Generations Working Together motion (full text)

• Meeting of the Parliament 06 September 2017 [Draft]
 Portfolio Question Time
 Programme for Government 2017-18
 Business Motions
 Parliamentary Bureau Motion
 Decision Time
 Generations Working Together

The Presiding Officer (Ken Macintosh):
Our final item of business today is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-06963, in the name of Christine Grahame, on Generations Working Together. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,
That the Parliament notes the innovative collaboration between Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery in Gorebridge, where children visit older residents on a weekly basis; considers that this is to the mutual benefit of the children and the older residents; understands that, on these visits, the children paint with the residents, are told stories, plant sunflowers, are taught nursery rhymes and play hilarious games, which assist hand and eye co-ordination of both young and old; congratulates the charity, Generations Working Together, and Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery, on supporting this initiative, and notes the recommendations for similar projects elsewhere in Scotland.

17:03 Christine Grahame (Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale) (SNP):

Presiding Officer, perhaps I should declare an interest as a member of one of those generations. You can take your pick.
I thank members from across the parties for signing the motion, which has allowed it to be debated tonight. I welcome to the gallery Mel Scrimgeour, who is the manager at Newbyres Nursery, and Marie Arthur, who is the deputy manager; Claire Holmes, who is a carer, and Elisabeth—or Bessie—Kane and Diane Hamilton, who are residents, all from Newbyres Village; and George Kay, who is a trustee of Generations Working Together, and Kate Samuels, who is its communication intern. You are very welcome.
I also thank the Minister for Childcare and Early Years, who I know visited the project today. No doubt he is going to tell us how he got on with the bean bags, but I will leave that in limbo just now, as I know that it is part of his speech—or, it is now.

As members know, when we are out and about on constituency visits, we sometimes stumble on something that is new to us—even after 17 years as an MSP. So it was for me, on a visit to Newbyres Nursery in Gorebridge, when I first learned of the intergenerational project. That visit was quite timely, because a few weeks later on Channel 4 there was a four-part documentary on a nursery that is located inside a residential home. However, how many members of Parliament knew that there are similar programmes already on our doorstep in Scotland?
Before I go on, I will just make a plug for tonight’s timely event that is being hosted by Bruce Crawford, and which ties in nicely with this debate. The event is highlighting a report called “A Good Life in Later Years”, and it is taking place from 6 pm. I can see that some of the participants have made their way here.

Let me get back to Newbyres. Newbyres Nursery is little more than a stone’s throw from Newbyres Village care home and, on the day, children usually walk from the nursery for their weekly hour-long visit. When Newbyres Nursery opened at the end of May 2016, one of its main aims was to forge strong links with the community, having benefited from so much community support during the extensive renovation project. Although intergenerational work was, and very much still is, in its infancy, the manager, Mel Scrimgeour, having heard of centres in the USA that combine pre-school provision with care homes for the elderly and the incredible benefits that that brings to both the very young and the very old, was keen to do more than make the token visits to the local care home at harvest or Christmas time, with which we are more familiar. In her words, it was not to be “tokenistic”; there would be regular meetings.
Mel Scrimgeour contacted Gail Flynn, who is the activities co-ordinator at Newbyres Village, who was enthusiastic about the idea and welcomed them with open arms. Last, but not least, is Kate Samuels of Generations Working Together—but more of that later.

Before I go any further, I want to congratulate the parents and carers of the children as well as the nursery staff and—not least—the care home staff, because it is entirely the team effort and the commitment of all parties that makes the programme work.
Among the great assets of four-year-olds—they have many—are their boundless curiosity, energy and directness. On visiting Newbyres, some of the activities that I saw for myself included the “knock the cans down” game—there were not bean bags when I was there—which was made by the Newbyres Village staff. There was also throwing of balls through holes in a makeshift cardboard wall, fishing for toy ducks in a paddling pool—at which I was not successful—and lots of other activities.
The children are all up for it, but so are the residents who turn up. In their determination to hit the target, some are almost falling out of their wheelchairs with the effort. The children run about, retrieve the balls, take them to the residents and, of course, have a go themselves. Apart from improving the hand-eye co-ordination and motor skills of the nursery children and the residents, there is the invigorating element of competitiveness. However, it is the fun and laughter of the residents and children that I remember most. Gales of laughter and many smiles interspersed the comments from the children and the residents. It is all very noisy and great fun.

