‘Red flag’ survey urges support for children’s services

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Urgent calls have been made to strengthen the current policy to protect children and young people’s organisations, with the majority saying they are struggling to provide essential services.

A national survey of groups supporting children, young people and their families in Scotland found that 90% of participants said they faced ‘some’ or ‘significant’ barriers to providing services, with almost three-quarters (74 %) stating that they are struggling with limited staff, mainly due to an increase in demand.

Almost half (49%) reported longer wait times for their services, with 86% sharing concerns about the negative impact coronavirus regulations have had on the mental health of these vulnerable groups and development children’s future.

The research is part of a report by the Scottish Parliament’s (CPG) Cross-Party Group on Children and Young People which looked at the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on these organisations.

It was co-hosted by MSPs Meghan Gallacher and Kaukab Stewart, with a secretariat provided by YouthLink Scotland and Children in Scotland.

The report aims to understand current service challenges and inform policy makers of current needs and recovery from the pandemic.

Some of the proposed changes include securing access to a key support offer during school hours so that teaching staff and students can benefit from experienced voluntary organisations, and encouraging funders to talk to workers front line and community members to better understand the reality on the ground.

Gallacher described the results of the investigation as “a huge red flag”.

The Conservative MSP for the central region said: “It is absolutely crucial that we urgently address the concerns raised in this report.

“I call on ministers to ensure that changes are made to strengthen the current policy landscape to protect these vital services. This will enable stakeholders to deliver services that are robust and fit for purpose.

“For the sake of the children, youth and families who so desperately depend on these services, these life-saving changes cannot be delayed.”

Other key findings from the report showed that 35% of organizations said there were ongoing issues with “digital inclusion,” which is making sure people have access to the internet to do things that benefit them on a daily basis, with more than half (56%) saying they see growing levels of inequality.

Lack of access to local authority facilities, financial hardship for families and the impact of the pandemic on staff recruitment, retention, morale and welfare were also noted as key concerns in the report. .

Co-host Stewart, SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, said: “It is time to recognize what we need to do to support good mental health for young people and children – not just for Covid recovery but integrated into our culture in much the same way that Zoom and Teams calls have become part of everyday life.

Other changes that participants said they would like to see in terms of improving policies and practical advice on Covid-19 included better equality between private and local authority salaries in nurseries and greater clarity on the opening of municipal buildings for the essential support of families and children.

Responding to the survey, Tim Frew, chief executive of YouthLink Scotland, said: “The findings are unfortunately not surprising, but they will hopefully offer further vital evidence to national and local government on the need to work with the sector on recovery and invest more in and protect the organizations that have and continue to support children, young people and families in these difficult times.

Judith Turbyne, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, added: “Alongside YouthLink Scotland, we urge the Scottish Government, MSPs and COSLA to pay attention to the results and listen to the important views on policy change captured. in research.

“As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, issues such as the role of voluntary organizations in supporting schools, access to municipal buildings and pay equity in the early years must now be given the attention they deserve. .”

The CPG said all respondents to the survey were organizations and services that work with children, young people and their families across local authorities, national and third sector providers, and the perspective of all council areas in Scotland were represented, with the exception of the Shetland Islands. Advice.

A spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) said: “The Scottish Government has had to make quick decisions at a time of public health crisis and now we need to work together, with partners and especially children and young people themselves, to support them in overcoming the impacts and improving their health and well-being.

“That’s why, at a crucial time in Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic, we cannot be distracted by the restructuring and disruption that would result from the inclusion of children’s services within the National Care Service. .

“We must focus all our efforts and resources on supporting those who need it most and on addressing the growing inequalities and health impacts faced by children.

“The local government is committed to this and will review the report and any recommendations it makes once published.”

In response to calls, a Scottish Government spokesman highlighted the £40m package to improve CAMHS and clear waiting lists by March 2023, and an additional £15m for local authorities to provide mental health and wellness support for ages five to 24. older people in their communities, including access to counseling in all secondary schools, to provide alternative treatment options.

He said: ‘We recognize the valuable role the youth work sector has to play in supporting the health and wellbeing of young people in Scotland’, adding: ‘We have increased our investment in youth work over the the past year to £12.5m.. This has helped young people re-engage in youth work through social activities, summer holiday programs and outdoor learning.

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