Young Scot Card being used to improve the health and wellbeing of young people facing inequalities

A blog by Young Scot, who 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.

Young people living in our most deprived communities often do significantly worse at school than those from our least deprived communities. This is known as the 'attainment gap'.

That’s why a year ago we launched the first phase of The Attainment Challenge: National Strategic Partnership, alongside three local authorities, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government’s Improvement Service.

This ground-breaking project built on the successful outcomes of Renfrewshire’s Youth Services Model – which used the Young Scot National Entitlement Card (YSNEC) 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 YSNEC could be used in other innovative ways to improve the health and wellbeing of young people facing inequalities and barriers to attainment.

The project:

During the first phase of the project, we worked with North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire and The Highland Council. This partnership used the YSNEC 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 YSNEC and services were promoted locally. The cards were also used by the young people to access extra entitlements. This approach helped to create a non-stigmatising way of supporting the 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 YSNEC, 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 YSNEC. 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 in North Ayrshire and Highland: Hot breakfasts, meal deals and drinks were offered to groups of young people in Renfrewshire and Highland – all accessed using their YSNEC 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 YSNEC. 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, stationary packs, HP laptops and iPads. There was a 6% increase in engagement with Rewards in North Ayrshire as a result.


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

These successful new models of delivery are now ready to be adapted within local authorities across Scotland. Indeed, we are thrilled to now also be working with North Lanarkshire, Falkirk and Dundee in phase two of the project.

Hear from young people and partners:

"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

“This is a brilliant offer. By getting access to KA the boys have the opportunity to achieve the Physical component of their DofE Gold Award. The offer is great because not all of the boys could afford this and I think it is wonderful that we can take away this cost. The boys are really developing their confidence and team working too and bonding as a unit which will be invaluable for their expedition section.” Duke of Edinburgh Co-ordinator and Youth Worker, North Ayrshire

“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

To find out more about the Scottish Attainment Challenge Partnership Project get in touch for a chat at or check out our case studies at

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