Children living in Scotland’s most deprived communities are “significantly more likely” to have poor mental health and be at higher risk of obesity, according to a new report.
MSPs issued the warning as they called for the Scottish Government to prioritise addressing poverty, improving mental health services and increasing levels of physical activity.
The recommendations were made in a report by the Scottish Parliament’s Health, Social Care and Sport Committee.
It was published after MSPs on the committee heard evidence that the coronavirus pandemic had “exacerbated” long-standing issues.
And they said that it had had a particularly severe impact on those living in deprived communities and those from disadvantaged groups.
Specific concerns were also raised around growing rates of mental health issues being reported amongst girls, particularly adolescent girls.
The committee also heard evidence on the potential positive impacts of the roll out of school counsellors.
Digital approaches now in place to support the mental wellbeing of children and young people was also considered by the committee.
Now, MSPs on the committee are calling for the creation of an overarching national strategy that includes measurable goals and multi-year funding.
It would have a “clear focus” on increasing physical activity and improving the physical health of young people in Scotland, the committee asserted.
Gillian Martin, who is convener of the committee, said that the cost of living crisis had made tackling poverty “an even more urgent priority”.
She said: “The aim is for Scotland to be the best place for children and young people to grow up, and we are clear that the government’s focus should be on making that a certainty.
“Our inquiry has gathered compelling evidence that poverty is a key driver of poor health and wellbeing outcomes for children and young people.
“Our Committee is united in its belief that the Scottish Government must further prioritise spending to tackle the adverse impact of poverty on the health and wellbeing of children and young people.
“The current cost of living crisis and UK wide benefits cuts have made this an even more urgent priority.”
Martin added that supporting and improving the health and wellbeing of children people must be “at the heart” of the Government’s Covid recovery strategy.
“We are also concerned by the cumulative impacts the pandemic and the cost of living crisis are having on the health and wellbeing of children and young people,” she said.
“We don’t yet know the full extent of those impacts, but it’s clear they must be monitored closely in the coming years so they can be responded to effectively.
“To achieve better outcomes, the committee believes that supporting and improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people needs to be at the heart of Scotland’s Covid recovery strategy.”
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