Call for action as number of legal plans for vulnerable children slumps

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, has called for action following a sharp decline in the number of legally binding education support plans for those with complex or multiple additional support needs (ASN).

So-called co-ordinated support plans (CSPs), prepared by local authorities, are the only education plans that are legal documents.  These provide some guarantees of entitlement to additional resources and legal redress, placing statutory duties on local authorities to review and ensure the provisions contained within it are being met.

However, despite a Scottish Government promise that there would be no reduction in the proportion of pupils receiving them since their introduction in 2004, there has been a significant fall in the number of pupils with a CSP. There were 3,279 pupils with such a plan in 2013. In 2023, this had fallen to 1,318, amounting to a drop of 59.8 per cent.  This is a reduction from 2.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent of those pupils with ASN, amounting to 0.2 per cent of the pupil population.

This is in contrast with England where the number of those receiving an education, health and care plan (EHCP), the CSP equivalent, is 4.3 per cent of the pupil population. Amounting to more than 22 times the percentage of those receiving a CSP in Scotland, this figure is also on the increase.

A concern raised by the coalition is that local authorities are reluctant to issue CSPs because they are seen as cumbersome and time-consuming, as well as being resource-intensive and subject to enhanced scrutiny. Being legally enforceable, with legal action taken if the needs of the child or young person are not believed to have been met, is also another cause of this reluctance to issue.

This is all set against the backdrop of a lack of resources to support adequate CSP provision, with non-statutory alternatives often being offered in their place.

Also of concern is the fact that CSPs are more likely to be opened for pupils with ASN living in the least deprived neighbourhoods, compared with those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods. This is despite the fact that there is a greater prevalence of those with ASN in the most deprived communities.  

The coalition has called for an expansion in access to CSPs, with the Scottish Government, local authorities, health and other relevant agencies collaborating more effectively to ensure that those requiring such a legal plan receive one. This needs to be supported by the necessary resourcing and increased awareness and understanding of CSPs by families/carers and professionals. It has also called for a particular focus on care- experienced children and young people, and those from the most deprived neighbourhoods.

This sharp fall in the number of CSPs contrasts with a dramatic increase in the number of pupils with ASN, such as autism, dyslexia and mental health problems. In 2023, this reached a record high of 259,036.4 This represents 36.7 per cent of the pupil population, rising from 131,593 in 2013 (table 1.5), and is a near doubling (96.8 per cent) in numbers from that year.

If a lower number of those in more deprived communities are receiving a CSP in comparison with least deprived communities, they may not be getting the care and support they need, which has the potential to make closing the educational attainment gap even harder.

A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:

“We are calling for action following figures highlighting a decline in the use of CSPs, which are designed to support those with the most complex needs.  This is despite a Scottish Government assurance that they would not decline and against the backdrop of a dramatic increase in the numbers of those with ASN.

“By not providing this legally enforceable provision, many of these vulnerable individuals are being failed and not getting the support they are entitled to. This is of particular significance given the devastating impact of Covid-19 and cost-of-living crisis. The Scottish Government, local authorities and other agencies need to collaborate to ensure that those requiring a CSP receive it, with the necessary resourcing in place to support this.

“With those with ASN drawn disproportionately from poorer neighbourhoods, if we are to genuinely close the educational attainment gap, they must get the care and support they need, when they need it.”


Notes to Editors

About the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) is an alliance of leading providers of specialist care and education to vulnerable children and young people, as well as support to their families or carers.

It seeks to improve the lives of these children and young people, and its vision is to make Scotland the best place in the world for them to grow up in.

The SCSC aims to achieve this through campaigning to improve support for these vulnerable individuals. This seeks to ensure that a wide range of high-quality, well-resourced and easily accessible services is provided.  Tailored to individual needs this will help them to achieve their full potential.

Members of the SCSC are:

  • Falkland House School: An independent school based in Fife that specialises in the education and care of boys who require additional support for learning.
  • LOVE Care: An education and social care provider that uses innovative ways to engage vulnerable individuals in learning and raise their attainment. This includes supporting children and young people through intensive early years programmes, as well as in the classroom and outside the education system.
  • Spark of Genius: An organisation that offers residential care, education, autism services, post-16 employability programmes and adult services.
  • Young Foundations: An organisation the specialises in the care of children and young people who have a range of complex needs.

 Further information about the SCSC can be found at

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