Tuesday, 5 March 2024
Tuesday, 5 March 2024

Council’s funding cuts could jeopardise opportunities for a generation of children

A generation of children in one of Dundee’s most disadvantaged areas risk being left behind if funding for a community education programme is withdrawn, a leading charity has warned.

Sistema Scotland, which helps young people reach their full potential through music and a wider support programme, is concerned it could face a funding shortfall amid pressures on local authority finances.

The charity has submitted a request for a substantially reduced sum for the coming year to reflect the challenging financial situation but has yet to receive any assurances of continued support which was previously promised.

Sistema Scotland set up Big Noise Douglas at the end of 2017, bringing a social change programme that works in priority areas around Scotland to the city. Through the programme, children in nursery and primary school are offered the chance to learn to read and perform music while picking up vital life experience, with the opportunity to stay with the Big Noise as they get older to ensure they fulfil their potential.

The charity now works with more than 500 children a week in Douglas and provides after-school care and sessions during school holidays – removing some of the barriers parents face when seeking work or training.

Independent expert research has found that Big Noise participants are more likely to achieve a positive post-school destination – including going into employment, training or higher or further education – than those who do not take part.

When the programme launched, Dundee City Council signed a partnership agreement promising to provide the majority of the programme’s funding from 2021/22 onwards. The expected council contribution was £660,000 for 2023/24.

However, in recognition of the challenging financial circumstances facing the council, Sistema Scotland has submitted a reduced request for £300,000 for the year ahead, which would enable it to support existing users, including deaf children and care experienced children and young people, as well as protect 21 jobs and provide healthy meals and after-school care in the community during the cost-of-living crisis.

Nicola Killean, chief executive of Sistema Scotland, said:

“Over the past five years in Douglas, we have provided respectful and empowering support to children and their families; improving their confidence and mental health and wellbeing, helping young people reach their full potential and strengthening communities.

“The families we support are facing extremely challenging circumstances and our work is more important than ever.

“We share Dundee’s vision of ensuring children, citizens and communities have the best opportunities and lives, free from poverty and inequality.

“That’s why we urge the council to keep its promise to the Douglas community and to find a way through these challenging times so that together we can support children who need it most.

“We recognise the immense pressure the council is facing regarding its budget, which is why we have proposed a reduced funding commitment for the year ahead, but a generation of young people in the city cannot be left behind at this vital moment.”

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