Active Kids programme ‘at breaking point’

Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, at Kirkcaldy's Active Kids project to meet Liz Easton, project manager (right)
Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, at Kirkcaldy's Active Kids project to meet Liz Easton, project manager (right)

A vital holiday programme for vulnerable children in Kirkcaldy has been brought to breaking point trying to cope with demand.

Kirkcaldy YMCA’s Active Kids programme is managing more referrals on the back of a 20 per cent rise last year – and now fears for its future funding.

The long-established project provides holiday activities for at-risk and vulnerable children across the area, and the impact of Universal Credit and poverty has seen another huge surge in demand for places.

Lesley Laird, MP for Kirkcaldy, hailed it “a proven success” on a visit last week

She said: “Many children who take part are so inspired by the care and attention they receive there, they come back as young adults to work as youth leaders and volunteers.

“That tells you everything.

“There’s no doubt that if the service shut, there would be a serious and negative impact on children.

“Many would go hungry and stagnate over the holidays, and it’s difficult to envisage how other services could absorb that responsibility in a more cost-effective way.”

Historically, Active Kids was funded by Fife Council and Children In Need, but the latter expires this year.

Liz Easton, YM’s manager, said: “We are now in a very difficult position.

“Funding cuts and increasing numbers being referred present a real challenge to the future of the project.”

“Nowhere else in town has a project on this scale – but we’re full to bursting.

“The most pressing threat is the increase in referrals, with last year seeing a hike of 20 per cent to bring us to a total of 552 children over the year.

“It means children and young people receive fewer days of support than before, and for many that’s not enough.”

The YM’s team of paid and volunteer workers create a positive, fun environment where children learn about trust, mutual respect, and try out a wide variety of activities.

Ms Laird added: “The bigger picture in Kirkcaldy over the last year is one of markedly increased poverty.

“Foodbank usage, rent arrears have gone through the roof and the link to Universal Credit is unquestionable.

“As levels of child poverty rise, demand on charitable support services – like the Active Kids programme – are brought to absolute breaking point.”