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Council cuts will create a lost generation of young people

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A coalition of charities and support groups has warned that budget cuts mean that the growing number of children with additional support needs are missing out on the help they need

Continued council cuts will result in a lost generation of vulnerable children with additional support needs (ASN), a coalition has warned.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, which is made up of third sector organisations and independent groups, has written to the Scottish Government and Scotland’s 32 councils calling on them to act with urgency to protect vital services and increase funding for children and young people with ASN.

It has called for greater partnership working between the public sector and independent and third sector service providers, in a bid to deliver the best possible outcomes for young people.

The coalition is urging councils to work closely with special schools, both those under their control and those that are independent, to increase provision and put in place the best plan of action for each individual pupil.

The cost to society of these cuts in the long term will far outweigh any potential savings made today

Government figures show that in 2015, 22.5% of state school pupils were recorded as having an ASN, such as dyslexia and autism, an increase of 16% since 2013.

However, the coalition warns that since 2011/12 overall council spending has fallen by 11% with teachers and the number of additional support services such as specialist teachers and support staff being cut.

The number of additional support for learning teachers dropped by 13% to 2,936 between 2010 and 2015.

The number of support staff in schools, such as ASN auxiliaries and behaviour support staff, dropped by over 9% in the same timeframe to 17,498.

As a result, many children with additional needs are being put into mainstream schooling with and impact on not only them but on other pupils and often under-resourced staff.

Stuart Jacob, director of Falkland House School, an SCSC member, said it is a false economy in looking to cut services to these children and young.

Continuing to do so will make it extremely challenging for the Scottish Government to close the educational attainment gap, he warned.

“Public sector cuts have already affected vulnerable children and families in Scotland, and against a background of welfare reform any further cuts will have a cumulative impact,” Jacob said.

“The cost to society of these cuts in the long term will far outweigh any potential savings made today, and will hinder any efforts to close the educational attainment gap.

“This is why as a coalition we have written to the Scottish Government and all Scotland’s councils, urging them to protect and increase investment in services, or face the prospect of a lost generation of vulnerable children and young people.

“By working closely in partnership with the independent and third sectors, Councils can deliver the most appropriate care and support to vulnerable children and young people, resulting in the best possible outcome for them.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said it is continuing to work with partners in local authorities to share best practice and build on attainment improvements already made, including pupils with additional support needs gaining better qualifications and going on to more positive destinations after leaving school.

The spokesperson added: "The Scottish Government is spending £88 million this year to make sure every school has access to the right number of teachers.

"The Scottish Attainment Challenge funding of £750m over five years will support schools in our most deprived communities to close the poverty-related attainment gap and in the vast majority of schools this funding supports improvement in the quality and capacity of teachers."