Vulnerability Introduction

‘Vulnerability' is a term that is often used in society and public health to describe groups who are more likely to experience inequitable health outcomes. 

Evidence highlights that some population groups may be more likely to experience inequalities, poorer health outcomes, disadvantage, discrimination or be impacted by a range of multiple risk factors.  

Glasgow City HSCP Health Improvement Strategic Review draft suggests this should be encompassed within ‘Strengthen equalities and human rights.’ This should also acknowledge intersectionality (the interconnected nature of social categorisations such as race, class, and gender, creating overlapping and interdependent systems of disadvantage and discrimination thereby magnifying the consequences.  

Taking an equalities informed and equalities sensitive approach will be central to our work to ensure we are not increasing inequalities. 

Vulnerability and Health and Wellbeing Information

The health and wellbeing of children and young people has a direct impact on their outcomes and quality of life. The GIRFEC and SHANARRI models define 8 indicators of wellbeing for children and young people: safe, healthy, active, nurtured, achieving, respected, responsible and included.  


Image shows a soft rainbow coloured wheel. A white box in the middle states: Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) and each spoke of the wheel represents the SHANARRI model: safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible, included. The text for each of these reads as follows. Safe. Ensure the safety and security of young people by liaising with other relevant agencies and external stakeholders, and by implementing and using a number of pastoral recording and child protection frameworks. Healthy. Improve the self-esteem and happiness of young people and help them to plan and achieve a future in the real world by making safe and positive life choices along the way. Achieving. Improve the educational competence of young people using practical, realistic and relevant problem solving activities, increasing the potential for academic achievement. Young people should then be enabled to become successful learners, increasing the chances of entering into vocational training further or higher education. Nurtured. Address the social, emotional and behavioural difficulties of young people through setting high expectations and the provision of advice, support and appropriate mentors both within school, at home and in the community. Improve the health and fitness of young people through organised sport, outdoor education activities, health education and the provision and promotion of healthy meals and a healthy lifestyle. Respected. Enable young people to become confident individuals and gain the interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in the world of work and life in general. Increase the chances of young people becoming effective contributors and able to be involved in any positive decision making which affects them. Responsible. Ensure the improved attendance and engagement with learning of young people as a first priority; to take charge of their own lives, adopting a positive attitude change and becoming responsible citizens. Included. Reintegrate young people into mainstream education in line with the national policy of inclusion in education, wherever appropriate and enabling them to contribute positively to their local and wider communities.


Good health and wellbeing for children and young people helps build resilience and coping strategies even in adverse conditions or circumstances. There are a number of protective factors that help to build resilience and that will have a positive impact for children and young people. These include: 

Individual child: Learning and development, healthy living, general health, mental health, spirituality, emotional intelligence. 

Family: Family relations, family structure, parental healthy living, parental health. 

Learning environment: Teacher support, peer and friend relationships, educational environment, pressures and expectations. 

Community: Participation, social networks, social support, trust, safety. 

Structural: Wider economy and labour market, poverty and wealth, welfare and housing, social inclusion, racism, discrimination, physical environment, violence, culture.  


Glasgow City Health Improvement have identified a number of vulnerable groups. The list is not exhaustive however, is intended to give an insight to the reasons a child or young person may be considered vulnerable. Click here  to view.


Young Carers

Young carers are at a higher risk of experiencing poor health and wellbeing. The infographic below highlights some key data captured from Scotland's School Health and Wellbeing Census 2021/22 from pupils who have reported having a caring role at home. 

Glasgow City HSCP Infographic highlighting data on young carers from Scotland's School Health and Wellbeing Census 2021/22

Priorities for Vulnerability Work

It is important that all staff working with children and young people have an understanding of vulnerability and the many factors that can contribute to vulnerability and its impacts on health and wellbeing.

Learning more about Intersectionality - the interconnected nature of characteristics and overlapping systems of disadvantage and discrimination is important to supporting person-centred approaches that can impact on pupil health and wellbeing.

This brief video explains more.

A Transcript from Public Health Scotland also considers intersectionality. Click here to view.

