Conducting research to provide a fair and accurate understanding of the current situation in Falkirk and Scotland is an important first step to developing a local strategy for our purpose and work here. Both a risk assessment tool and social mapping has been utilised to collect and analyse data. These findings will initially inform the priorities for our local project, however consistent monitoring and evaluation with participants and stakeholders and working alongside local partners should ensure the community can take ownership itself in producing outcomes that are useful and sustainable.

Image by Isaac Smith



We conducted a risk assessment to measure vulnerability to exploitation and trafficking in Falkirk, particularly the risk of children and youth for commercial sexual exploitation. Our risk assessment tool is comprised of several risk factors categorised as individual, environmental or social and includes quantitative data such as poverty statistics and qualitative/observational factors such as sexualisation of women and children.


Looking purely at the results of the point scoring system, based on outcomes found from desk-based research, government reports and local observation, we can see that Falkirk measures consistently with scores towards the top end of low vulnerability. This could suggest Falkirk has an acceptable level of safety and some indication of a culture of community support for children and vulnerable groups. Yet, since the scores measure very close at each level to classification as medium, this implies Falkirk realistically expresses a medium level of vulnerability.

It should be noted that taking into account the many limitations of non-exhaustive, amateur research and inaccuracies or misrepresentations associated with statistics, these results are not intended to be the sole informant of our programme but instead add to a wider picture of evidence, accompany social mapping research and critically, local opinion and experience.

Themes and key points that arose during the research process include:


  • Falkirk scored highly for youth substance abuse, sexualisation of women and children, homelessness, poverty, inequality within access to services and educational attainment, percentage of single-parent families and availability of commercial sex.

  • Falkirk appeared typical of Scotland in terms of adult substance abuse, neglect, homelessness, mental health problems and measured around median for income and poverty compared to other Scottish council areas.

  • However, the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment 2021 (a main source of current data used to crosscheck findings from other studies) supports findings that domestic abuse, inequality, drug-related deaths, suicides and prevalence of youth alcoholism featured substantially higher than the national average, indicative of a more at-risk population.

Key findings:

  • Widening inequalitySeen through limited access to services and support for minority ethnic groups and educational attainment between most and least deprived areas in Falkirk.

  • 5 out of 9 ward areas have higher poverty rates than Scotland.

  • Poor mental health compared to Forth Valley and ScotlandIncreasing referrals to child and adult services and longer waiting times for CAMHS and psychological therapies. Suicide rates remain above average and rising. Poor mental health and digital exclusion have been shown to disproportionately affect carers, parents with children with a disability and older people.

  • Increasing numbers of drug-related deaths and drug-related hospital staysThe rate of deaths in 25-34 year olds is substantially higher than in Scotland overall and the rate of drug-related hospitalisations in Falkirk is has risen and exceeded both Forth Valley and Scotland. Worryingly, many of the cases refer to parents, meaning many children likely to be more vulnerable.

  • Rising unemploymentParticularly among young people and within the manufacturing sector.

  • Homeless housing applications show a downwards trend until increasing slightly 2019/20, with the largest group of applicants in their 20s and 30sRepeat homeless application are also rising with 22% of repeat homeless applications were due to domestic abuse. This conveys the large impact on life chances for survivors who approach an environment already difficult for young people and single applicants to find stable affordable housing.

  • Domestic abuse rates measure much higher in Falkirk than in Scotland as a whole: Studies suggest the pandemic has made it increasingly difficult to report incidents.

  • Areas identified for suffering from persistent poverty include: Bainsford and Langlees, Camelon, Denny, Grangemouth, Maddiston and Westquarter.

  • Child poverty had risen from 23% in 2013 to 24.5% in 2019, and work from the Community Planning Partnership shows this more often affects single mothers, migrants, ethnic minority backgrounds and those suffering from mental or physical health difficulties.


Social mapping was undertaken to gain an understanding of the social structures and institutions in the Falkirk area. This helps us to identify strengths and assets in the community, potential stakeholders and partner organisations – both statutory and non-statutory but also determine where gaps still exist within local services. At SJRC, we focus on asset-based development, which seeks to appreciate the existing projects and organisations already having a positive impact on the social and economic landscape and work on how we can support and build on these strengths. Collating and organising this information has and continues to be important for us as a new organisation in Falkirk, Scotland, to establish how we should move forward with a community programme and what we should be aiming to achieve.

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Key findings:

  • The number of households in Falkirk is growing, exceeding the national average growth rate by over 2%

  • Falkirk is less diverse than other areas of Scotland, with 95.8% of the local population identifying as White British.

  • 24.5% of children live in poverty in Falkirk, and although this quantity varies between sources it is useful to highlight the problem which spans across all wards in Falkirk. The most recent council report identifies Falkirk North as the highest priority area followed by Grangemouth, but our risk assessment identified several other areas in Falkirk which have been classified as experiencing persistent poverty.

There is a long tradition of charity, philanthropy and community work in Scotland, and smaller charities like village halls, social clubs and recreational organisations have a particularly important role in rural areas. Main trends in the Scottish sector include the growth of mental health and environmental charities, however social care continues to dominate the field - likely reflecting the increasing reliance of the government on the third sector to fill gaps in social service provision.

Falkirk Council has an important role in the community, through delivering services directly through council departments, designating funding for specific statutory bodies and assigning funding packages for partnerships with non-statutory bodies. Some of the key institutions in Falkirk are:


  • Falkirk Community Trust

  • CVS Falkirk & District

  • Community Centres and Hubs


  • Community Focus Scotland CIC


  • As well as a range of commissioned public service providers in healthcare, education and administration.

Some other institutions most relevant to SJRC, as an anti-trafficking and exploitation organisation include:


  • Forth Valley Rape Crisis Centre

  • Forth Valley Sexual Health

  • Forth Valley Welcome & FOSS

  • Neighbourhood Networks

  • Wellbeing Scotland

  • Scottish Women’s Aid