Vulnerable children to suffer unless SNP cuts to council budgets prevented

Many of Scotland’s most vulnerable children are set to suffer unless the SNP’s proposed cuts to council budgets are prevented, according to Scottish Green MSPs.

Greens’ co-convenor Patrick Harvie MSP pressed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at FMQs to accept that cuts to core funding for councils in the Scottish budget risk worsening the crisis in education for children with additional support needs (ASN). He highlighted figures showing there are 15% fewer specialist ASN teachers compared to 2010, while the number of pupils with identified additional needs has more than doubled over the same period. 

Harvie told the story of Ryan, a five-year-old with autism, who is unable to use the toilet himself and whose parents are now having to attend school twice daily to change their son after being told this week that his specialist support was being immediately slashed from two hours per day to just two and a half hours per week.

Since the SNP lost its majority in 2016, the Greens have worked to protect local services from cuts, agreeing the biggest budget amendments since devolution, using fairer taxation to reverse over £300m in council cuts. Derek Mackay has admitted that there is an additional £500m in his budget this year as a result of the Government agreeing to Green tax proposals last year.

Patrick Harvie MSP 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.

“Figures revealed by Green MSPs lay bare the crisis for young people with additional needs, their parents and teachers – demand is soaring, specialist teacher and support staff numbers are falling, and just one in every hundred ASN pupils gets the tailored support they need to thrive in mainstream schools.

“And as if the current crisis wasn’t enough, councils are now being forced to consider even more savage cuts to additional support needs provision because of the multi-million pound hole they have to plug in local budgets. Derek Mackay has admitted that councils will have to make ‘efficiencies’ – but COSLA made clear this week that “councils have done all they can to make efficiencies… the core is simply crumbling”.

“The cold hard reality is that if Parliament passes the budget in its current form, cuts to jobs and front-line services for the most vulnerable people will be inevitable.

“Time’s running out for the Government if they want Green votes to pass their budget. Councils need new powers to make them less dependent on central government funding, but in the meantime they also need the funds that are necessary this year to protect vital support for pupils like Ryan.”