In terms of the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, every looked after child with additional support needs must be assessed for a Co-ordinated Support Plan (CSP). There is a legal presumption that looked after children do have additional support needs (unless the reverse is proved).
Figures from freedom of information requests sent to all 32 local authorities in Scotland show that:
• Of 12,533 looked after children with additional support needs, only 6,374 have actually been assessed for a CSP, leaving almost half – 5,799 unassessed
• Of the 6374 who have been assessed, only 368 have been deemed as requiring a CSP. This is only 2.9% of looked after children with additional support needs – a drop from 5.1% in 2013
• Despite having a right of appeal, none of the 6,374 cases local authorities claim to have assessed have been appealed, calling into question both the robustness of the process and whether local authorities are respecting the rights of children in their care.
• The number of looked after children after assessment deemed as requiring a co-ordinated support plan varies greatly, from 46.7% of those assessed in Highland to only 0.7% in East Ayrshire.
Iain Nisbet, Head of Education Law at Govan Law Centre said:
“These duties have been in force for nearly 5 years and local authorities are still failing to live up to their legal duties towards looked after children. In fact, we suspect that many of those the authorities claim to have assessed have not been given their full legal rights, illustrated best by the total absence of any appeals. The system is failing thousands of children right across Scotland, leaving them to the poorer educational outcomes and life chances we know looked after children face.”
“The reason these duties were introduced by the Scottish Parliament is that often looked after children do not have effective parental advocates to stand up for their rights. Govan Law Centre pointed out these failings to Ministers, who have oversight and powers of direction over Councils, in 2013 and we are doing so again now to highlight that little has changed in the intervening years. Our figures show that too few authorities are respecting the rights of looked after children, and it is now time for the Scottish Ministers to do so instead. We are calling for an urgent meeting with the Cabinet Secretary and for swift and robust action to tackle the repeated failures of Scottish Councils.”