Last Wednesday, the Scottish Greens secured a commitment from the government to review Coordinated Support Plans for children & young people with additional support needs. We’ve been calling for this for some time, but why does it matter?
Coordinated Support Plans, known as CSPs for short, are not widely known, but they play a vital role in ensuring that young people with significant additional needs get the right support in school.
They are designed for young people with complex circumstances which affects their learning, such as autism, physical disability, or mental health issues. They set out what support those young people will receive and who will provide it. Crucially, CSPs are the only support plan set out in law, which means that if a CSP is not met, the young person or their parents/carers can take a case to the Additional Support Needs Tribunal. CSPs are the only plan for young people with additional needs which have this clear, legally defined right to recourse, which should in theory mean that what is originally agreed is delivered, to avoid a tribunal case the local council may lose.
There is a major problem though; almost no children with diagnosed additional needs have a CSP. In fact, there has been a major decline in the number of CSPs at the same time as the number of children & young people with diagnosed additional needs has risen massively, to one in four of all young people. In 2010, 3,298 CSPs were active, but this dropped to 1,986 in 2018. That is a drop of over 40% over eight years and means just one percent of those with diagnosed additional needs have the the one plan which has any statutory force behind it.
The drop in CSPs chimes with what I have heard from young people with additional needs and their parents & carers. One parent, Jane,* whose child is now in secondary school and has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder said that a CSP would have helped her child. Instead, her views on the needs of her child were repeatedly ignored, leading to distress and anxiety from the right support not being in place. It was a textbook example of how the current system is designed only to help once children fail from lack of support.
Parents Dave and Jessie, whose son has high functioning autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Tourette’s Syndrome, have also spoken out of the how lucky they felt to access a CSP, particularly due to its statutory nature, which helped ensure support was delivered. Their local council had initially refused to allow their son to go to a special school, which was only overturned after Dave and Jessie threatened to go to the tribunal. However, they said that they would not have even known about CSPs if it were not for an advocacy organisation, Kindred, who provided them with support.
The message from parents & carers has been clear. CSPs can work but they are difficult to access. Often families are just not told about them. Even after finding out, many still have to fight to secure one. That word, “fight”, has been used by every parent or carer of a child with additional needs that I’ve spoken to. It’s how they all describe the struggle to get their child the support they need and that needs to end.
This review needs to provide clear answers on why the number of CSPs has plunged and how we can change this. The Greens have kept a relentless focus on the state of additional support needs provision. We’re proud to have secured another step forward for some of our most vulnerable children and young people.
*all names in this blog post have been changed to preserve the privacy of the families involved