The east of scotland story
2023 The Essentia Foundation
The Essentia Foundation, in partnership with Foundation Scotland is embarking on a journey across Scotland through a series of exploratory reports and blog posts which will examine the regional issues that young people across Scotland are facing and the ways in which Essentia grants are tackling them.
The East of Scotland: Dundee City, Tayside, Fife
Nestled along the country’s eastern coast, the east of Scotland boasts stunning coastal vistas along the North Sea and picturesque landscapes that include rolling hills, fertile valleys, and charming fishing villages. The region encompasses several local authorities and for the purpose of this report, we will be looking at Dundee City, Tayside and Fife. Dundee, the largest city, boasts a vibrant cultural scene and educational excellence with St. Andrews University close by. Agriculture, particularly fruit farming, thrives in this region, while the regional economy diversifies into technology, healthcare, and education.
According to government statistics, this region has a population of around 500,000. Growing up in this region is a tale of two halves. On the one hand, areas like East Neuk and St Andrews are known for tourism and quality higher education. In these areas, young people have good access to outdoor opportunities and community activity. Contrastingly, areas like Dundee, Glenrothes and Kirkcaldy struggle with vast social and economic inequalities. Income inequality is stark, with high-paying jobs in the energy and education sector coexisting with pockets of deprivation. The cost of living can be prohibitive, and this, combined with limited affordable housing, puts pressure on low-income households.
The Essentia Foundation can demonstrate a long history of supporting key initiatives within this region with an interesting variety of youth projects that touch upon sport and well being to alleviating poverty and supporting young mothers. Let’s take a look at some key facts below:
Since 2020, the following organisations in the East of Scotland have been supported by The Essentia Foundation:
The following sections will examine some of the regional priorities that The Essentia Foundation has supported through its grant making.
Despite the relative affluence of areas like St Andrews in Fife, persistent poverty remains a pressing issue in parts of the East of Scotland, notably in Dundee. The Dundee Poverty Profile for 2022 reveals troubling statistics and highlights that 70 out of Dundee’s 188 data zones fall within the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland. Of utmost concern is the situation among children, where 11,209 youngsters aged 0-15, representing a staggering 47.3% of this age group in Dundee City, live in data zones ranked in the 20% most deprived category within the education domain. This stark reality underscores the significant educational inequalities and challenges faced by a substantial portion of Dundee’s young population. Despite the relative prosperity in some pockets of the region, addressing entrenched poverty and its multifaceted consequences remains an urgent imperative to ensure a more equitable future for all residents of the East of Scotland.
To assist organisations and community groups working in this region, The Essentia Foundation has supported a number of projects that are pinpointed on addressing childhood poverty. The majority of these projects aim to offer diversionary activities that offer a safe space and social hub. The overarching goal of these projects is to provide a lifeline to underprivileged youth, granting them access to opportunities they might otherwise be deprived of due to financial constraints. By eliminating economic barriers, these projects aspire to level the playing field for these youngsters, affording them the same chances and prospects as their more fortunate peers.
One noteworthy example comes from the community group, Befriends Dundee. Befriends was established with the aim of aiding disadvantaged young individuals in developing essential life skills and enhancing their overall well-being. The support provided by a befriender played a pivotal role in enabling these young people to instigate positive transformations in their lives, fostering greater aspirations, skill acquisition, increased physical activity, improved quality of life, and enhanced community involvement. Notably, 80% of the children and young individuals referred to this organisation had endured multiple adverse childhood experiences. The majority of those seeking assistance fell within the age range of 11 to 16, with 70% being boys and 30% being girls.
In 2021, The Essentia Foundation granted the organisation £1,700 to facilitate the delivery of extracurricular activities. This funding supported the establishment of a weekly activity group that spanned 17 weeks. The financial allocation covered expenses such as snacks, refreshments, craft supplies, bus fares for outings, and entry fees for various activities. This initiative enabled Befriends to introduce a new weekly activity group tailored to children who were not attending school and were presently awaiting one-to-one befriender support. This group convened during school hours on Tuesdays, with a duration of 2 hours per session. The activities offered were determined by the interests of the attending young individuals but generally included trips to a nearby park, engagement in a photography project, and computer-related activities. Ultimately, this endeavor benefited a total of 10 young people who faced economic disadvantage.