Public Health Scotland have a range of information on reducing health inequalities in relation to vulnerable or marginalised groups. Click here to view.

Vulnerability and Education

Every child and young person in Scotland has the right to education, no matter who they are, regardless of race, gender or disability; if they’re in detention, or if they are a refugee. Socioeconomic inequality can be seen across the whole education system, from early years to higher education and beyond.

Priority 2 of Scotland’s Public Health Priorities states “A Scotland where we flourish in our early years addresses the health and wellbeing issues of children and young people, and recognising, respecting and promoting their rights is essential to achieving this outcome. This priority places particular emphasis on our early years, recognising the impact that early childhood poverty, disability and adverse childhood experiences can have on health outcomes throughout a person’s life”. 

Giving children the best start in life is a fundamental part of improving health and reducing health inequalities. Health inequalities are known to be intrinsically linked with social inequalities in household income, life circumstances, education and opportunity and can impact of educational attainment for children and young people. 

Adolescence can lead to difficulty in relationships as young people develop their identities and gain more independence. This can be harder to navigate for those who have experience trauma. Building trusting relationships by building on strengths and enhancing protective factors are the foundations of evidence based approaches to supporting vulnerable children and young people. Acknowledging individual circumstances is vital to support young people to achieve positive outcomes. The ‘One Good Adult’ concept (see video below) provides a foundation for building trusting relationships with children and young people. 

Overlapping issues for young people may require access to specialised or professional support via onward referrals and some families may require additional support to engage with services. Services and support should be coordinated to provide a holistic approach to address a wide range of needs in the most efficient manner. 

All children and young people have the right to get the support they need to reach their full potential. In Scotland, we have an inclusive educational system which focuses on overcoming barriers to learning and Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC). Some children and young people need additional support to benefit fully from their education. Additional support needs can arise, in the short or long term, from a variety of circumstances including: 

  • The learning environment 
  • Family circumstances 
  • Health or disability needs 
  • Social and emotional factors  



One Good Adult

Below is a short video developed by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde which explains the One Good Adult concept. 

Top 10 Tips for Resilience

Understanding individual’s strengths and capabilities is important for assessing needs and risks and reducing high-risk behaviour. Helping young people recognise their unique skills, interests and abilities can build resilience. Children and young people should be actively involved in planning and working towards their goals. 

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have developed Top 10 Tips for Resilience as a guide to help children, young people and the people supporting them to build resilience and develop their own coping strategies to cope with life’s challenges. Resilience is something that can be built and that can rise and fall at different stages of a person’s life. Someone who is resilient may also struggle to cope from time to time. However, developing and recognising your own coping strategies can be a protective factor for health and wellbeing. 

Image shows a purple poster with coloured blocks outlining NHS GGC Top 10 Tips for Resilience. The word Resilience is spelled out vertically with comments for each letter. R: Remain Positive. Look towards the future, think of what you want from life. E: Establish Realistic & Achievable Goals. This helps give you focus. S: Strategies. Plan your coping strategies. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I: Identify. Identify your strengths and be confident in yourself. L: Learn from Experience. Learn from experience and move on. I: Introduce. Introduce a positive way of thinking. Focus on the good things in your life. E: Enjoy. Make time to do the things you enjoy. N: Needs. Take care of yourself. Keep healthy and fit. C: Connect. Build healthy relationships with your family, friends and teachers. E: Embrace Change. Don’t dwell on the past. Put your energy into the present to shape your future.

Vulnerability Resources

Below includes some resources and useful websites for further information about vulnerability and supporting children, young people and families.

Asylum Seekers

We Journey Together is a resource pack for frontline staff, practitioners and volunteers across all sectors who may support asylum seekers and refugees as part of their roles. Click here    to access the website.


Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Communities 

Amina – The Muslim Women Resource Centre have a range of online toolkits and resources suitable for Secondary Schools on their website. Click here    to access it.

Intercultural Youth Scotland have resources, videos, blogs and reports on their website for Primary and Secondary Schools. Click here    to access it.

TURAS Equality and Diversity Zone provides a range of resources relating to Race, one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.  Information, resources and awareness raising on racial equality, diversity and inclusion and included in the page. Click here to access.


