The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), which campaigns to improve services for vulnerable children and young people, has welcomed Scottish Government proposals to review so-called co-ordinated support plans (CSPs).
The agreement to review was contained in a Scottish Government amendment to a Liberal Democrat debate on education today (15th May) in the Scottish Parliament (see Notes to Editors for amendment).
A CSP is a legal document, the only education plans that are legal documents, requiring services such as education, health and social work to work together to give a child or young person the support they need.
Designed for those with complex and high-level needs it provides 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.
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 more than 42 per cent fall in the number of pupils with CSPs, from 3,448 in 2012 (PDF) to 1,986 in 2018 (PDF) (publically funded primary, secondary and special schools). This is a reduction from 2.9 per cent to 1.0 per cent of those with ASN and currently amounts to 0.29 per cent of the total pupil population.
Official figures show the number of Scottish pupils with ASN rose from 118,034 in 2012 (PDF) to 199,065 in 2018 (PDF), an increase of 68.7 per cent. Pupils identified as having an ASN now make up more than 27 per cent of the total pupil population.
Local authorities are more reluctant to provide a CSP than previously, viewing them as cumbersome and time-consuming. They instead prefer to use other types of plans, such as Child Plans, which are not legally enforceable. Many local authorities are now not providing them unless the parents request them, reinforced by the fact that cuts in health, education and social work services mean that authorities are reluctant to provide such support.
This is in contrast with England where the number of those receiving an education, health and care plan (EHCP), the CSP equivalent, is ten times the rate in Scotland, at 2.9 per cent of the total pupil population and on the increase.
This may mean that these vulnerable children and young people who are entitled to a CSP are not receiving one from the local authority and thereby not getting the care and support they need and are entitled to.
Also of concern is the fact that CSPs are more than twice as likely to be opened for pupils with ASN living in the least deprived neighbourhoods compared with pupils living in the most deprived neighbourhoods, despite the fact that there is a greater prevalence of those with ASN in the most deprived communities. The percentage of ASN pupils with a CSP in the most deprived areas is 0.96 per cent, which rises to 2.10 per cent in the least deprived areas (PDF).
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 and this is going to make closing the educational attainment gap even harder.
A spokesperson for the SCSC commented:
“It is clear from the figures that despite a Scottish Government assurance that there would be no reduction in the proportion of pupils with CSPs this is set to virtually disappear. CSPs are an essential means of ensuring the children’s rights are realised but official statistics suggest that the number and proportion of children identified as having ASN has rapidly increased, but CSPs appear to be in terminal decline.
“In England, by way of contrast, the use of education, health and care plans (EHCPs, the CSP equivalent) has increased, and now just under 3 per cent of the school population has an EHCP.
“Failure to provide an adequate CSP could amount to a failure to make reasonable adjustments in respect of a child’s education, which amounts to discrimination on the grounds of disability.
“The review of CSPs by the Scottish Government is therefore to be welcomed, ensuring that those children and young people with complex needs are receiving the care and support that they are entitled to.”
Notes to Editor
Scottish Parliament debate
|Motion S5M-17280.2: John Swinney, Perthshire North, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 14/05/2019|
As an amendment to motion S5M-17280 in the name of Tavish Scott (Education), leave out from “, but believes” to end and insert “; welcomes the recent agreement reached by professional associations, local government and the Scottish Government to provide an increase in teacher pay; believes that improved pay is an important element in the attractiveness of the teaching profession, as part of a wider strategy to address recruitment and retention problems; further believes that teachers’ professionalism should be supported through improved career-long professional learning, clear professional ownership of their own curricular role and a shared leadership role within a collegiate approach to Scotland’s schools; recognises the challenge represented by the increasing need for additional support, and agrees that the Scottish Government will review the use of coordinated support plans to ensure that young people with the most significant additional needs are receiving the support that they require.”
Supported by: Maree Todd, Richard Lochhead
Current Status: Taken in the Chamber on 15/05/2019