Then, after all that noise and fun, the children settle down to their juice and the residents to their teas. Other events might be more sedate, involving reading stories and painting.
What is so good about the whole intergenerational project is that its success just comes naturally. It is an extension of what I know through time that I have spent with my 6-year-old granddaughter. When otherwise would I be taken out of myself into her world and her priorities, or made to do the exercise that I always try to avoid?
In the project, irrespective of whether the residents have grandchildren, the individual and special relationship between the elderly people—residents are in their 80s or 90s; one is a centenarian—and young children just falls into place as naturally as night follows day. The benefits to children and residents are there for all to see. The staff of the care home and the nursery are rewarded for their commitment to the project by the laughter and chatter that fill the room all by themselves.

Generations Working Together promotes other intergenerational projects because it is a charity that is dedicated to promoting intergenerational work, and it trains, supports and links projects. The charity is national and is an intergenerational excellence training centre. It has delivered training to communities, charities and individuals both in person and online. It also has 20 local networks across Scotland that enable people and organisations to get together and discuss ideas for projects. It provides information, delivers support and encourages involvement to benefit all Scotland’s generations by working, learning, volunteering and living together. It can help to address community challenges including ageism, loneliness and ill health.
I fully commend the project that I saw and I intend to return to it; I have to improve my motor skills, especially when trying to catch a duck. I will go no further with that, but will leave the rest to members’ imaginations.
I hope that, if they are not already doing it, other nurseries and care homes, together with parents and carers, give thought to replicating the experience in my constituency. I look forward to members’ speeches.

17:10 Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

I am one of the three people here who have served of the time that God has allocated to us three score years and 10; I am one of the three septuagenarians who are members of this Parliament. I am delighted to see that the minister who will respond to tonight’s debate was half my age three years ago. He is, of course, in statistical terms catching up, with each passing year.
The issue that Christine Grahame brings to Parliament today, which relates to Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery, is important not simply to people in Gorebridge but to people right across Scotland. As people get older, it is inevitable that many of their friends will no longer be with them, for a variety of reasons, and it becomes more difficult for them to make new friendships to replace those that no longer exist because of the death of the friends that they had in their youth. Connecting older people to younger people is a brilliant way of maintaining the social skills and the social interactions that might otherwise diminish in older people’s lives.

For my part, I think that talking to older people is an excellent bridge back into the history of our country and communities. I remember having a chat with my sister-in-law’s father-in-law, Bob Munro, who was a wonderful fellow who stopped driving and got his first pair of glasses only when he was 96. He remembered the soldiers coming back from the Boer war in Victorian times. It was fascinating for me to talk to him about that experience as a comparatively young person—even younger than the minister—and it stimulated new thoughts. Whenever we bring the old and the young together, we have the opportunity to do that.

Kids of nursery age have questions that are of breathtaking naivety when they are viewed from the lofty heights of a 70-year-old like myself. “How did you live without television?” “How did you live without a telephone?” “What happened in the world before there were iPads?” Those are excellent questions to which people of a certain age have an interesting and well-developed answer.
Therefore, we are not only, as the motion says, looking at assisting the
“hand and eye co-ordination of both young and old”;
but at the opportunities for mental stimulation that are created by interaction between young and old. As our memories become less certain with age—that does not affect everyone, but it affects a substantial number of people—the parts of our memory that still work well are generally those that are associated with our youth and infancy. Therefore, having kids come and ask, “What was it like when you were my age?” is a terrific way of re-energising the brain cells of older people.

