AS THE Scottish Parliament’s education and culture committee comes to the end of its scrutiny of the Children and Young People (CYP) Bill, it is important to consider if this bill will bring about positive change for profoundly learning-disabled children and their families across Scotland.
It is clear that the Scottish Government can and should be doing more to better address the needs of the profoundly learning-disabled. Though the CYP bill is a worthy piece of legislation, it is important to recognise that the Scottish Government and local authorities already have the necessary tools at their disposal with which to ensure the wellbeing of this group.
For example, local authorities must undertake a Section 23 assessment, as mandated by the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, to establish the needs of children with disabilities. In many cases these assessments are simply not being undertaken adequately, if at all. Getting this process right is therefore crucial to the wellbeing of families and children.
However, rather than burden the system with still more weighty layers of bureaucracy and red tape, all that is needed is a commitment from ministers to rigorously enforce the procedures around Section 23 assessments.
No child should wait unnecessarily for help
The Scottish Government should ensure that Section 23 arrangements are closely followed by local authorities, with consequences for councils failing to follow the correct procedures within a defined timescale. If these timescales are not adhered to, councils would therefore be in breach of their statutory obligations and we would finally have the enforcement mechanism that has long eluded the children’s sector.
Such a commitment would finally see the Scottish Government act to put the needs of children and young people at the heart of service delivery and planning, and ensure no child has to wait unnecessarily for help.
The lesson here is that government can bring about positive change in the lives of these vulnerable children merely by utilising the tools already at its disposal.
It would be a tragedy to pass the CYP bill while still ignoring how a properly enforced Section 23 assessment can ensure the wellbeing of the profoundly learning-disabled.
• Ann Maxwell is founder of the Muir Maxwell Trust