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Overview June 2016
The Scottish Government was elected in May and announced its programme for Government; here is a summary of the parts of the programme relating to children and families.
John Swinney has been appointed as the Cabinet Secretary for Education.
There are three junior ministers under him:
- Mark MacDonald, Childcare and Early Years
- Jamie Hepburn, Employability and Training
- Shirley-Anne Somerville, Further and Higher Education
The Government's programme covers formal education from childcare through school to further education and training with no mention of families and family support or parenting. The focus is on closing the attainment gap and improving outcomes.
The Scottish Government has announced that it will provide 'Finnish' style baby boxes to every expectant woman in Scotland.
National Parenting Strategy
The actions from this work are largely completed. It is unclear whether it is intended to undertake a refresh of this strategy or whether any further action will be taken on this.
The verdict is still awaited from the Supreme Court on the Named Person provision; the judgement is likely to be given in June.
Meanwhile a public information campaign aimed at parents will be rolled out in late May.
These parts of the Act are due to commence in August 2016.
The Scottish Government will be rolling out its programme of 1140 funded childcare hours by 2021
There are a number of key issues:
- Roll-out - targeted v universal
- Disabled children
- Eligible twos
The main agenda around schools is closing the attainment gap. Current measures to do so are concentrated around:
- The National Improvement Framework
- standardised testing,
- devolution of responsibility for schools from local authorities to individual schools and possibly clusters of schools
Over the next two years, 500 more health visitors will be recruited.
Pregnancy and Parenthood in Young People Strategy
This Strategy sets out what actions are needed in order to tackle the cycle of deprivation associated with many cases of pregnancy in young people and provides extra support for young parents. The Strategy focuses on increasing the opportunities available to young people, to support their wellbeing and prosperity across the life course. It aims to help young people develop the appropriate knowledge, skills and confidence in making decisions around pregnancy and parenthood through a partnership approach between professionals and young people.
The SNP signalled its intention to implement all of the seventeen recommendations made by Naomi Eisenstadt's report, Shifting the Curve. It also looks likely that she will be reappointed as independent poverty adviser, and that there will be a poverty commission.
A social security Bill will be introduced to Parliament in the first year of this Parliamentary session. It will set up a new social security agency.
The Scottish Government will:
- introduce a maternity and early years allowance to give financial support to low-income parents- initially, when a child is born, then when the child starts nursery and again when they start school. It will be targeted help to reduce inequality at key stages of a young life.
- abolish the bedroom tax;
- make changes to how universal credit can be paid;
- extend winter fuel payments to families with severely disabled children;
- restore entitlement to housing support for 18 to 21-year- olds.
- Change the Department for Work and Pensions approach to disability assessments and ensure that disability payments are not reduced or means tested.
- increase carers allowance, and
- consider the introduction of a young carers allowance to provide extra support for young people with significant caring responsibilities. In August 2016.