The motion notes
“the recommendations for similar projects elsewhere”.
I hope that we will see this sort of thing in the north-east of Scotland, which I represent, and elsewhere, because it is remarkable how little time and how few people connect us to distant things. My grandfather was three years old when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on 15 April 1865. That is the kind of link that makes history real for us and that stimulates thinking, physical activity and social skills. It is very much to be commended.

17:14 Elaine Smith (Central Scotland) (Lab):

I thank Christine Grahame for bringing the topic to the chamber for debate. I apologise because I must leave early. I asked to speak first because I have a branch executive committee meeting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which is starting right now, so please forgive me for having to rattle through my speech.
As we know, social isolation affects far too many people in our society, but as the population grows older, the number of people beyond pension age who experience it increases every year. Age Scotland’s “No one should have no one” campaign showed that 100,000 older people feel lonely most of or all the time, and that more than 200,000 older people go half a week or more with no visitors or even phone calls from anyone.

In times gone by, the older members of our society would have spent their final years with their families, having kept that connection with the community throughout their lives. The children in those families would, I suppose, keep everyone young. Sadly, that is not as possible as it once was, and many of our family members take the decision to move into care homes. Perhaps that is because their children—if they have any—live elsewhere—or simply cannot accommodate their parents’ particular needs. There are many reasons.
To show that older people have a lot to offer and should be valued, we must make them part of the conversation about the future with the younger generations. What better way to do that than to bring together the young and the old to impart wisdom and to deliver a bit of sunshine to each other’s lives. As we have heard from Christine Grahame and Stewart Stevenson, the benefit of bringing the old and the young together is as much about imparting knowledge, whether that be about history for the kids or someone teaching their granddad how to use the internet, as it is about giving someone company. So many things can be exchanged. Schemes such as the one that is run by Generations Working Together are of great value to our society. As it says on the organisation’s website, it is all about “working, learning, volunteering and living together.”

The initiative in Gorebridge that Christine Grahame highlighted is doing exactly that. I certainly hope that we see similar projects being rolled out across Scotland.
The benefits were shown by Channel 4’s documentary “Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds”. In that programme we saw the joy that a young child can bring to the life of someone who may spend time only with people their own age and care staff—an issue that Christine Grahame touched on.
The benefits were also identified by the Equal Opportunities Committee in its 2015 report “Age and Isolation”, in which Derek Young from Age Scotland is cited. He said:
“the need for contact is an innate human need in the same way that feeling hungry or thirsty or tired or in pain is.”—[Official Report, Equal Opportunities Committee, 26 March 2015; c 23.]
I agree. I welcome the strategy to tackle loneliness and isolation in Scotland in the programme for government. The minister may say more about that in his speech, so I apologise again for missing it. I hope that we will see that strategy being delivered soon.

I was equally glad to see my friend and party colleague, Rhoda Grant, lead a debate in March on the physical and psychological impacts of loneliness. In the debate, she recognised the great work of the Jo Cox commission on loneliness, which is trying to start a national conversation about the scale and the impact of loneliness in the United Kingdom. Jo Cox always pushed cross-party working in the UK Parliament, and the commission is following that example. If we can bring some of that spirit into the discussions on older people in our society and into the Parliament generally, that can only be a good thing.
Once again, I congratulate Christine Grahame on highlighting the mutual benefit of older people and youngsters learning from each other and, more important perhaps, enjoying each other’s company with Generations Working Together.

