Contribution to health and wellbeing


Pg 13 The Place, Alness

The Place Youth Club, Alness

Gregor Smith, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Scottish Government, believes youth work is an essential part of the preventative agenda.

Youth Work Changes Lives Expo

Youth Work Changes Lives Expo RBS Conference Centre 27 January 2016 Programme #YWExpo Picture: Alan Rennie

Early in 2016, I attended the Youth Work Expo to talk about the contribution youth work makes to health and wellbeing in Scotland. I heard a wide range of people talk about their experience and how it had made a difference to their lives; it was impressive stuff.

My role as DCMO includes shaping the direction of Scotland’s future health policies and leading medical and public health professionals in driving forward improvements to ensure a health service fit to meet the challenges of the future.

The CMO launched her first Annual Report in February 2016 with a call for a debate with doctors on how we can improve shared decision-making; ensure we deliver person-centred care; reduce unnecessary variation in treatment and outcomes; as well as reduce harm and waste (including over-treatment) for the people doctors treat.

Doctors are well placed to help provide these answers but they are not the only ones who can help the health and wellbeing agenda. For the NHS to be an organisation which realises its potential – not just to treat illness – it must also promote health and wellbeing as a means of preventing illness.

Youth work has a key role in that: by building communities who can take interest in others’ health and wellbeing, encouraging healthy choices and promoting health improvement.

Scotland is now in the midst of challenges brought about by a growing and increasingly elderly population with more complex illness. Youth work has a key role to play in turning this around – it needs to act as a role model, continuing to display all the kinds of behaviours it is so respected for. With your support there are so many advances youth work can make in population health,particularly for young people.

If there is scepticism from parts of the health and social care system about why we should spend so much time trying to get the health and wellbeing of the child right, then the impact of dealing with the physical and psychological fallout of poor health is a very sound argument for this policy approach.

Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health disorder and nearly 80,000 children and young people suffer from severe depression.

There is still a huge stigma around mental health which means children and young people are not getting the support they need. So many of the organisations who deliver youth work deliver benefits by:

  • helping young people engage, overcome barriers and build their social interaction skills including inter-generationally.
  • building communities of support and providing the links to employment and positive volunteering opportunities as part of that community structure.

A child brought up in a stable and nurtured environment is better placed to succeed in life than a child from a less secure background. For many young people that stability is not there and youth work can and does make a suitable intervention that can prevent impacts to health and wellbeing.

W: | Tw: @ DrGregorSmith

Gregor Smith’s article is taken from the latest The Link, the youth work sector’s magazine, you can read the full magazine here:


Reforming our public services – Fire and Rescue


In the last five years there has been a 50% reduction in deliberate fire-raising. In our interview with David McGown, Deputy Chief Assistant Officer with Scottish Fire and Rescue, he explains the crucial role of youth work in reducing criminal behaviour and improving communities.

Youthlink Scotland Award ceremony

Youthlink Scotland Award Ceremony 12 March 2015 Picture: Alan Rennie

What is your experience of youth work during your time with the Fire Service?

I have been with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) for 29 years. In that time I have seen a significant increase in our initiatives with youth work organisations, and we have developed a range of programmes to either develop young people’s skills or educate them on safety. Currently we have the ‘Fire Cadet/Young Firefighter’ schemes, multi-agency safety courses, ‘Fire Setters’ programmes and bespoke ‘FireSkills’ sessions. More recently, the SFRS has developed, and published, its Youth Engagement Framework, setting out why, and how, we will work with young people to promote safety and prevention, while developing their skills at the same time.

What has been the benefit to SFRS of working in partnership with youth work organisations?

Nationally, key agencies such as YouthLink Scotland, Young Scot and the Scottish Youth Parliament have been influential in the development of our Youth Engagement Framework.

Locally we have worked closely with many youth workers in the delivery of our services. This has enabled us to engage with a larger, and more diverse, group of young people than we would have been able to working on our own. It has enabled us to work with young people who may have previously been beyond the reach of our staff. This has also helped develop the skills of our staff and we have been able to access local training provided by our partners. For instance, in North Lanarkshire we have had front line firefighters trained in the Solihull Approach, helping them to understand the emotional wellbeing of young people, and how their life experiences influence the way they may react in certain situations.

How does youth work help you connect with young people?

