As a coalition, we recently submitted our response to the Scottish Parliament's consultation on the Scottish government's Children and Young People Bill.
Aiming to put our children and young people at the heart of planning and services, and to ensure that their rights are respected across the public sector, is of course an aspiration to be applauded.
There is much in the bill to be commended, but there is more that can be done to ensure that it truly realises its full potential. We know that prevention is better than cure and yet the bill contains not one single mention of prevention, or of families and local services providing support. Instead, it focuses on the demands of failure.
We naturally spend heavily in meeting the costs of failure, but we need to try to prioritise preventative spend, which the societal costs of failure far outweigh.
The fact that the bill places a duty on local authorities to assess a care leaver's request for assistance up to and including the age of 25 is to be applauded. However, we urge that this be strengthened to give the young person the right to remain in and return to care. This will have an associated cost, but it is well established that care leavers have higher instances of homelessness and involvement with the justice system. The cost of these impacts far outweighs the cost of allowing a young person the stability afforded through remaining in or returning to care.
Likewise, while the bill focuses on support for care leavers, we would seek this support be extended to those young people with additional support needs, such as learning difficulties, affording them the same rights as care leavers.
The Children and Young People Bill can still seize the opportunity to put prevention before cure, based on the needs of families and communities, and is an opportunity we simply cannot afford to miss.
The Scottish Children's Services Coalition: Sophie Dow, founder, Mindroom; Tom McGhee, managing director, Spark of Genius; Duncan Dunlop, chief executive, Who Cares? Scotland; Stuart Jacob, director, Falkland House School; Brian Durham, managing director, Young Foundations.