17:17 Ruth Maguire (Cunninghame South) (SNP):

I thank my colleague Christine Grahame for bringing this important topic to the chamber and for raising awareness of the excellent work that the charity Generations Working Together does.
It is always a pleasure to hear about great examples of intergenerational collaboration that take place across Scotland. I am delighted to have the opportunity to highlight the inspiring work of Anam Cara, a dementia respite centre in North Ayrshire. Those at the centre strongly recognise the positive impact that intergenerational activities have on the wellbeing of their guests and they have forged strong links with the local schools.
Pupils from St Bridget’s primary school and nursery class attend on alternate Thursdays. The pupils are affectionately referred to as Anam Cara’s wee pals and are popular with the guests. Many of the guests even book respite dates to coincide with when the wee ones come in. Guests at the centre teach the children songs such as “Ye Canny Shove Yer Grannie Aff a Bus”, as well as games that they enjoyed when they were younger. Their wee pals teach them all their favourite songs and games in turn, resulting in great fun and enjoyment for everyone.
The two generations carry out joint craftwork and attend joint events, such as teddy bears picnics and Burns poetry competitions. I am told that the children always ask their teachers when they can go and play with their friends at Anam Cara. I am also told that after visiting, they go around each of the guests and give them a kiss and a hug. For their part, the guests at the centre consistently say that their time with the children brightens the day and leaves them with a deep sense of happiness. Those simple remarks speak volumes about the mutual value and happiness of intergenerational friendship and collaboration.
In addition to its wee pals, Anam Cara welcomes sixth-year volunteers who are completing their youth philanthropy initiative, Duke of Edinburgh candidates and modern apprentices. Those older children are given the opportunity to undertake dementia training and dementia simulation suit training, which allows them to develop insight into living with dementia and empathy for those who do so. Two previous sixth-year volunteers used that knowledge in their university applications and are now studying medicine.
Anam Cara’s rich and diverse intergenerational projects underline the mutual benefits to the children and the guests of working together and the extent to which it enhances their health and wellbeing.
I would like to end with some more good news. Before this debate, Anam Cara did not have any connection with Generations Working Together, the charity that is referred to in Christine Grahame’s motion but, following my discussion with Anam Cara in advance of the debate, it has signed up to join the Generations Working Together network and it plans to send its staff on some of the charity’s training courses. It also plans to seek the charity’s help with a current project to design a dementia training course that is suitable for the early years. That is a clear demonstration of the charity’s role as a focal point of intergenerational working across Scotland, and as a provider of information, support and encouragement.
I wish Anam Cara and Generations Working Together every success for the future.

17:21 Michelle Ballantyne (South Scotland) (Con):

I thank Christine Grahame for securing this important debate.
I, too, commend the valuable partnership between Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery and, in particular, the work of Mel Scrimgeour. Although it is still in its infancy, the project is going from strength to strength and all those involved should be immensely proud of their achievements so far.
I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting the project, but I whole-heartedly welcome its focus on inclusive, intergenerational practice and the emphasis that it places on developing the positive resources that young and old have to offer one another and those around them.
The relationship between a child and a grandparent can be very special, but we know that intergenerational bonds need not be traditional or biological. There are striking similarities between the young and the old, who are at either end of life’s journey. They can live in the moment and focus on the joy of being, instead of clock watching or stressing to fit as much into time as possible.
The Newbyres project is about much more than simply having fun and meeting new friends; it is much more than a means of energising young and old for a few hours a week. I believe that the bonds that are forged are deeper, purer and more precious, and that they can deliver lifelong benefits. Research shows that intergenerational contact can help children to develop life skills and build their self-esteem and confidence, and we know how crucial it is to a child’s wellbeing to develop resilience through positive caring role models and a strong sense of community.
For those who live in Newbyres Village, interaction with the children could mean the re-emergence of a wonderful memory of their own or their children’s childhood, it might give them a renewed sense of purpose and an opportunity to pass on skills and experience, or it could represent a moment of unadulterated joy as they face up to the challenges at the end of life.
Before I finish, I would also like to pay tribute to the work of Generations Working Together, in particular its efforts to tackle the deep-set issues of loneliness, vulnerability and discrimination that older people face. The charity’s intergenerational work across Scotland, particularly in East Lothian and Midlothian, is invaluable in breaking down barriers and improving opportunities for young and old from all backgrounds.
I look forward to hearing more about the connections that are being built between Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery, and I wish everyone involved all the very best for the future.

