Third sector services 'must mobilise' to give children and communities support in the fight against Covid-19
20 March 2020
Children in Scotland has responded to yesterday’s statement by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, John Swinney, on schooling and childcare in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our Chief Executive Jackie Brock said:
“We welcome the statement from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and in particular its repeated emphasis on the need for immediate proactive support for vulnerable children and families. This is we hope a reflection of a shared societal view and sense of priority across Scotland and the UK prompted by the Covid-19 crisis.
Linking help for families with human rights
“While the proposal of vouchers for families currently in receipt of free school meals is an understandable response, alongside Child Poverty Action Group and others organisations who wrote to the First Minister on Wednesday, we believe a cash payment in lieu of free school meals would be more appropriate, avoiding stigma and respecting human rights.
“We are encouraged by the pledge that schools will be used as hubs for the different services that can provide support to the priority groups of young people children and families reliant on free school meals; learners most dependent on educational continuity; and children whose parents are key workers. This will encompass active schools co-ordinators as well as teachers.
“The Food, Families, Futures programme which we have run in partnership since 2016 has provided valuable, relevant learning about how schools can be highly effective hubs for consolidating services and support.
Meeting the challenge on childcare
“Changes in childcare as a consequence of Covid-19 represent a massive challenge for children, families and services. In this incredibly fast-moving situation there is understandably uncertainty about what and where childcare will be provided. We are seeking greater clarity for children and families as soon as it can be provided."
“Core consideration of vulnerable families and key workers is right and proper, but many other families will face a very difficult challenge of meeting needs. As the Resolution Foundation has said, only around one in 10 of the bottom half of earners can feasibly work from home. In this light, the support available for families and employers in these circumstances needs to be very carefully considered.
“In terms of supporting ongoing childcare services, any identification of vulnerable children must be non-stigmatising, and the community support model will need to operate with a fundamental understanding of this.
“Support for the role of the third and private sector childcare providers will be absolutely crucial as this is an especially vulnerable time for them.
Additional Support Needs: local action and continuity vital
“We welcome acknowledgment of the fact that the impacts of Covid-19 are particularly unsettling for children and young people with additional support needs. This now needs to translate into local action, with continuity for children with ASN essential.
“Flexibility on schools opening during the summer holiday period will be helpful in supporting transitions.
“The Cabinet Secretary made the point that practitioners know their children well and we fully support this focus. Practitioners must have the autonomy and resources to respond to individual needs for as long as schools and communities are affected by the virus.
“We agree that Education Scotland plays a key role in providing support and guidance to schools at this time and to parents through Parentzone. Their role and support must be explicit and consistent for all.
Valuing children’s participation and voices
“The Cabinet Secretary’s focus on engaging with partners around giving good quality information to children and young people was also very welcome and must be a priority. But we can take this further and make part of our effort asking children and young people what guidance and information they want to see through direct consultation with them.
Our role and offer
“We should remember that the safety nets being removed as a result of this virus are not just financial. The challenge will be how quickly and efficiently we can mobilise third sector services to give support. The sector can play a critical role in supporting children and young people, which is why we welcome the community hub approach highlighted by the Cabinet Secretary.
“However, this approach must build on existing local effective community hubs or fill gaps where these are not available. These hubs must be inclusive, offering dignified, non-stigmatising provision and be developed across a partnership of local communities, voluntary and statutory sectors.
“We should be looking at the local assets, resources and learning that we can help to marshal, and the powerful networks, relationships and sense of solidarity that exists in our communities.
“We want to support the wider education workforce as they adjust to new ways of working, and help ensure that children and young people’s voices and perspectives are included in this changed landscape.
“As an organisation that represents the children’s sector with convening power to bring organisations and interests together and forge partnerships at a local level, we have a role to play and stand ready to help.”