Perfect storm of issues has led to crisis
An alliance of leading children’s service providers has warned that Scotland faces a potential “lost generation” of children and young people with additional support needs (ASN), heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis.
In its Manifesto for the council elections, the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC), which campaigns to improve services for vulnerable children and young people, has called on incoming town hall administrations to put their needs at the very heart of future policy commitments.
Proposals include a plea for the increased funding of services for children and young people with ASN and care experience, better training of those working in this field, substantially increased investment in mental health services, for an elected councillor to be appointed as ‘mental health champion’ and for greater investment in programmes that support those with ASN and care experience into training and employment.
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’.
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 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.”
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 are care experienced, and work with the Scottish Government to increase resourcing of these.
Some 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 of pupils.
This represents an almost doubling increase in the number of those identified with ASN since 2012.