17:23 Gail Ross (Caithness, Sutherland and Ross) (SNP):

I, too, welcome our guests in the gallery and thank Christine Grahame for securing the debate.
Intergenerational working is becoming more and more recognised as a vital way of improving the physical, social and mental wellbeing of elderly and young people. During the last week of recess, I visited my local voluntary group in Wick to see Kirsteen Campbell, who works for the befriending service. She also does voluntary work with Generations Working Together. It was evident to me, even after speaking to her for just a few minutes, that her passion for such work drives her on to make a success of it. Judging by the level of interest in Wick, she is succeeding.
Last year, Kirsteen had seven fifth and sixth-year girls involved in the scheme, some of whom were working towards their saltire award and some their Duke of Edinburgh gold award. They visited those in the hospital who, for various reasons, never had any visitors—in some cases, the families lived some distance away—and who were vulnerable and very lonely. That sort of activity fits in well with NHS Highland’s current focus on loneliness, but the girls also gained immensely from this process. They gained confidence and conversation and communication skills; they heard stories that they would never normally have heard; and they made friends. This year, there are 20 fifth and sixth-year pupils taking part in the scheme, and they will visit local care homes as well as the hospital. Such an increase just proves the scheme’s success.
Also during recess, I had a brilliant visit to the Brora village hub in Sutherland. My visit to the centre, which caters for elderly people and younger adults with learning difficulties, was fantastic. I joined in with the craft group; I visited the men’s shed and the kitchen; and I was even presented with a lovely drawing of a duck for my office—I see that there is a wee bit of a duck theme going on today. Some fantastic intergenerational work is being carried out at the hub under the leadership of the manager, Lindsey Tennent, and by Kath and Esther from Engaging with Activity, which is a community interest company. The hub is an excellent example of how to run a centre of this kind, and it should be used as a template for others in other parts of the constituency. The atmosphere was fun and friendly, and the staff and volunteers clearly love their work.

Other examples in my area include the two primary schools in Wick, which also undertake intergenerational work. Next month, pupils at Noss primary school are doing a project on grandparents, leading up to grandparent day on 1 October. The younger children have been tasked with finding a photograph of their grandparents at school, and the older children will be interviewing their grandparents about their school experiences. At the other school, primary 6 in Newton Park primary have been visiting elderly patients at the Town and County hospital, and those visits have proved invaluable both for patients and for pupils.
As we know, people are living longer. Indeed, it is proving to be one of our most significant social challenges. However, it should also be viewed as an opportunity, because people of all ages are assets to their communities and to society. It is now becoming apparent that intergenerational work can bridge the gap that often appears between age groups. It can lead to people leading longer, healthier lives, help them maintain their independence for longer and allow them to keep their brains and senses stimulated.
Generations Working Together says that intergenerational work brings
“people together in purposeful, mutually beneficial”
activity, promotes
“greater understanding and respect between generations and contributes to building more cohesive communities.”
As a Parliament and as a society, we have a duty to support and develop those ambitions.

17:28 John Scott (Ayr) (Con):

I congratulate Christine Grahame on securing the debate and on her speech, in which she highlighted examples of the work of Generations Working Together in her constituency. I also welcome our guests from Gorebridge.
The strong links that have been created in just over a year between Newbyres Nursery and the Newbyres Village community are a measure of the project’s success so far and a demonstration of the potential for further community intergenerational working. One could argue that where communities worked well in the past—particularly close-knit rural communities such as Newbyres, or Barrhill, where I was born and grew up—interaction between generations took place almost unnoticed. However, the concept of intergenerational working and Generations Working Together identifies, formalises and builds on what worked to a greater or lesser extent in the past. Generations Working Together has created a transferable model for others to follow and consciously adopt, and I very much welcome the way in which Christine Grahame has drawn to our attention this best practice on community building.
The benefits for all at Gorebridge and elsewhere are plain to see. As Christine Grahame’s motion notes, children and young people are benefiting from the stimulation of adapting to a different environment and learning and interacting in it.

