At the end of November, the short-life working group on Co-ordinated Support Plans (CSPs) released its Final Report. The purpose of the report was to identify barriers to the effective implementation of the CSP legislation and to make recommendations to support progress.
The report begins, as these things often do, with a statement of principles. In this case, we are reminded that “Scottish education is based on the belief that education is a human right and that all children and young people should be supported to reach their full potential.” The Scottish Government’s intention to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is referenced, as are the four key features of inclusion, which we first saw in the guidance on the presumption of mainstreaming.
It also highlights, helpfully, that “Support is not dependent on a diagnosis.” and “Where the legal tests are met for a CSP, the child or young person must have a CSP – even where other plans are in place.” These short reminders could usefully be tattooed on the forearms of everyone working in the sector – although this is not one of the report’s recommendations.
As I am involved in the My Rights, My Say project, I was pleased to see that the report notes the right of children aged 12-15 with capacity to ask the education authority to be assessed for a CSP and to challenge CSP decisions at Tribunal.
So, to the recommendations. The report notes that the legislation and policy in this field is “commendable and well-intentioned” but that there is “a significant gap between policy and practice”. It highlights the need for “consistency and a common understanding of the language used in relation to CSPs”. To that end, it recommends promoting awareness and knowledge. This should involve “a set of tailored ‘key messages'” to be “widely shared with children and young people, parents and carers and professionals across agencies” – including social work and health.
However, I think there are already some really good materials out there, both those created by some education authorities, and those made by the third sector, by organisations like Enquire. The difficulty, as always, is getting this information to the right people at the right time.
The report does concede that the statutory criteria are complex, and that (over 15 years on!) there is still a “variable interpretation of what ‘significant additional support’ means when considering whether a CSP should be opened.” This is as close as the report gets to suggesting that the legislation itself needs to be looked at again. In fairness, this was outwith their remit, and is a fairly heavy hint.
The Code of Practice is due to be refreshed shortly, and the report sees this as an opportunity to ensure that it is more accessible, and clearly explains the “complex legal duties” in this field. While this is obviously easier said than done, it is definitely a worthwhile goal. The report also notes that the 4th edition of the statutory Code should clarify the relationship between the CSP and other plans used for children.
The report does understand that to help professionals become more familiar with the rules and policy around CSPs will take a commitment in time, and so recommends that professional (both in education and in other agencies) be allocated specific time to access the appropriate professional learning resources, and that this should lead to those professionals being able to “proactively provide families with the information they require about CSPs”.
Further recommendations include:
- “ensuring that clear and appropriate signposting is available on local authority web pages”
- further guidance to be developed “to remove barriers to effective engagement”
- the Additional Support for Learning Implementation Group (ASLIG) to engage with work on “streamlining planning processes”. Specifically we are told that “the next phase of the refresh of the GIRFEC policy and practice materials .. will focus on the Child’s Plan, with the aim of moving towards a ‘one child one plan’ approach.” This is expected to lead to “[s]trengthening guidance around a single planning process”
- ASLIG to consider the issue of resources (often the elephant in the room), having regard to “the need to ensure that there are sufficient numbers of appropriately trained staff to provide support”.
- ASLIG to support “the planned audit of outcomes for children and young people with additional support needs undertaken by Audit Scotland.” Given that this has been something of a hobby horse for ASLIG for a while now, I’d imagine that this support would be enthusiastically forthcoming!
The renewed focus on the Child’s Plan in this report is interesting, given that the baby of the Child’s Plan appears to have been (legislatively) thrown out with the bathwater of the Named Person in the proposed repeal “in due course” of sections of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, following the Supreme Court‘s decision in The Christian Institute & Ors v. The Lord Advocate  UKSC 51.
So, what happens next? “This report has been shared with ASLIG who will publish a response to the report and consider its findings as part of their future work programme and priorities. This will include consideration of how to monitor delivery of the actions identified and the expected impact on improving outcomes for children and young people.” I’ll try to keep you posted as that happens.