NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
Kick the can, peever, skipping ropes and street football are no longer fashionable.
These were the kind of games children played when local families were dirt poor.
Many of them are still dirt poor. The West End of Dumbarton – Castlehill, Brucehill and Westcliff – is so deprived, that it comes close to the bottom of the deprivation index for the whole of Scotland.
Once again families are being propelled back in time to the days when jeely pieces kept the children fed between meals. If they were lucky enough to get one.
Children asked their mothers for the privilege of scraping the pot their dinner had just been made in.
These were the days when there were no hot breakfasts on the table and one meal a day was the norm if you were lucky.
Some folk didn’t have the price of a bus ticket – and some still don’t.
However, during the current Cost of Living crisis when food banks are struggling to cope and people don’t have “a shilling for the meter” West Dunbartonshire Council thinks it has the answer. The Labour-controlled council has launched “a fun packed programme of free and engaging activities after investing £100,000 in summer activities for the next four years. “
And here were most of us thinking the Council was skint to the extent that they were hiking up council tax and committing themselves to a programme of austerity – don’t mention grass cutting – which has only created more austerity.
Their £500,000-a year-to-finance communications department has sent out a press release which states: “The £400,000 investment is part of the Council’s commitment to supporting communities through the cost of living crisis with a new £1 million support package introduced as part of the Council’s budget.”
They are telling us that the Council’s “School Holidays Involve Nurture & Engage” (SHINE) is five week action packed programme that will keep children fit, entertained and having fun over the summer holidays.
Councillors, who make – I almost said ‘earn’ there – between £25,000 and £50,000 a year and have a reserve for entertaining, are attempting to divert us from the actuality with poorly constructed spin doctoring.
The way we were – children may longer be going barefoot, but many have holes in their trainers.
It used to be that people who could not afford food, clothes and holidays – who ever got holidays in those days? – that hard-pressed families went “on the parish”. Tackety boots and rough flannel trousers were the order of the day. No suitable shoes meant wearing wellies in summer.
Housing was often damp and infested with fleas and too many people were homeless. Too many are still homeless and living in uninhabitable conditions.
Trade unionists who held a protest meeting recently in the car park of the £16 million-to-renovate Burgh Hall believe that neither the public nor council employees are being treated fairly.
That councillors and officials are filling their boots while scrabbling around searching for the next tranche of people to make redundant.
Now, however, in partnership with 22 local organisations, “families can access a wide range of entertaining and engaging activities with many offering a free snack and lunch over July and August”.
The Council believes the events being planned will help support families to continue with education, training and employment and will ensure summer support for families who need it most.
Activities suitable for 5 to 16 year olds will be held in various locations across West Dunbartonshire and are focused on fun social experiences, learning and well-being activities, the environment and health.
Did no one suggest a five-a-side football match or a game of peever?
The Council say families are being encouraged to sign up for a wide range of activities including sports; games; arts & crafts activities; theatrical classes and cinema screenings; balloon modelling and face painting; dancing and electronic gaming events.
Councillors Clare Steel and John Miller – saving us all from Cost of Living Crisis.
Councillor Clare Steel, Convener of Educational Services, has taken on the role of West Dunbartonshire’s Lady Bountiful.
She said: “We are pleased to invest this money and to once again offer a wide range of activities that are free with most offering a snack and lunch.
“We know how difficult and expensive it can be to keep young people entertained over the summer holidays, so these events will be very popular with families.
“Our summer programme will ensure children and their families have fun activities they can do over the holidays and I’m sure these will prove to be really popular with young people, parents and carers.
“The summer holidays can be a challenging time for parents, and we recognise this year that money is tight [really?] and these sessions are an opportunity for all young people regardless of their family’s financial position to have fun, to learn and spend time with their friends.”
Councillor John Millar, Vice Convener of Educational Services, said: “These activities will be a real benefit to the summer calendar for parents and carers who are struggling with the cost of living and keeping children entertained during the holidays.
“I would like to thank our partners who are supporting us this year by providing such a varied programme of events. We are very grateful to them for their support and I’m sure families will have a great time over the summer holidays.”
To book a place on the SHINE holiday programme, please visit SHINE programme 2023 | West Dunbartonshire Council (west-dunbarton.gov.uk)
Spaces are limited for this programme, so families are encouraged to book early to avoid disappointment. Top picture is of barefoot children in Dennystown in the middle of last century.