A personal view is that, with children and young people spending so much time in front of screens, that different activity is even more important and beneficial to them than it would have been only 20, 30 or 40 years ago. What would have been regarded as normal intergenerational physical activity in my childhood is being diminished and lost in our new world of depending on social media from an early age for apparent social interaction. Stewart Stevenson alluded to that.
We are also becoming—perhaps with good reason—a more anxious society than we were. The reassurance of the physical contact and presence of older generations is genetically programmed into our minds to be of benefit to children and young people.
For the elderly, the benefit of having children and young people around them is that it is stimulating as well as enjoyable. It reduces loneliness and isolation, which is a growing problem not just in our rural communities such as Newbyres but throughout Scotland.

Mental health issues are a well-known and growing problem in all generations. From my changing constituency workload, I am very aware of that development. One of the contributing factors to that emerging issue is, without doubt, too little caring human interaction. Again, that is being driven in part by a dependency on social media.
In my constituency, Generations Working Together has highlighted the Troon coastal rowing project, which supports intercommunity boat-building and rowing competitions. Boat-building participants have met every Monday to Friday for five months and worked together to build a 22-foot wooden St Ayles skiff. Such a project is now being undertaken by the Duke of Edinburgh award team in South Ayrshire.

It is self-evident that the benefits for pupils are learning new skills, working with others outside the school environment and developing self-esteem and team-working skills. The benefits for the adults in my constituency are many and are driven by satisfaction from passing on knowledge to the next generation. In turn, that engenders a sense of connecting with young people in our community, with buddy relationships being developed. That develops the concept of intergenerational work and intergenerational knowledge transfer.
I again congratulate Christine Grahame on sharing and highlighting the concept of generations working together. There is much more to be done in that area for the benefit of young and old alike.

17:32 Sandra White (Glasgow Kelvin) (SNP):

I, too, congratulate Christine Grahame on the motion. The issue is close to everyone’s heart.
I welcome the people who are in the public gallery. I note that Bill and Rose from the Scottish Seniors Alliance are there. They have had a very busy day. We had a meeting of the cross-party group on older people, age and ageing today, and I will mention some issues that were raised in it. Katy from Generations Working Together was there, too. I hope that we answered the questions that were put forward in the meeting.
Generations Working Together is based in Wilson Street in the merchant city in my constituency, so it is just a “toddle”—I put that word in inverted commas—along for me to visit it. I promise that I will do that.

We have heard fabulous stories about what is happening in various constituencies throughout Scotland. In my constituency, many primary school children visit care homes. There are also the Duke of Edinburgh awards, which have been mentioned. The Prince’s Trust, the girl guides, the scouts, the Boys Brigade and others all help out, too.
The Prince’s Trust work sticks in my mind. A group of young people landscaped a whole garden in a care home. The people who lived in that care home picked the flowers, bushes and trees, and they helped to plant. That involved working together, and the garden looked absolutely fantastic.
Christine Grahame and other members have mentioned one thing that comes out for me. This is not just about what one generation gets out of such work; it is about what both generations get out of it. As John Scott said, they learn from each other.

In school, we used to have domestic science, as it was then called—others might remember that, too. I speak to my daughter and try to pass on my great cooking skills to her, but I cannot say whether she has done better than me and gained some of the cooking skills.
Such issues are important to me. The younger generation learns from the older generation and, through learning the older generation’s skills, they gain more respect for that generation, which John Scott raised in the final couple of minutes of his speech. In some parts of our society, we desperately need more respect for people, and intergenerational work pushes respect way out there, which helps everyone, young and old.
I cannot finish without giving Generations Working Together a plug for the work that it does. If anyone wants to contact that organisation, they should go to any of the groups that work in their area and help them by volunteering and so on.

