For me a holiday truly is a human right, not a privilege. We all know how it feels: the chance to unwind, relax, recharge, spend quality time with our loved ones away from the stresses and strains of life. It helps us cope, it helps us feel human.
Sadly, even a short break isn’t on the cards for many families. 1 in 3 families in the UK aren’t able to get a break and in Scotland alone, over 250,000 children live in relative poverty. For many of them, there’s no opportunity to share stories with friends of where they went, no opportunity to experience new places and learn new things together as a family.
That’s why the ScotSpirit Breaks are so important and why I’m so proud of their success. In just its second year, the initiative has enabled (and that really is the operative word, I think) 420 families in Scotland – that’s over 1,600 people, most of them children – to enjoy a short break or day out in their own country, an increase of over 60% on last year.
The ScotSpirit initiative is a partnership between VisitScotland and ourselves, The Family Holiday Association, and its success has been made possible thanks to the generous spirit of businesses within the Scottish tourism industry, which have kindly provided the accommodation, transport and visitor experiences for these families to enjoy.
Seeing the coverage on the BBC, in the Daily Record and other media outlets, I am reminded of how powerful collaboration can be in making positive change.
Watch the Wednesday 20th December 2017 BBC Reporting Scotland news item –
(Click images for links)
Two thirds of the families had never had a break together before, which for many of us will be really quite shocking. Yet it’s the reality for so many struggling families in Scotland. It is heartening to see the impact that these breaks are having: they impact positively on wellbeing by reducing stress, increasing confidence and the ability to cope with challenging life circumstances, while at the same time providing a chance for families to spend quality time together away from home and develop lasting happy memories.
There’s a wide range of research that testifies to these and other positive impacts. And it’s not just about building stronger, happier families. We know from research in the UK, and in other countries where social tourism of this kind is more established, that a short break helps a child’s performance and attendance at school.
Not least, there’s a very real impact on aspiration. Access to even a short break has been shown to provide a significant improvement in an individual’s ‘self-efficacy’. It encourages engagement with community, education and employment. Quite simply, it can open people’s eyes to new horizons and possibilities – for themselves, for their children, for their future lives.
This isn’t just me talking from the charity’s perspective. Feedback from the families who’ve enjoyed a ScotSpirit Break this year truly echoes the positive, enabling impact of the breaks.
All the families are on low income, with many facing some of the toughest challenges life can bring such as adverse health, inadequate housing, domestic violence or bereavement. Many work hard and yet circumstances mean they simply can’t afford to get away for even a day. That’s why these breaks are such a lifeline.
All families helped were referred by a professional working with them in a supporting role like a teacher, social worker or health visitor. And I’m delighted to say that over 80 Scottish charities or social welfare professionals were able to support the families they work with because of the 2017 ScotSpirit Breaks.
It’s fantastic that this initiative has been welcomed by so many businesses across the Scottish tourism industry. Helping a family experience something most people take for granted provides a wide range of important benefits for both the family and for the wider community. Not only is the ScotSpirit programme helping people experience a Scotland they may never have seen before but, at the same time, it is helping to create families that are more resilient, and a more inclusive society.
I’d like to thank VisitScotland and all the industry partners who have made this possible, and I am excited to look ahead at 2018, the national Year of Young People in Scotland, and imagine what our ongoing collaboration can achieve. If you’d like to support next year’s ScotSpirit Breaks in some way, don’t hesitate to get involved.
As one mum told us: “I never thought I would be able to do this. My son kept saying, ‘mum, I’m happy.’ These breaks put smiles on people’s faces. It changed my life, I’m a different person. Thank you.”