Unlevel playing fields: how inequality deprives children of green spaces

In collaboration with the Goethe Institute, the Children’s Wood community group put on an afternoon event on 7th June 2014 to highlight the impact of inequality on communities in Glasgow like North Kelvin and Maryhill.

The area surrounding Maryhill and North Kelvin is thought to be one of the most deprived areas within the UK.  The Children’s Wood are particularly interested in making sure that all children in the area (and elsewhere) have access to green space – children in poorer areas are far less likely to access green space.*

Many children in the area live in flats with no gardens and never play in wild spaces. The Children’s Wood believes this exacerbates the negative impact of existing inequalities.   Beyond access to wild space, the Children’s Wood aspires to improve the resources for children and families in Maryhill/North Kelvin area (and beyond) by creating a rich, supportive, collaborative and more equal environment for everyone.

Members of the Children’s Wood group are taking a leading role in the Glasgow Equality Group which is affiliated to The Equality Trust and we hope to put on some future events looking more in-depth at inequality in Glasgow and what can be done to change things.

Emily Cutts For The Children’s Wood http://thechildrenswood.com/ and the Glasgow Equality Group

*See National Children’s Bureau report (2013) Greater Expectations: http://ncb.org.uk/media/1032641/greater-expectations.pdf

Below are some quotes from some of the speakers on the day:

Dr Carol Craig, CEO of Glasgow’s Centre for Confidence and Well-being, has written about inequality in Glasgow and opened the event as keynote speaker saying:

Glasgow’s poorest have some of the worst outcomes for health, violence, drugs and alcohol compared to their European counterparts.  Poor people in Glasgow also have more limited access to gardens which is why green spaces like the Children’s Wood are so important and should be preserved by the Council. Scandinavian countries think children are deprived if they don’t have easy access to the outdoors and we need to follow them in this respect and see many of Glasgow’s children as deprived not just of material resources but green places to play.

Sue Palmer, the Children’s Wood Patron and author of Toxic Childhood, believes that we can learn from examples of where there is already more equality.

Inequality starts early – indeed, it starts before birth. In Scotland today, children’s life-chances are largely determined in their first three years and established by the age of seven. But it doesn’t have to be like that. We now know enough about child development (and the aspects of 21st century life which threaten mental health and well-being) to offer almost every child a ‘good childhood’ and effective education, and thus start closing the poverty gap for future generations. It’s been done elsewhere: we could do it here.

Professor Sue Ellis, author of a recent Joseph Rowntree Report on poverty and the attainment gap said:

The attainment gap associated with children living in poverty starts before children begin school, but it gets wider as children move through their school careers. Every school needs to focus on doing whatever it takes to reduce this widening attainment gap.

Emily Cutts from The Children’s Wood and Glasgow Equality Group said:

The Children’s Wood volunteers work with 14 local schools, all within walking distance of the meadow and wood, and are convinced that their activities there can make a difference by building equality.

Local families group, HomeStart Glasgow North West said:

Research tells us that everyone benefits from a more equal society, and nowhere is equality more crucial than in children’s formative early years. HomeStart brings communities together to support families with young children who are experiencing difficulties. We see first-hand the damage done by inequality here in Glasgow, so we are delighted to be working with The Children’s Wood to find creative ways to tackle it.

This is a guest blog and the views expressed are not necessarily those of The Equality Trust.