Every few years the Scottish government produce their figures highlighting areas of Scotland most affected by poverty. These statistics, known as the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, take into account a range of factors including health, education, crime and dependency on benefits - and give a ranking to each data zone (between 500 and 1,000 households). I always find it interesting looking at the maps produced from this data; it’s a good reminder that, whereas the highest levels of deprivation remain in the cities, there are significant pockets of deprivation all around Scotland. I also find the name a helpful one. The term multiple deprivation defines well that for some, life is difficult and complicated - not just by one thing, but by a range of circumstances seemingly conspiring together to bring chaos into the lives of individuals and families, and young people.

In our urban work in SU Scotland we see this in the lives of the young people we work with. Often struggling at school; sometimes getting caught up in damaging relationships; facing chaos in their own family with their parents involved in unstable relationships; and living in communities affected by drug and alcohol abuse and crime.

For these young people we recognise the truth of Jesus words in John 4 where he says I have come to preach good news to the poor, freedom to the prisoner, recovery of sight to the blind, to set the oppressed free. We see changes in the lives of kids we know, not just because they have heard and responded to the truth of Jesus love for them, but because they see the reality of this care lived out through volunteers that value them, who take time to have those individual conversations. They recognise that they can be free to make different and better choices than many of their peers.

Looking to make a difference in the lives of young people can be difficult but in our work in Edinburgh partnering with the Ferrywell Youth Project we recently had some feedback from one of the schools the project is working in, regarding the one-to-one support work helping us appreciate how much the school value this work, and encouraging us that God is working in the lives of these young people.

  • The 1:1 input has increased the social and emotional wellbeing of the pupils enormously.
  • The pupils have fed back that they feel safe, secure and that it is gives them a forum to express themselves.
  • All pupils involved seem noticeably happier and more confident since the sessions have taken place.
  • The parents have also commented that they can see benefits of the sessions too.

We give thanks to the freedom that God is bringing to young people in urban situations linked with our work in Scotland, freedom not only to know him but freedom to be different, to break the mould and live different lives – and we pray to start being a positive influence among their peers and within their community.