Care Experienced

Celcis has a range of free supporting resources, information, webinars and a knowledge bank on their website for Primary and Secondary Schools. Click here   to access it. There is a dedicated section for education resources including an education forum. 

The Promise Scotland has a range of supporting resources, reports, links and webinars on their website, including a document on keeping the Promise in Education. Click here    to access the website.

Who Cares? Scotland is a national voluntary organisation, working with care experienced young people and care leavers across Scotland. They support care experienced young people to have their voice heard. Click here    to access the website.



The Autism Toolbox is a resource to support the inclusion of children and young people with autism spectrum disorder in mainstream education services in Scotland. Click here    to access it.

TURAS Equality and Diversity Zone provides a range of resources relating to disability, one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Click here to access.

I am Me Scotland – Education Scotland Resources encourage children and young people to recognise and understand the range of disabilities, including hidden disabilities. Designed to be progressive, the lessons highlight the impact of bullying and the consequences of hate crime, whilst encouraging children to be inclusive and embracing of difference. Click here to access.

Disability Matters provide free resources and E learning for the UK workforce. Click here to access.


Early Years and Parenthood

SUDI (Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy)

There is information and resources available to support families on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website, click here to view.

Please note this website is currently under review and so there may be limited access to the information and resources included. 

Unintentional Injuries in children

Approximately one in nine child emergency hospital admissions in Scotland are due to an unintentional injury. Scottish Government is developing targeted safety measures for new families to try to reduce this. Click here to learn more.

In addition, the Scottish Government is supporting the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) to deliver its keeping kids safe in the home project which provides parents and carers with advice to help keep their children safe from accidental harm. Click here to find out more.


Gender Based Violence

Several gender based violence curricular resources are available from within the Relationships and Sexual Health section including, Keeping Mum, Crush and Equally Safe at School Secondary. Click here to view.

Young Scot have developed materials and resources for children and young people around healthy relationships and domestic abuse. Click here    to access them.



LGBTQI+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Intersex people, and all gender identities and sexual orientations)

The LGBT Schools Charter is a programme to ensure your school proactively includes LGBT people. Click here    to find out more.

LGBT Youth Scotland work with young people aged 13 to 25 and their goal is to make Scotland the best place to grow up for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex young people. Click here    to access their website for more information.

Time for Inclusive Education are an LGBT Inclusive Education charity. The charity take an educational approach to tackling homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying and prejudice in schools. Resources for secondary schools (including lesson plans) are available online to download. Click here    to access the website.

TURAS Equality and Diversity Zone provides a range of resources and learning relating to sexual orientation, one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Click here to access.

The Resilience Toolkit with top ten tips for resilience poster provides a visual aid and practical guidance for promoting the resilience of children and young people. The resource includes interactive sessions and is designed to be used by workers and volunteers working with young people aged 10 and over. Click here   to access it.


Trauma Informed Practice 

Addressing Childhood Adversity and developing a trauma informed approach: an infographic created by the Glasgow City Health Improvement Team provides a snapshot of adverse childhood experiences and trauma for young people in Scotland and how we can address them. Click here   to access it.  

Public Health Scotland provide an overview of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Health Inequalities and National on their website. Click here    to access it.

Public Health Scotland have created this short video below on Adverse Childhood Experiences. 

The National Trauma Training Programme resources are openly available to support all members of the Scottish workforce to meet the vision of: “A trauma informed and responsive nation and workforce, that is capable of recognising where people are affected by trauma and adversity, that is able to respond in ways that prevent further harm and support recovery, and can address inequalities and improve life chances.” Click here to access the programme.


Young Carers

Education Scotland Young Carers Resource can be used to help identify young carers and to highlight the impact of caring. Downloadable reference documents and links to key legislation, policy and guidance are also provided. Click here   to access the website.

Young Carers in Schools 

Glasgow City HSCP Carer Aware resources here  

Glasgow City HSCP Getting support – Refer a young carer here  

Carers Trust have developed a Young Carers in Schools initiative making it easy for schools to support young carers. Click here    for more information. They have also created a useful resource on identifying and supporting young carers in education. Click here    to access this. 

