An alliance of leading providers of services to children and young people has called on the Scottish Government to urgently review how local authorities are supporting children and young people with complex and high level needs.
The call from the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition (SCSC) comes as the latest statistics highlight a decline in the number of children with additional support needs (ASN), such as autism, dyslexia and ADHD, receiving a co-called co-ordinated support plan (CSP).
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. 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.
While those with ASN come disproportionately from the most deprived neighbourhoods, they have a lower proportion receiving a CSP when compared with those from the least deprived neighbourhoods. This raises concerns that those from deprived communities who are entitled to a CSP are not receiving this legal support.
Despite an increasing number of those identified with ASN, rising from 118,034 in 2012 to 183,491 in 2017 (26.6 per cent of the pupil population) , an increase of 55.5 per cent, the number of those with a CSP has decreased from 3,448 to 2,182, a drop from 2.9 per cent to 1.2 per cent of those with ASN.
This is in contrast with England where the number of those receiving the equivalent of a CSP, a statutory support plan, is about six times higher than in Scotland and on the increase.
This is despite an increase in the number of pupil identified with complex and high-level needs. Between 2012 and 2017, for example, the number of pupils identified with ASD has increased by 73.1 per cent, with dyslexia by 47.3 per cent, with mental health problems by 165.6 per cent, those in care by 48.0 per cent and social, emotional and behavioural difficulties by 68.8 per cent.
The SCSC has called on the Scottish Government to undertake a review of how CSPs are being implemented by local authorities, raising concerns that the drop in the number of CSPs is due to the fact that authorities are more reluctant to provide a CSP than previously. This seems to be due to the fact that 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.
There has been a fall in average spend per pupil by local authorities on additional support for learning education from £4,276 in 2012/13 to £3,548 in 2016/17, amounting to £728 per pupil and representing a 21.9 per cent cut in real terms.
The SCSC has raised concerns that this may mean that these vulnerable children and young people who are entitled to a CSP are not receiving one from the local authority. Parents are therefore having to fight to acquire one, that is if they are aware of how to access this and that they even realise this is something they are entitled to.
This lack of awareness, especially from those in more deprived communities, is reinforced by 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. The percentage of ASN pupils with a CSP in the most deprived areas is 1.0 per cent, which rises to 2.1 per cent in the least deprived areas.
However, ASN is more than twice as likely to be identified in pupils living in the most deprived neighbourhoods.
There is a clear concern here that 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.
Figures also highlight major disparities between local authorities on those pupils receiving ASN, creating a real ‘postcode lottery of support’, with 0.1 per cent of those in Falkirk and East Ayrshire having a CSP, amounting to only pupils, compared with 3.9 per cent in East Renfrewshire and 5.3 per cent in Renfrewshire.
This is due to the fact that there is no standardisation of who is identified as having ASN and who gets a CSP – it very much depends on local practice and the extent of parent agitation.
A spokesperson for the SCSC commented: “It is clearly of some concern that we are experiencing a decline in the use of CSPs, which is to support those with the most complex needs. This is despite an increase in the numbers of those requiring such support.
“The disparity in those with a CSP between those in the least and most deprived areas is also worrying, as if we are to close the educational gap, it is key that we target the resourcing to achieve those on those in the most deprived communities.
“We are also concerned about the disparities that exist between local authorities on such support, which clearly raises concerns about how such a policy is being implemented and a lack of standardisation of who is identified as having ASN and who get a CSP.
“It is vital that the Scottish Government urgently undertake a review of how CSPs are being implemented by local authorities.”