Suzie Scott, Everyone’s Children Manager, GCVS

The Scottish Government has announced its Programme for Government over the next year. This blog covers issues of interest to third sector organisations that work with children, young people and families. The programme demonstrates a clear commitment, and a number of important measures, to make lives better for children, young people and families. The broad programme describes how the Scottish Government will uphold the rights of children and for the GIRFEC (Getting it Right for Every Child) approach to deliver real improvements. See the full Programme for Government here.

Child Poverty

The headline action is the new Scottish Child Payment of £10 per week, to tackle child poverty. The Scottish Government will begin payments to eligible families with children under the age of six by Christmas 2020, and to all eligible families with children up to 16 years of age by 2022. This aims to lift 30,000 children out of poverty. This is a very welcome step, which resulted from collective campaigning from the third sector lead by the Child Poverty Action Group and the Poverty Alliance.

In addition, Social Security Scotland will be rolling out a new Job Start Payment, the Young Carer Grant, Disability Assistance for Children and Young People and, this month, the Funeral Support Payment.

Care Experience

The Care Review has been working in partnership with the Scottish Government for over a year to identify the policy areas that could deliver positive change for the care experienced community in Scotland. We welcome the useful and practical proposals, including:

  • Care experienced parents being able to access early years learning provision for two year olds (becoming part of the eligible 2’s)
  • Removal of the age cap of 26 for the care experienced student bursary, which means that older care experienced people can go to college or university
  • Access to a Job Grant up until the age of 26 to help with the costs of starting work
  • Free access to dental health treatment up to the age of 26
  • Legislative change to support brothers and sisters in care either staying together or continuing to see one another
  • Access to discretionary housing benefit to help maintain tenancies
  • Developing a care leavers homelessness prevention pathway

Mental Health and Wellbeing

Mental health support has been a key area for children, young people and families and the government is showing commitment to implementing the Mental Health Taskforce recommendations. The Scottish Government has already announced many of these, including:

  • School counsellors
  • £17million investment in community wellbeing services, to which children and young people can self-refer.
  • A 24/7 crisis service, with links to the emergency services, to support children young people and families.
  • An extra £4 million investment in CAMHS
  • Establishment of a National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group

These changes are welcome but they are mainly about acute care and crisis provision. There is little for preventative and community services, despite the importance of early intervention and third sector services for the whole family.

The Scottish Government also plans to expand the National Trauma Training Programme over the next two years, providing the opportunity for more frontline staff to receive training.

Child Protection

Keeping children safe remains a key priority. There is no legislation planned in this area (apart from establishing a statutory redress scheme for anyone who has been a victim of historical child abuse whilst in care in Scotland. However, there are a raft of support to child protection practice including:

  • publishing revised National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland
  • publishing a national dataset to support the planning and delivery of child protection
  • developing Scottish standards for a child-centred approach to delivering justice, care and recovery for children who have experienced trauma (the Barnahus concept).

UNCRC

The consultation on incorporating United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scot’s Law has just closed. The Programme for Government mentions this, but there is no timetable for bringing forward legislation, other than saying it will be by the end of the parliament. However, the Programme includes:

  • introducing a national Children’s Hearings advocacy scheme, backed by £1.5 million, to further reinforce children’s rights
  • stepping up the Children’s Rights awareness-raising programme
  • promoting the use of Child Rights and Wellbeing Impact Assessments by public bodies and third sector organisations

Early Learning and Childcare

The Scottish Government is indicating the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare is still on track, but GCVS has concerns about the capacity to support expansion. In Glasgow, whenever the local authority recruits more ELC staff, many come from third sector and private nurseries. Although the payments made by local authorities to ‘partner’ nurseries have increased, there is still a large gap between the pay and conditions of staff in the local sector and the third sector. In addition, Glasgow subsidises its own nurseries so that the nursery fees are lower than in partnership nurseries. Quality affordable childcare is important to address child poverty but the ‘level playing field’ promised in the Blueprint for Expansion has not been delivered. 

Attainment gap

The Scottish Government has announced that the funding to schools to close the attainment will continue until 2022. We are not convinced that providing money to schools is the best way to close the poverty related attainment gap. We continue to argue that spending money on third sector family support and out of school activities would have more impact – but, in Glasgow, very little of the funding appears to be directed to these areas. It would useful have an evaluation of the impact so far.

We welcome the announcement of £15 million of funding for more services and staff for additional support for learning but we suspect that far more is needed.

LGBTI equality

The Scottish Government reaffirms its commitment to consult on proposed changes to legislation in the Gender Recognition Act. Self-identification for transgender people is a contentious area. We hope that a more measured and inclusive approach results in better policy and legislative outcomes.

Finally

The Programme promises that the updated Statutory Guidance on Children’s Services Planning will be out ‘later this year’. The new Children’s Service Plans 2020-23 are due by 31st March 2020 and the revision process is already underway. The guidance should be out now. We hope the guidance puts Children’s Rights to the front and centre and ensures that Health and Social Care Partnerships recognise their duty to consult children and young people about the plans that affect them.