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24 April 2017, 06:39
Scotland faces a "lost generation'' of children with additional support needs, campaigners have warned.
The Scottish Children's Services Coalition (SCSC) - which campaigns for better services for vulnerable children - called on incoming council administrations to put young people's needs at the heart of future policy commitments.
Its local authority election manifesto includes a plea for increased funding in young people's services dealing with children with additional support needs (ASN).
It also calls for better training for ASN workers, independent advocacy for children who have been in care and an elected councillor who would become a children's ``mental health champion''.
The SCSC warned of a "false economy'' in cutting children's services, which it says could become a costly burden on society and the economy.
It also asked incoming council administrations to protect vital services for young people with dyslexia, autism and mental-health problems.
SCSC member Kenny Graham, of Falkland House School, Fife, said Scotland faces a "lost generation'' of children with ASN.
He added: "Councils are facing a difficult financial environment but they play an absolutely vital role in meeting the additional support needs of children and young people.''
The coalition says more than 170,000 young people (24.9%) in Scotland's schools are classed as having ASN, which is a 44% increase since 2012.
Since then, the number of specialist ASN teachers in local authority primary and secondary schools has fallen by 16%, from 2,146 to 1,799, and the number of pupil-support staff has fallen by 5%, the group said.
The SCSC has called for staffing cuts to be reversed to allow the closure of the educational attainment gap.
Other demands in its manifesto include increased specialist provision for children and young people, providing better training, access to experienced counsellors, a right to independent advocacy and the introduction of a local health champion.
Mr Graham added: "We urge incoming council administrations to put services that impact on vulnerable children and young people at the very heart of their policy commitments, and look for them to increase funding for these.
"Failing to do so amounts to a false economy because if their needs are not met they often go on to become a costly burden on society and the economy.''