At Young Scot, we are using the smart card capabilities of the Young Scot National Entitlement Card to improve health and wellbeing which can help to close the poverty-related attainment gap.

In 2017, Young Scot began work on The Attainment Challenge: National Strategic Partnership with Scottish Government, alongside three local authorities, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government’s Improvement Service.

This ground-breaking programme of work project builds on the successful outcomes of Renfrewshire’s Youth Services Model – which used the Young Scot National Entitlement Card (Young Scot NEC) to provide free travel entitlements for young jobseekers and care leavers.

Following on from the success of Renfrewshire’s pilot, we wanted to explore if the smart-enabled Young Scot NEC could be used in other innovative ways to improve the health and wellbeing of young people facing inequalities and barriers to attainment. The programme also supports wider strategic ambitions of reducing the cost of living for families at risk of poverty, therefore linking closely to local efforts to tackle child poverty under the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 and local child poverty action reports.

The programme:

During the first phase of the programme, we worked with North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and The Highland Councils. This partnership used the Young Scot NEC to provide local entitlements to young people who are facing significant barriers to their attainment.

The entitlements included local information, travel tickets, weekend and holiday food provision, access to leisure and extra-curricular activities, and help to reduce the cost of the school day. These extra entitlements were specifically selected as they are known to improve health and wellbeing – drivers to improving attainment, reducing inequality and challenging rural poverty.

The Young Scot NEC and universal services were promoted locally. The cards were also used by young people to access extra entitlements. This approach helped to create a non-stigmatising way of supporting young people.  


  • Smart travel in Renfrewshire: The local authority wanted to improve levels of engagement and participation in education, volunteering, and wider learning activities for their most disadvantaged young people. Using the Young Scot NEC, they offered free transport which resulted in savings of over £10,000 on 4,400 buses journeys. During the project, 111 young people received smart travel entitlements including 75 who received free school meals, 18 care experienced young people, eight young people living in residential care, eight refugees and three young carers.
  • Stigma-free school breakfasts in North Ayrshire and Highland: A £1.50 meal deal is offered to all young people in the local area which can be accessed using the Young Scot NEC. The cost was removed for young people on free school meals. During the project, 391 young people in S1-S6 on free school meals in North Ayrshire, and 395 young people in S1-S3 on free school meals Highland received free school breakfast. Over 6,200 breakfasts were provided in North Ayrshire and 48% of eligible young people took up the offer in Highland.
  • Tackling food insecurity: Hot breakfasts, meal deals and drinks were offered to groups of young people in Renfrewshire and Highland – all accessed using their Young Scot NEC card as proof of entitlement. Over £6,000 was saved by young people and their families after school, at weekends and during the holidays. In Wick, 20 young people facing rural poverty and 20 young people on free school meals in Paisley received out of school food entitlements.
  • Access to leisure memberships and sportswear:  In Highland and North Ayrshire, free leisure memberships and spending credit for sportswear were linked to the Young Scot NEC. Over £3,000 was saved on memberships and over £1,200 saved on sportswear. Over 140 young people received leisure entitlements, including 70 young people on free school meals and seven young carers.
  • Young Scot Rewards for extra-curricular activities; In North Ayrshire, Young Scot Rewards were linked to after school activities to acknowledge achievement and participation. Over 111 extra-curricular activities were completed and 16 Rewards items were accessed by the young people including study guides, stationery packs, HP laptops and iPads. There was a 6% increase in engagement with Rewards in North Ayrshire as a result.


Hear from young people:

"The spending credit was good – and I got stuff for playing basketball. The swimming was good because my friends had it too, so I got to spend time with them" Young person, Highland 

“I live in the middle of nowhere and it helps to get to places which would have cost about £6-15 now cost me nothing so it helps a lot”. Young person, Renfrewshire

 “The breakfast is great. It is good because instead of my parents having to spend money on breakfast, I can get it in school and they can spend money on other things.” Young person, North Ayrshire



Our partnership with Renfrewshire, North Ayrshire and Highland has allowed us to test and demonstrate an innovative approach to using the Young Scot NEC to improve health and wellbeing which impacts upon attainment.

Phase Two of the programme commenced in April 2019; we are working with North Lanarkshire, Falkirk and Dundee Councils. Each local authority has had the opportunity to learn from the successful models developed in Phase One of the programme and adapt these to local needs. Implementation of entitlements in Phase Two includes:

  • Falkirk Council supporting care experienced young people with travel and leisure entitlements, as well as bespoke Rewards.
  • North Lanarkshire Council providing a package of entitlements during school holiday periods to young people in Bellshill including free travel, leisure, food and bespoke Rewards.  
  • In Dundee, young people who are care experienced and young carers have access to travel and food entitlements.

Across all six local authority partnerships - there is much to learn and share with colleagues in communities throughout Scotland. You can find more information about the project, including detailed case studies, on the Young Scot Corporate Website. If you would like to get in touch about developing a similar programme of work in your area, please contact attainment@young.scot.


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