FMQs: Severely autistic Scottish child’s help slashed under cuts

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School support for a severely autistic child was slashed due to council funding cuts, Nicola Sturgeon has been told.

At First Minister’s Questions today, Scottish Greens leader Patrick Harvie raised the case of five-year-old Ryan, who is unable to use the toilet himself and whose parents are now having to go into his school twice a day to change him.

Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie. Picture: Jane Barlow/AFP/Getty Images

Scottish Green Party co-convener Patrick Harvie. Picture: Jane Barlow/AFP/Getty Images

Mr Harvie told MSPs the Falkirk school this week informed Ryan’s parents the specialist support he received would be immediately reduced to just a quarter of what he had been getting.

READ MORE: FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon denies intervening in Salmond inquiry

Writing to Mr Harvie, Ryan’s mother explained how they were happy he was able to go to a mainstream school. She said: “The first few weeks were challenging, but we were amazed with how his social interaction improved.

“He can now speak, he’s very intelligent and we are very proud to be his parents and want to thank the school for their support.

“On Monday my husband was pulled aside by his teacher who told us, as of that day, Ryan’s support has been slashed from two hours per day to two-and-a-half hours per week.

“Not only is this disappointing and stressful, we fear it will completely undo all the work that’s been done to give Ryan a routine.

“God forbid he has a bowel movement in between the allocated changing times.

“This slash of hours affects all kids with support needs, not just our son.”

Mr Harvie warned the First Minister that with 500 fewer additional support needs staff in Scotland’s schools since 2010, vulnerable children would suffer because of budget cuts.

He said: “Tales like Ryan’s are horrendous, but by no means unique. The reality is that school life is getting worse for thousands of our most vulnerable children because of the lack of specialist support they need due to council budget cuts.

“Councils are now being forced to consider even more savage cuts to additional support needs provision because of the multimillion-pound hole they have to plug in local budgets.”

In response, Ms Sturgeon said: “The situation does not strike me as an acceptable one - I know how important it is for children with special needs in mainstream education to have the appropriate support.

“I will ask the Deputy First Minister and education secretary to look at that case and any wider issues that it raises.”