Additional support needs are stretched to the limit

Susan Kennedy
Susan Kennedy

Additional support needs for pupils, particularly those who start at a disadvantage, are stretched to the limit with children not getting the support they are entitled to.

That was the concern expressed by UNISON’s Susan Kennedy at the STUC 2015. Susan was speaking in support of an EIS motion on additional support needs and local authority cuts.

Susan said ‘Once again, austerity is affecting the most vulnerable and we must speak up on behalf of the children, families and workers affected. Dedicated staff across the range of services delivered to those with additional support needs do their best in difficult and increasingly stressful circumstances.

That is why, in the best interests of the children, our members in Glasgow stood firm last year and forced the city council to withdraw proposals for all pupil support assistants to administer medications to pupils with health needs. Our members, mainly low-paid women, took 17 weeks of action and won a better deal.

Their concerns included that there were insufficient safeguards and UNISON has been represented on the advisory group updating Scottish guidelines on the administration of medicines in schools, due to be consulted on this summer.’

Susan went on to say that austerity and cuts cannot excuse local authorities from the statutory duties required under the Additional Support for Learning (Scotland) Act 2004. She was deeply concerned that many children young people are not able to access timely and accurate assessments of their learning needs which is creating ‘serious problems’. Susan particularly stressed that ‘speech, language and communication needs are the most common difficulty, with 50% of children from deprived communities having problems’. She also stressed the important role of advocacy and mediation services for children and young people

The STUC motion called for all local authorities to meet their statutory requirements; investigate the uptake and availability of advocacy and mediation services; ensure the new Code of Practice for Additional Support for Learning Act is widely available in accessible formats; and called on the STUC to campaign for improved services which match the aims and aspirations of the Act

‘Children should be able to have their needs assessed and support put in place as early and quickly as possible but too many face unacceptable delays and long waits, with life-changing consequences’ said Susan