A recent report by public spending watchdog Audit Scotland has warned that the public sector faces ongoing cuts, mergers and increased charges for services.
As a coalition of leading independent and third sector providers, we are deeply concerned by these potential cuts to vital children's services and have launched a major campaign to protect against them. Local authorities are consulting on their budget proposals against a backdrop of the highest demand for children's services since 1981, with the latest figures highlighting that 16,248 children are currently looked after by local authorities, a figure that has increased each year since 2001.
In addition, those with additional support needs in Scotland have increased fourfold since 2002 and now stand at 118,034. And just this week it was reported that more than half of Scotland's local authorities are predicting overspends of current social work budgets totalling more than #163;35 million - a key contributor to which is the rising cost of caring for vulnerable children.
Local authorities are therefore being required to achieve more with less, and this serves only to increase the barriers that children's services departments face in delivering the best outcomes for vulnerable young people. In fact, as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently commented, "we are slowly but inexorably creating a more divided society", effectively cutting off those who require the most support and creating a lost generation whose cost to society in the long term will far outweigh any public sector cuts.
Cutting already diminished resources is simply not an option and we would urge local authorities to protect services for children and young people, using the current financial environment as an opportunity to explore the potential for public service reform and the delivery of services in the most effective and efficient manner.
Tom McGhee, managing director, Spark of Genius; Duncan Dunlop, chief executive, Who Cares? Scotland; Stuart Jacob, director, Falkland House School and three more
Scottish Children's Services Coalition.