Information for Young Carers

Glasgow City HSCP Young Carers information here   


Young Parents

The Young Parents’ Support Base forms part of a wider strategic approach to supporting young parents in Glasgow which includes key partners such as Health, Social Work, Education, Development and Regeneration Services and Skills Development Scotland. The overall aim of the service is to support young parents to attain the best possible start in life for themselves and their children. In working towards this aim, young parents involved with the Base have opportunities to engage in a variety of individual and group work activities to support their development as a person and as a parent. The Base provides opportunities around a wide range of health and social needs for all young parents. For more information, click here   


Youth Homelessness

The Rock Trust has a range of publications and supporting resources on their website to help people learn more about youth homelessness including the Youth Homelessness Prevention Pathway. Click here   to access it.

Runaway Helpline has been supporting young people for many years and is run by the UK charity Missing People. The charity have produced a free resource to use with children and young people who may be at risk of running away or going missing. Click here   to access it.

Simon Community Scotland's vision is for everyone to have a safe place to live with access to the help they need.  Simon Community have services for adults and young people. Their website contains a range of resources and information to support learning on youth homelessness. Click here to access.


Youth Justice

Families Outside is the only national charity in Scotland working exclusively on behalf of families affected by imprisonment. A range of information for parents and young people as well as professionals is available on their website.  Click here  to access.

Mentors in Violence Prevention is Scotland's largest anti-violence schools programme. It aims to empower young people to safely speak out against all forms of violence from rape and sexual harassment to bullying and abusive behaviour. Click here  to find out more.

No Knives Better Lives has a range of resources available for working with young people. Click here  to access the website.

The Violence Reduction Unit work closely with colleagues and partners across health, education, social work, housing and other areas to identify, understand and address the underlying causes of violence. A range of resources, reports and learning are available on their website. Click here to access 

Vulnerability Strategy/Policy Links

The Glasgow City HSCP Health Improvement Team have pulled together a list of key strategy and policy links regarding children and young people. These documents should be used to inform planning and delivery within your classroom and school community.

These documents are a useful resource to build a knowledge base around current priorities and work around vulnerability in Glasgow and across Scotland. Please note that clicking on these documents will take you to external websites.


A Fairer NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Meeting requirements of Equality Legislation 2020-2024 

European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) 

Getting it right for looked after children and young people strategy Scottish Government (2015)

The Equality Act (2010) 

The Fairer Scotland Action Plan (2016) 

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

Asylum Seekers

New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland's Communities Strategy 2018-2022 

The Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-2030


Addressing Race Inequality in Scotland: The Way Forward – Scottish Gov (2017) 

The Race Equality Framework for Scotland 2016-2030  

The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000

Care Experienced Young People

Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (GCHSCP) Corporate Parenting Action Plan

Independent Care Review – The Promise (2020) 


Scottish Strategy for Autism: outcomes and priorities 2018-2021 

Supporting disabled children, young people and their families Scottish Government (June 2018)  

The Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2016   

The Keys to Life (2019) an implementation framework for the delivery of Scotland’s Learning Disability Strategy  


LGBTI Inclusive Education Report (2018) 

LGBT Youth Scotland Strategy 2018 – 2023

Young Carers

Carers Act Scotland (2016) 

Glasgow City HSCP Carer Strategy 2022-2025 

Scottish Government's Carer's Charter

Young Parents

Pregnancy and Parenthood in young people strategy (2016) 

Pregnancy and Parenthood in young people strategy Progress Report (2019)

Youth Homelessness

Youth Homelessness Prevention Pathway, For all Young People (2021) 

Youth Homelessness Prevention Pathway, Improving Care Leavers Housing Pathways (2019) 

Youth Justice

Preventing Offending and Getting It Right for Children and Young People, Youth Justice Strategy Scotland 2015-2020  

Scottish Violence Reduction Unit Strategic Plan 

What Works to Prevent Youth Violence, Key Findings (2021) 

What Works to Prevent Youth Violence, A Summary of the Evidence (2021)

Editorial Information

Last reviewed: 31/03/2023