The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), an alliance of leading providers of specialist children's services, has launched its Manifesto for the council elections.
It is calling on incoming town hall administrations to put the needs of vulnerable children and young people at the very heart of policy and funding commitments. The coalition is also warning that Scotland faces a potential "lost generation" of children and young people with additional support needs (ASN), aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis.
Manifesto proposals include:
ASN provision in Scotland is under severe pressure due to increasing demand, against a backdrop of staff shortages and inadequate services. These have been exacerbated by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw many of those with ASN miss out on the care and support they needed, as well as increasing mental health problems and the cost of living crisis.
The SCSC has called on incoming council administrations to renew their focus on services for children and young people with ASN, such as those with dyslexia, autism, mental health problems and care experience, and work with the Scottish Government to increase resourcing of these.
It notes that 232,753 children and young people in Scotland’s publicly funded primary, secondary and special schools* are classed as having ASN, amounting to just under a third (33.0 per cent) of pupils. This represents an almost doubling (97.2 per cent) in the number of those identified with ASN since 2012, when the figure was 118,011 pupils.
However, the provision of services has not kept pace with this unprecedented demand. Since 2012, for example, the number of ASN teachers in council primary, secondary and special schools has fallen by 503, from 3,389 to 2,886 (full-time equivalents)**, equating to a cut of 14.8%.
The SCSC has called for increased resourcing and staffing to deliver a greater provision of ASN teachers and pupil support assistants, as well as educational psychologists, mental health professionals and other support services, supporting the closure of the educational attainment gap.
Key recommendations include:
A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:
“The Covid-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis are having a devastating impact on the lives of many of our children and young people, exacerbating already existing staff shortages and inadequate services. That is why it is essential that incoming council administrations put services that benefit the lives of our children and young people at the very heart of policy and funding commitments.
“We are conscious that councils are facing an incredibly challenging financial environment, but they play a critical role in supporting those children and young people with ASN, or we are in danger of facing a lost generation of vulnerable children and young people.
“If Scotland is to be one of the best places in the world for vulnerable children and young people to grow up in, we would urge our councils to work with closely the Scottish Government and other agencies, across the public, private and third sectors, to ensure that we can turn this vision into a reality.”
For further information please contact Alex Orr, Policy Adviser to the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, on 0131 603 8996 or [email protected].