Health and Well being
In the context of the socio-economic disparities prevalent in the eastern region of Scotland, the health and well-being of young people has emerged as a pressing concern. Of worry are the alarming rates of drug-related deaths and suicides among the youth population in Dundee. A report conducted by Public Health Scotland has shed light on the gravity of the situation, revealing that the primary cause of ill health in Dundee City is depression, with rates exceeding those of Scotland as a whole by a significant 13%. This underscores the broader apprehensions surrounding the mental health and well-being of young individuals in this region. The disproportionate burden of depression and the escalating challenges related to mental health among young people in Dundee emphasize the urgent need for targeted interventions and support systems to address these issues comprehensively. Bridging the gap in mental health services and implementing strategies to mitigate the factors contributing to these disparities is essential to ensure a healthier and more equitable future for the youth in this area.
In 2021, the community charity, Rocksolid Dundee, received a 12-month grant of £3,000.00 for a practical project aimed at promoting health and well-being. RockSolid Dundee, originally established as a youth project in 2011 and later registered as an SCIO in 2013, operates in the East End of Dundee, an area characterized by its presence in the top 10% of the SIMD index, indicating high levels of unemployment, poverty, and poor health.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, RockSolid observed a heightened demand for support related to the mental health and well-being of young people. In response, they expanded their 1:1 support for vulnerable young individuals. The grant was allocated to fund the delivery of eight 5-week long well-being courses for young people throughout the year, with each course accommodating up to 8 participants (a total of 64 young people). Led by two dedicated youth workers, the weekly sessions addressed various aspects of health and well-being, including pandemic-related challenges, while tailoring the focus to the specific concerns identified by the young participants themselves.
Upon completion of the project, notable transformations were observed in the young participants who had initially joined the well-being group. Their confidence had significantly grown, and they had forged meaningful friendships both within RockSolid and with peers from their school. The out-of-school setting at the church provided a safe space for these young individuals to express themselves freely. Several participants attested that RockSolid had helped them manage anxiety, emphasizing the importance of this supportive environment. As a result, the young people became more connected at school, highlighting the positive impact of RockSolid on their overall well-being and social development.
In the Kingdom of Fife, the unemployment rate among individuals over the age of 16 stands at 6.5 percent, surpassing the Scottish average of 4.6 percent. This disparity can be attributed, in part, to the rural nature of Fife, with particular emphasis on the East Neuk region. In these areas, many young people encounter challenges when seeking full-time, well-paid employment opportunities. Consequently, they frequently resort to commuting to larger urban centers like St. Andrews, Dunfermline, and Kirkcaldy in pursuit of gainful work prospects. This geographical and economic dynamic underscores the unique set of circumstances faced by young individuals in Fife, where access to employment opportunities is often contingent upon traversing greater distances to urban hubs.
In 2020, The Essentia Foundation provided vital support to an innovative initiative aimed at addressing youth unemployment in the region. This initiative supported FEAT Trading CIC, which had a long-term vision of regenerating the Silverburn Estate, encompassing the park and a former flax mill within its premises. At the core of this project were volunteering and training programs specifically designed to assist clients of the Fife Employment Access Trust who were grappling with mental health challenges. Furthermore, FEAT Trading CIC collaborated with Fife Council, local charities, youth groups, and primary and secondary schools to implement tailored training and volunteering programs.
The Silverburn Estate’s vicinity ranked among the top 5-20% on the SIMD index, with the local community grappling with persistent issues such as unemployment, poverty, and various forms of deprivation. The project sought funding to extend its support to secondary school students facing obstacles like non-attendance, reduced timetables due to behavioral concerns, mental health issues, or broader family-related difficulties. Through a structured curriculum encompassing estate maintenance, conservation efforts, a vegetable-growing project, assistance in running the estate’s café, and event management support (subject to COVID-19 restrictions), children and young individuals were able to acquire a diverse set of professional and soft skills. Simultaneously, their active contributions to the local community provided them with valuable experiences they might not have otherwise encountered, opening up new avenues for them to explore when considering future career prospects.