2019-20 Programme for Government: our verdict
4 September 2019
Children in Scotland has responded to yesterday’s publication of the Programme for Government.
Commenting on key policy areas encompassing children’s rights, participation, mental health, youth justice and democracy, our Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, Amy Woodhouse, said:
Children’s rights: accelerate UNCRC incorporation
“The Programme for Government statement by the First Minister touched on plans to bring forward legislation to incorporate the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child by the end of this parliament.
“However, a timetable was not mentioned, suggesting that a Bill will be included in the 2020-21 parliamentary session. Having called for the Scottish Government to demonstrate progress on incorporation by the end of the year following the submission of our consultation response, we are disappointed that incorporation has not been prioritised.”
Brexit: there’s still time to listen to children’s views on relationship with Europe
“We are pleased that the Scottish Government will continue to provide support to prepare for a No Deal Brexit. Children in Scotland is deeply concerned about the impact of No Deal on the voluntary sector and on children’s services.
“We are reminded of comments made by young people involved in our participation project, the Children and Young People’s Panel on Europe, which included:
‘Brexit will heavily alter Scotland’s future, whether it’s for the better or worse. The youngest generation, who will be the first to grow up in Scotland outside the EU, will be the first people to experience the consequences of Brexit. It is us who will grow up to be the electricians, the engineers, the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. It is our future, decided by adults – so far without the inclusion of our voice.’
“The lack of involvement for children and young people within the citizens’ assemblies that will consider Scotland’s future is extremely disappointing. It strikes us as being inconsistent with some of the government’s other stated beliefs about the importance of young people’s participation.”
The environment: positive signals but more radicalism required
“Children in Scotland is encouraged by the focus given to the environment within the government’s plans, including actions on transport, reducing emissions and active travel.
“We are keenly aware of the impact that climate change will have on children and young people and believe that sustained action is required. However, it is hard to assess the scale of the proposed action at this stage. One area we would highlight is that proposals continue to be focused on consumer choice as opposed to the more radical system and structural change that will be required.
“We believe measures to support the public transport system to reduce emissions must include proposals to make public transport fully affordable for children and young people. In this regard we would be supportive of consideration of Scottish Green Party plans for free bus travel for all children and young people.”
Education: questions over approach to inequality, ASN investment ‘vital’
“The attainment challenge will continue with investment confirmed until 2022. Children in Scotland is yet to be convinced of the effectiveness of this approach and would support continued research and policy development on the most effective measures to reduce inequality in Scottish education.
“However, we are pleased that £15million has been earmarked for frontline staff to support children and young people with additional support needs. In the wake of joint influencing and campaigning work in this area by ourselves and partners, the Scottish Government has obviously recognised that additional financial resource is required to ensure that children and young people with ASNs get the support to which they are entitled.
“Last year we produced a report with the National Autistic Society Scotland and Scottish Autism, Not Included, Not Engaged, Not Involved, which made a series of recommendations, including increasing the number of Support for Learning teachers to 2010 levels.
“We are also concerned about authority-wide reductions to Pupil Support Assistants and the impact this is having on children with additional support needs. Over the next few months we will be working to ensure that the Scottish Government is reminded of the key calls from the report and children’s views about support and ASL provision.”
Early Learning and Childcare: support for expansion but capacity concerns
“The Scottish Government is expressing confidence that the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare is on track. Children in Scotland is concerned about the capacity to support the expansion and will continue to work with the government as appropriate to support roll-out.”
Care experienced young people: progress in targeting disadvantage
“We welcome advancements in support for care-experienced children and young people. This will include advancements of early learning and childcare provision for two-year-olds with parents who are care experienced, removal of dental charges for care experienced children and young people between the ages of 18-26, and advancements of Discretionary Housing Payments for this group.
“We also welcome the measures to bring forward a new statutory provision in the Children’s Bill to keep siblings together if they are brought into care. We are acutely aware of the fundamental value of sibling relationships and wholeheartedly support this approach.
“These measures continue to demonstrate progress towards tackling the disadvantage faced by care experienced children and young people.”
Mental health and wellbeing: investment welcome, early support still needed
“The commitments on mental health support for children, young people and families are encouraging. In particular we are pleased to see ongoing support for perinatal mental health provision and also new infant mental health hubs. However, few if any of the commitments made yesterday are new; they constitute a repackaging of previously released information.
Other pledges include:
- 350 of the school counsellors announced in the 2018-19 Programme for Government are in place now, and all will be in place by this time next year.
- £17million has been invested in a community wellbeing service which children and young people will be able to self-refer to or be referred to be other adults that they work with. We look forward to seeing these proposals expanded on over the parliamentary term.
- A 24/7 crisis service for children, young people and their families will also be developed. The service will include links to the emergency services to support children young people and families.
- An extra £4 million will be invested in CAMHS in response to the initial recommendations of the Taskforce.
“Despite this investment, we are concerned that mental health provision for children and young people is still heavily focused on acute care and crisis provision. More must be done to look at the structural determinants of health and the importance of early support and prevention services for the whole family.”
“In our First Minister’s Question Time Next Generation event held in April, Nicola Sturgeon told an audience of young people that, on mental health support for children, her government was ‘not doing well enough’. Overall, we are not convinced that yesterday’s announcements constitute enough meaningful progress in this area, particularly following the publication yesterday (3/9/19) of statistics revealing the number of young Scots still waiting for specialist care.”
Food: let's make a Good Food Nation Act a reality
“The Scottish Government will bring forward its Good Food Nation Bill in this parliamentary session. Children in Scotland has long supported the Good Food Nation Bill and will continue to advocate for this to include a Right to Food and a strong emphasis on social justice. We are also pleased to see the early introduction of changes to school meal provision to increase levels of fruit and vegetables.
“We are pleased to see that a Food Promotion Bill will be brought forward. The Bill will aim to tackle the role of advertising of food consumption. Children in Scotland has consistently called for restrictions in this area and will continue to do so through the legislative journey.
Poverty: Scottish Child Payment demonstrates a way ahead
“The Programme for Government also confirmed that the Scottish Child Payment will be brought forward in legislation this year. We are very encouraged to learn that first payments will be made by Christmas 2020, ahead of the schedule set out before recess. All eligible families will receive the Scottish Child Payment by 2022.
“Children in Scotland is strongly supportive of measures to bring forward the Scottish Child Payment which we believe will make a meaningful impact on reducing child poverty. We note that the Scottish Government’s policy shift was a result of collective campaigning in the sector, of which Children in Scotland was a part alongside Child Poverty Action Group, Poverty Alliance and Aberlour.
“However, urgent work in this area must continue, particularly in light of recent research from the IPPR and JRF which has shown that a whole classroom of children will enter poverty every day if action is not taken.”
Youth Justice: more details on a preventative approach needed
“A range of proposals has been included around Scotland’s approach to youth justice. This includes a further £800,000 to be invested in the preventative approach to youth justice. Detail has not yet been provided on how this investment will be spent.
“We also look forward to seeing how proposals to take forward an advocacy service within the Children’s Hearings System are developed over the life of the parliament.
“The Age of Criminal Responsibility (Scotland) Act 2019 will be brought into force by autumn of this year. We will continue to advocate for increase in the age of criminal responsibility from 12 to at least 14, and preferably 16.
LGBTI equality: why wait on GRA reform?
“The Scottish Government also reaffirmed its commitment to consult on proposed changes to legislation in the Gender Recognition Act. We continue to support the rights to self-identification for transgender people and do not see the benefits of any further delay in updating the legislation.”