Children’s Sector Strategic and Policy Forum requests meeting with Deputy First Minister

The Children’s Sector Strategic Forum has sent an urgent request to the Deputy First Minister to meet to discuss its proposals for contributing to the next phase of recovery from lockdown for children, young people and families.

The letter states that the Forum is “increasingly concerned” that a national effort to provide a lifeline to vulnerable families, delivered locally, will dissipate in the absence of a robust and systematic national framework.

This must have clear expectations, based on children’s rights and families’ reasonable expectations of local services and supports.

The Forum put forward a five-point plan to reassure families; fulfil children’s rights and maximise the knowledge and expertise of all of those working alongside children, young people and families to support them through the next difficult months.

The plan is as follows:

1. Funders should confirm to statutory and third sector organisations in each children’s services partnership area that their funding is extended to enable them to continue their COVID-19 response work during the summer holiday period and to respond to the needs of each school community to support the return to school arrangements that are suitable for that school. Funders will cover the range of SG, NDPBs and other agencies together with other independent funders. Co-ordinating this is a significant task but the information is available and funders have the resources to co-ordinate and share information.

2. All hubs currently run from schools or early learning and childcare settings must remain open to all who need this safe and public space. Staffing will need to be drawn from experienced non-school staff and in addition, we know that some local areas will get support from volunteers. These are welcome opportunities to build on the expertise of the third sector and committed citizens.

3. We wish to offer every support to our colleagues working in schools and we know that there will be significant uncertainty across that workforce and considerable concern about the impact lockdown has had on many children, young people and their families. There is a wealth of resources and assets in the youth work sector, the outdoor learning sector; the creative arts, sports and specialist support, supporting EAL families; parents/carers with limited literacy and/or digital literacy; in addition to support for children’s wellbeing needs. These dedicated and professional resources should be harnessed systematically across Scotland to work with parents, carers and schools to support every child in the forthcoming uncertain months. Successful learning outcomes require strong and stable family and home environments – this requires collaboration. It is disappointing that the Education Scotland guidance on blended learning (published on 22 June) made only a passing reference to such partnerships.

4. There should be an immediate and detailed announcement setting out Scotland’s ambition for family support services and a timetable for producing a blueprint for establishing these services based on robust impact assessments and sustainable resourcing. The governance and implementation arrangements should be agreed by the end of July and demonstrate a genuine partnership at every level between families, the statutory and third sectors. It should be ambitious and incorporate the importance of financial support and also the wider economic reasons for supporting children and families – income adequacy and tackling youth unemployment, for example.

5. Finally, there is an opportunity to underline a radical and exciting commitment to childhood and growing up in Scotland in the next phase of announcements around renewal and emerging from lockdown. There has been more said by the Scottish Government and other national leaders on opening up pubs than about opening up our public spaces for children and play.  mThis is an opportunity to underline children’s right to play and to make some very clear statements about future investments in our roads, streets and safe, public spaces. A joint call to action from national and local government would reinforce our determination to do our very best by children who have lost out significantly over the last few weeks and who will be paying the cost of recovery from this pandemic for decades.”

The Forum said work of the entire children’s sector had been praised by national leaders but there were signs that its contribution was now being sidelined.

“Returning to the normal delivery of the past will not work for anyone, least of all families, in the post-pandemic context,” the letter stated.

The full letter can be read HERE.