I also have to plug Cycling Without Age, which held a successful event here last night. Today, Fraser Johnston and others also came to the cross-party group on older people, age and ageing. They did not give a demonstration, but they showed a video of how helpful their work is, and I am so pleased that the Scottish Government has said that it will look into and back their work. Members can imagine what it is like for people who are in a care home and have not been able to get out and about for a couple of weeks or a number of months, and who then have the joy of getting back out into the community to see the changes where they used to live. Before, people used to walk about or get the bus but, with Cycling Without Age, they are on a bike. That is absolutely fantastic, so that is a wee plug for Fraser and Cycling Without Age.

17:36 The Minister for Childcare and Early Years (Mark McDonald):

I congratulate Christine Grahame on securing the debate for the chamber and I join members in welcoming our guests to the public gallery. I thank them for their hospitality earlier today, of which more later.
I am pleased that Christine Grahame commended the intergenerational project between Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery in this evening’s debate. The Scottish Government is delighted to support and encourage intergenerational projects around the country. Intergenerational practice aims to promote a more positive attitude to ageing among people of all ages, countering negative attitudes about and between younger and older generations, ensuring balanced workplaces where employers see the value of diversity in age, and inspiring a care workforce for the future.

There have been a number of speeches in the debate. I thank Stewart Stevenson for continually reminding me of my comparative youth but, on that basis, it is probably a good thing that Ross Greer and Kate Forbes were not in the chamber this evening. Stewart Stevenson spent some time talking about the constant questioning he gets on what it was like in his day. Even in my comparative youth, that has occurred to me as well, as when I took a photo of my nieces and nephews to use up the spool on a disposal camera and had to explain to them the concept of waiting for photos to be developed before they could see the photos that had just been taken.

As Christine Grahame pointed out, I visited Newbyres this morning to see that inspiring intergenerational project first hand. Modesty precludes me from talking about how magnificent my performance in the beanbag throwing was, but it was fantastic to take part in the potted sports and to engage with the children, elderly residents and staff, who are filled with enthusiasm for the project and the potential for the future. Bessie, who is in the gallery, spoke to me earlier and she said that, when residents are waiting for the children to arrive, they often feel anxious but their world is brightened as the children enter the facility and it is filled with joy and laughter. That was certainly the atmosphere that welcomed me when I arrived at the project today, and I left knowing that support for intergenerational projects is the right thing to do for children, the elderly and the wider community.
I acknowledge that Scotland has a lot to learn from countries such as America, Japan and China that have been running intergenerational projects for years and from London, which will open its doors to its first full-time intergenerational nursery later this month. However, there are also some great examples of intergenerational work with children in Scotland, particularly in early learning, childcare and primary school settings, and we are keen to promote and showcase best practice. It was good to hear examples from members, including Gail Ross and Ruth Maguire, who gave examples from their constituencies.
People of all ages and in all communities across Scotland can experience social isolation and loneliness—a point that Elaine Smith noted in her contribution. That is something that the Government takes seriously. The Government is supporting Generations Working Together, a charity that provides information, delivers support and encourages involvement to benefit all Scotland’s generations by working, learning, volunteering and living together. Through our equality budget this financial year, we are funding £70,000 for the organisation to deliver its opening doors project, which seeks to build strong and mutually beneficial working partnerships with local and national organisations and groups that work with people, including the elderly, who might be suffering discrimination, isolation and loneliness. It creates more opportunities in communities for people to connect and build relationships between the generations, which was mentioned by both Michelle Ballantyne and Sandra White.

