By Caitlin Hutchison
Latest official figures show that just over one million people in Scotland are recognised as living in poverty, including 240,000 children – which is the same as one in four. And with Christmas just around the corner, many charities are ramping up the fundraising to make sure that vulnerable families don’t go without over the festive season.
This year business students at the University of Strathclyde are spreading festive cheer with their 2019 Christmas Toy Appeal.They are encouraging people to buy a gift for a child so that they can donate presents to less fortunate children in Glasgow who may otherwise receive nothing.
The gifts will be donated to a wide range of schools, nurseries, and children’s charities throughout Glasgow.This comes as part of Strathclyde Business School’s Social Responsibility Pathway, which is designed to develop students in their third year whilst affording them the opportunity of giving something back to the local community.
For the past five years, some students have been working with and fundraising for Annette Street Primary School in Govanhill, one of the schools that will receive donations from the appeal.
Iain Mitchell, Lead for Social Responsibility Pathway told the Strathclyde Telegraph about Annette Street Primary School’s unique set of circumstances.
He said: “Govanhill is an area with traditionally high levels of immigration into Glasgow, and a lot of pupils don’t have English as their first language.
“The school is in an area of poverty and deprivation, and they don’t have a parent council that would be able to fundraise on their behalf.
“We’re there to try and support and help people in any way that we can.”
In past years, the appeal received around 1500 gifts, and the team of students hope to reach even more children this Christmas time. They are urging students and staff around campus to dig deep and get involved.
Iman Idrees, third-year student and Social Media Officer for the appeal, said: “The children within that area may not get any gifts for Christmas, just because their parents may not be able to afford it. This whole thing is to provide them with a gift this year.
“We have cash donations which we’re going to use to buy gifts, and we’ve also had many toy donations.
“All children should receive a gift at Christmas.”
Mr Mitchell is aware of the positive impact this is having on the organisations and schools the donations are going to.
He said: “The schools and charities that we work with are delighted with the donations that we give them.
“We are an institution that wants to be engaged with and to give something back to our local community.
“There are a lot of children that we’ll be supplying Christmas presents for who wouldn’t be getting Christmas presents otherwise.”
The most recent report on child poverty in Scotland, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in October, has urged the Scottish government to introduce ‘game-changer’ plans to help reduce child poverty.
According to the report, “poverty in Scotland is rising, from an already unacceptably high level. More people are facing situations where they cannot afford the basics nor play a full role in society.”
Junie Sume, who shares the role of Social Media Officer, had not imagined that levels of poverty in Scotland could be so high.
She said: “This is a developed country, and 1 in 4 children are in poverty. I just can’t believe that.”
However, plans to tackle child poverty by increasing benefits to low-income families in Scotland have been brought forward.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said:
“We are taking concrete action to tackle child poverty head on, including the introduction of the new Scottish Child Payment, worth £10 per week per child aged under 16 in eligible households, by the end of 2022.
“Our range of measures to support families also includes almost doubling funded Early Learning and Childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds to 1,140 hours by August 2020, delivering employability support through Fair Start Scotland and promoting payment of the real Living Wage through our work to build a Living Wage nation.
“In 2018-19, we invested over £1.4 billion on support targeted at low income households – including £100 million to mitigate the worst impacts of UK Government welfare cuts, estimated to reduce social security spending in Scotland by £3.7 billion by 2021.”
The Scottish Government is also investing a record £3.3 billion to support the ambitious target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes, including 35,000 for social rent, over the current Parliamentary term.
Meanwhile, good deeds are being done right here at Strathclyde, and members of the team at the Christmas Toy Appeal are heartened by the number of people donating.
Sume said: “You’re making these less fortunate children’s Christmases a better Christmas.”
Rachel Gedge, Community Fundraiser from CHAS, expressed her gratitude to the team at Strathclyde.
She said: “The Christmas Toy Appeal is such a thoughtful idea and the gifts will make a wonderful surprise for the children and families who will be spending Christmas at our two hospices, Robin and Rachel House.”
You can donate to the Strathclyde Christmas Toy Appeal by dropping off new, unwrapped gifts at the university library reception desk until the 15th December.
You can make cash donations here.