The development of our services is carried out by our Youth Engagement officer, a role filled by an experienced youth work professional, registered with the Community Learning and Development (CLD) Standards Council for Scotland. Having this role within the service has been vital to ensure that our staff develop the appropriate skills and have access to resources that enable them to engage positively with young people. A youth work approach features strongly in our Youth Engagement Framework where we highlight the importance that the CLD regulations play in the development and delivery of our services.

Does the youth work approach need to be more widely recognised through national and local government policy?

I believe that youth work is already rightly gaining more prominence in both national and local policy. What makes a difference, however, is true partnership working at a local level. To provide positive opportunities for young people, and ultimately to improve communities, the value of youth groups, charities and public services working together cannot be overstated. Policy is required, but it is the practical implementation of policy which is crucial.

Deliberate secondary fires (involving grass, refuse, bins, etc) almost halved in 5 years (from 25,676 in 2010/11 to 13,533 in 2014/15). “We believe that our partnerships with the youth work sector, and our engagement with young people, have made a significant contribution to this reduction.”

T: 0141 646 4501 I W: | Tw: @fire_scot

David McGown’s article is taken from the latest The Link, the youth work sector’s magazine, you can read the full magazine here:

Pregnancy, Parenthood and Young People


Citadel young mums group meeting Minister for Public Health

Former Minister for Public Health Michael Matheson discusses the Scottish Parliament’s teenage pregnancy enquiry with young mums from Citadel Youth Centre who submitted evidence to the Scottish Parliament to inform the PPYP strategy.

In March the Scottish Government published its strategy on ‘Pregnancy, Parenthood and Young People’. This is a welcome addition: preventing pregnancy at an early age and supporting young parents can make improvements to children and young people’s health in Scotland.

Dona Milne Specialist in Public Health

Dona Milne, Deputy Director of Public Health, NHS Lothian talks us through the recent publication of the Scottish Government’s Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy.  

The most welcome part of this strategy is the focus on the social determinants of health. We know that unintended pregnancy in young people is largely due to the effects of deprivation, a lack of connectedness with education, few prospects of meaningful employment and a lack of (interpersonal) skills to negotiate sexual relationships based on mutual respect. A pregnancy at an early age can lead to poor outcomes for the young woman and her baby, sometimes creating a cycle of deprivation that can continue for generations.

We have, of course, seen significant reductions in what is traditionally called ‘teenage pregnancy’. Today sees the release of the annual teenage pregnancy statistics. The most recent information is for conceptions in 2014. In Scotland, teenage pregnancy rates continued to decline in all age groups in 2014. The teenage pregnancy rate for under 20s has decreased from 57.7 in 2007 to 34.1 per 1,000 women in 2014, a decrease of more than 40%.

However, a closer look at the numbers shows a strong link between deprivation and teenage parenthood. Young women under the age of 20 living in the most deprived areas in Scotland are 5 times more likely to experience a pregnancy than their counterparts living in the least deprived areas.

For some young people, parenthood at a young age is very much a planned and positive experience.   For others, a couple more years, a wee bit more life experience and dealing with all that parenthood throws at them might be better.

The Scottish Government ‘Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People’ Strategy reflects on the impact of pregnancy at a young age and what we need to do in Scotland to reduce the negative effect on young people and their families.

It talks about how we can prevent early pregnancy by increasing attendance at school, ensuring continued opportunities for education and training, having good sex and relationships education and accessible young people’s services. The strategy sets out how we can support young women who do get pregnant and continue with that pregnancy by helping them to stay in education, providing a key worker and good services for young parents. It makes a clear commitment to reduce the cycle of deprivation created by early pregnancy and parenthood.

The strategy also reflects on the need to reduce the stigma faced by young parents (especially young women) and it challenges the way in which young women are judged for what is perceived (wrongly) as a lifestyle choice. My experience of working with young parents is that they are doing their best for themselves and their children despite some very difficult living circumstances.

We need to trust and support our young people to continue to do the best they can. We need children and young people to feel welcome and included – in school and in their local community. They need to experience the benefit of positive relationships with parents, teachers, youth workers, health visitors, school nurses and others who can support them to participate fully to realise their ambitions.

This is the first Scottish strategy which focuses on pregnancy and parenthood in young people and it needs to be implemented. It will need a concerted and coordinated effort from all of us and I am pleased to say that we are very much up for that challenge.

Dona Milne: @donamilne

The Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy can be found here

The most recent teenage pregnancy statistics can be found here