Through our year of young people in 2018, the Government is considering how intergenerational activity can form part of the equality and discrimination theme. In addition to working with Generations Working Together, we will also work in partnership with other organisations representing the elderly, to encourage collaboration and engagement with youth organisations throughout the year.
In June, we produced Scotland’s third three-year national dementia strategy, which continues our focus on supporting and promoting a rights-based and inclusive approach to improving services and support for people with dementia. That approach is embedded in our continuing national support for implementation of the promoting excellence dementia skills framework in the education, training and development of the health, social services and housing workforce.
Promoting excellence is there to help local services implement the standards of care for dementia, including standards on enabling people with dementia across all care settings to remain included in their local community, including through intergenerational activity. Some examples include Alzheimer Scotland’s national dementia friends Scotland initiative, and partnership work with Young Scot to develop awareness-raising initiatives for use in schools, in addition to a range of activity with local schools undertaken by Alzheimer Scotland’s network of dementia advisers.
In Prestwick, as part of dementia community work, there has been partnership work with Alzheimer Scotland to run dementia friends sessions with local schoolchildren. Also, as a specific example of cross-generation work, a Prestwick-themed board game including a historical focus is being developed by local schoolchildren, a history group and some local care home residents. It was heartening to hear Ruth Maguire speaking about the Anam Cara respite centre in her constituency and the Anam Cara’s wee pals, who sound like a cracking bunch of kids, bringing happiness to residents.

John Scott mentioned the issues around social media and reliance on devices, and also the anxious nature of society. I commend to him and to other members the away and play initiative, which was launched during the summer by Inspiring Scotland. I attended the launch event in Dundee. Away and play is a campaign that is designed to encourage children and young people to make more of the opportunities for outdoor play and learning and to grasp the risks associated with outdoor play rather than shying away from them. If members want to get behind that campaign, I would be more than happy if they did so.
We know that high-quality early learning and childcare play a key role in improving outcomes for children. That is why we are committed to doubling the amount of funded hours by the end of this session of Parliament, and we are placing quality at the heart of our approach. We are developing a quality action plan, which we will publish next month, and over the summer we have been working with stakeholders who know what drives quality and what more we need to do to strengthen that initiative.
The action plan will contain a series of actions to ensure that early learning and childcare deliver a high-quality experience for our children. One of those actions will be to promote learning from ELC centres of innovation such as the one that I visited this morning. We will make sure that centres that are carrying out innovative and exciting work that has a positive impact on children are supported to celebrate and share their ideas with other settings.

Christine Grahame:
Will the member take an intervention?

Mark McDonald:

I was just about to mention Christine Grahame. If I have time, I will take her intervention.

Christine Grahame:

Forgive me—the minister was rattling along perfectly all right. He mentioned what happens at centres such as Newbyres Village and Newbyres Nursery. Can I take it that he is going to see specifically whether that can be replicated throughout Scotland, because it was the physical interaction, as well as the conversations, between the children and the residents that was so important? People who had perhaps not moved a great deal during the day—and I know what that feels like—were becoming more mobile because of it.

Mark McDonald:

Yes, it is fair to say that, after what I saw today, I am keen to encourage the development of the approach. As we heard in the debate, this excellent and innovative approach is being taken in other locations, and we need to try to join things up a little better. Great work is happening, but sometimes we do not hear about it and spread the message as widely as we could.
I was about to mention Christine Grahame when she pre-empted me. She talked about the Channel 4 documentary, which I thought was very interesting. While I was speaking to Mel Scrimgeour at today’s event, it was brought to my attention that the programme had focused almost exclusively on the outcomes for the older people and had not focused on the benefits of the approach for the children. We acknowledge and want to ensure that there are benefits on both sides, and we want to take the approach forward.

I congratulate Christine Grahame on bringing the debate to the Parliament. I commend the project in her constituency and the other projects that members have mentioned, and I encourage their continuation. I reiterate my commitment to look carefully at such approaches as we develop our plans in relation to early learning and childcare, and to consider what lessons we can learn and apply as we roll out our expansion of funded early learning and childcare.

The Presiding Officer:
I thank the minister and all members for their contributions to the debate.

11th October 2017