Editor's comment

How do you reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable? Or the desire of parents to access the very best for their severely disabled child with the fears of a local authority that it will have to write a blank cheque to a neighbouring council tasked with meeting those needs via a placing request?

Of course, in the best of all possible worlds special needs provision would be of such high quality that parents would not need to look beyond their own doorstep for specialist resources; there would be unlimited access to health, social and educational support, and everyone would agree on the best possible package for every child.

That, however, is not the real world. The consultation on amendments to the Additional Support for Learning Act has shone light on a number of anomalies, from the jurisdiction of the Additional Support Needs Tribunals for Scotland to the duties, responsibilities and liabilities of home and host authorities, and parental rights. Yet at every proposed solution, there is a rejoinder of "Yes, but this could throw up such and such a problem ... ".

Rewriting the 1980 Education (Scotland) Act was never going to be easy, but the draftsmen would appear to have made an already complicated area even more complex, bureaucratic and inaccessible in its ASL Act 2004 and subsequent amendment Bill.

The Association of Directors of Education in Scotland warns that the complexity and cost of the arrangements needed to make this legislation - even in amended form - should not be underestimated.

But that begs a fundamental question. Since the ASL Act imposes a duty on a council to make "adequate and efficient" provision for a child's support needs, as long as this does not require it to do anything which "would result in unreasonable public expenditure being incurred", should a council be allowed to make provision that is inadequate (and inefficient) solely on financial grounds?

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