannot guarantee that the current political climate, and the differences between Scottish and Westminster governments, will remain in the longer term.

So what does that mean for everyone who is voting – perhaps for the first time – on such a momentous occasion?  How can we make a decision based on what we know?  Or will it be a vote based on gut feelings?

At the moment it is important that everyone feels they can get involved in the debate, and shape their own opinion, forming the debate about Scotland’s future.  The debate mustn’t sit in a political bubble; it cannot sit in the yes and no camps alone.

That means continuing to be involved through schools, youth groups and amongst friends, debating the issues and forming opinions.

I don’t want the debate – or the vote – to be left to the same old faces.  Everyone should feel engaged enough to get involved in the debate and to exercise their right to vote – young and old.

What are your thoughts on the white paper? Leave us your comments on the blog.


The Thoughts of a Funding Officer

David1David Lamont from the Big Fund

I consider working on the Young Start Programme to be a bit of a privilege. I have an active interest in the wellbeing of Scotland’s young people and to be part of a programme that funds a range of projects improving opportunities during challenging times is a good place to be.

Our team shares a positive outlook. I think it is always important to set out that we consider it our job to fund projects that can make a positive impact on young people and we aim to facilitate this process as fairly and effectively as possible. I imagine it is all too easy to believe that we are here to find fault with applications, particularly if you are being asked various questions about your project or are on the receiving end of a reject letter. The simple truth is that we have limited funds for distribution and the key element of our work is to ensure that it delivers the best outcomes for the programme. Last year, we made awards worth £7,480,900 to organisations delivering outcomes for young people and we want to continue to do so as much as we can.

In my opinion, one of the best features of the programme is the grant size; £10,000-£50,000. This opens the programme up to smaller organisations that may previously only have accessed our small grants funding and considered our larger programmes to be outwith their reach. Young Start actively encourages applications from such organisations and it is one of the pleasures of the job to work with a group to bring their project proposal to a fundable standard. In fact, you could say that it is the Funding Officer’s role to identify strong projects and not well written applications. Funnily enough a recurring problem is groups not requesting enough to meet the needs of the project. Remember it does not offer us value to fund a project that cannot fulfil its potential due to a lack of finance.

We grade our application on a range of criteria with two key areas being outcomes and young peoples’ involvement. Outcomes are key and we have four for our programme; confident, healthy, connected and enterprising. Groups should look at these outcomes and consider carefully how there project contributes towards them. Some tips:

  • More outcomes do not equal better projects. Achieving one of our outcomes well is considered a positive for the Young Start programme. While some projects may meet all of our outcomes these are a rarity and can sometimes be an indication to us that your project lacks focus.
  • We are more  likely to fund project offering strong, tangible achievement of outcomes. This means that we favour projects working intensively with a smaller      number of young people than a wide ranging activity programme. Being able to demonstrate an understanding of why you are delivering your work and how it will impact on beneficiaries (particularly in the long term) is vital.

We consider that that involvement of young people in the design, delivery and development of the project offers the best model for our programme.  However, we do also accept that the capacity of young people to contribute in these areas can vary greatly due to a range of reasons such as age, ability or personal circumstance. We always look for an organisation to have considered how best to meaningfully involve their young people to some degree . A strong project would demonstrate:

  • Design: young  people were involved from an early stage in identifying the project and ensuring that the delivery method is best suited to their needs.
  • Delivery: young  people will contribute to the ongoing success of the work. This may be in the form of volunteering, buddying, peer mentoring etc.
  • Development: young people will be involved in the management of the project. At the lower end this may represent verbal consultation with views taken on board      through to project steering groups and youth led organisations.

I hope this has given you a flavour of what we expect from the programme and got you thinking about organisations or projects that you are involved in or know that may benefit. We will be around for the foreseeable future and are always on the lookout for great work to fund.

Should you have any questions our advice team are always on hand. You can contact them on 0300 123 7110.

The fear of fat

Morgan Windram Geddes PHDMorgan Windram Geddes

Young girls in the UK face a double whammy when it comes to sustaining participation in sport and physical activity. The now long established findings on the negative impact of sexist discourses on girls’ participation in sport and physical activity are being substantiated by a new ‘ism’, sizeism and an intense fear of fat.

The more anxious our society—political, cultural and social—becomes about fat, the more we react with programmes to ‘combat’ obesity, with recent efforts, promoting physical activity as the cure to promoting weight loss and preventing future generations of fat people.  Governments have tried to make political changes by targeting food systems and companies which control food production and distribution, but these efforts have been thwarted often because the activities of such companies are deeply tied to and in effect support the political lives of those in power (Marion Nestle).  So government have now turned their efforts towards children and young people in the places where these individuals are, for lack of a better term, a captive audience in schools.  Through simplistic understandings of the caloric balance equation (maintaining a static weight by balancing the number of calories consumed with the number of calories expended through bodily movement or physical activity), physical education within the school becomes positioned as a possible solution to the obesity problem and the place whereby thin and therefore healthy bodies can be created.

But something is wrong with current efforts as the number of girls participating in physical activity continues to decline at the same time as the cases of young people with eating disorders are on the rise.  What does this mean for girls and the recent statistics on drop out levels of physical activity as they age?

Physical education, which is “valued and resourced because of the work it does in shaping” physical abilities and physical fitness (Wright & Burrows, 2006: 278) and physical educators are now increasingly located in a place of inescapable accountability for both creating and monitoring the health of young people. As the obesity epidemic is increasingly taken as truth (Evans, 2009), Kirk (2006: 127) argues that physical educators will find themselves increasingly implicated in and responsible for the “alleged decline in children’s fitness and their increasing fatness”. There is concern that such discourses could have a potentially damaging impact on children’s health and wellbeing (Kirk, 2006) by creating anxiety or perpetuating fat-stigma and prejudice (Solovay & Rothblum, 2009).  Three years of PhD study concluded that the increasing drop out of girls in PE and sport is, in part, actually further perpetuated by contemporary socio-political fears of fatness.  Thus, instead of having the intended effect of fearing girls into participating to improve their health, these government supported discourses are coming back to slap Parliament in the face as girls of ALL body sizes become increasingly turned off from doing physical activity.

In PE classes which are streamed for ‘ability’ these discourses have the impact of the ‘lowest’ ability class being referred to as ‘fat camp’ in accordance with pupils understandings that body size/weight is equated with fitness ability.

Pressure to embody ‘ability’ through success within narrowly and neatly defined fixed measurements (through fitness testing) leaves little space for girls who may be skilled and sporty in other physical arenas to achieve success through PE as they will be unable to achieve the measurements necessary to grant them a place in the highest ability fitness group. Girls in my study like Sarah, who does not want to run for 12 minutes or believes she is unable to, may be rather good at a sport like gymnastics but this cannot be measured through instruments with fixed parts.

In this way, Sarah is unable to test into the highest fitness class, thereby relegating her to a ‘lower’ level, despite her high achievements in other areas of fitness work. Furthermore, streaming practices may result in a further pressure to embody ‘ability’ through thinness; this may not be a direct intention of teachers but a result of pupils’ awareness of socio-political support for the fat fit argument.

Measuring and classing fitness ability through fixed measurements and narrow categories may negatively impact on participation in and experience of physical education for girls’ on all points on the body size spectrum. Within these understandings, the roots of PE for life, engagement, enjoyment and getting children active, as one of the teachers in my study explained, are lost.  The only way forward is for governments to stop their ‘fat-hunt’ and develop a new model of support for curricular education which teaches young people to be intrinsically motivated to participate, to feel their bodies, moving uninhibited through space!