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UK General Election 2001

Election Questions - Replies

Scottish Socialist Party

The following reply has been received from the Scottish Socialist Party

Dear Simon

Thank you for your election questions on 'Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder'. Please see below our policy document on Children (as agreed at last year's party conference).

I appreciate that our policy will not cover all of your detailed questions. However, you should be able to get a good idea of our general approach.

We are aware of the need to continually develop our policies, including in this important area, and we would welcome any suggestions from yourself.

all the best

Allan Green
SSP National Secretary



The Scottish Socialist Party believes that the future of Scotland lies in it's children.

Perhaps no other group in our society suffers more from the poverty and inequality caused by our free market economy than children.

One child in five lives below the poverty line.

The number of children living in poverty in Glasgow has actually increased under New Labour.

Children who are born into poverty are not only disadvantaged in childhood they are much more likely to suffer deprivation in adult life.

Only a fundamental change in the way society is organised - a socialist society can hope to permanently break this cycle of disadvantage.

The carrying out of socialist policies in the short and medium term would however make a significant difference to the quality of life of Scotland's children.

The Scottish Socialist Party will campaign for the following basic principles and objectives.

1. We will actively campaign for the full adoption by the Scottish Parliament, the UK Government and all public bodies, of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

2. We believe that children should enjoy the broadest possible range of rights within society and should be enabled to exercise those rights to the maximum extent.

Children and young people should be positively assisted and encouraged to express their own views on how they wish to be treated.

We call on the Scottish Parliament to develop a nationwide Children's Rights Strategy, building on article 12 of the UN convention on the Rights of the Child - which recognises a child's right to be heard.

We also call for the National Children's Rights Strategy to guarantee resources to organisations which are run by and led by children and young people: which defend the rights of children through legal representation, advice or advocacy.

We call for Children's Rights to be a specific ministerial responsibility within the Scottish Executive and for that minister to be accountable not only to the Parliament and the people of Scotland as a whole but also to children and young people through the medium of Children's Parliaments convened at local and national level.

3. We will campaign for the abolition of child poverty. Unlike New Labour we will not try to do this whilst sustaining an exploitative economic system but through establishing a socialist society.

We call for a crash programme to abolish child poverty. Utilising the SSP's radical policies to shift the tax burden from the poor to the rich and big business, we believe such a programme should be implemented within one full term of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Socialist Party will campaign to achieve the core aims outlined above and the following policies.

1. As part of an anti-poverty strategy for Scotland's children, we call for Child Benefit to be doubled NOW. Child Benefit should be exempt from taxation, now or in the future.

2. We see the raising of the minimum wage to 7 per hour as essential in helping parents to give their children a decent standard of living.

3. Parents should be free to exercise the choice of going to work (and utilising As high quality nursery school and after school provision), or of caring for their children full time. We recognise that some children will need the support of parents who care for them full time. No parent should be financially penalised through the benefit system for making this choice. The cuts to single parent benefits should be reversed.

4. Children Nought to Five

Services which benefit children aged 0 to 5 should be defended and extended.

The SSP opposes closure of maternity units where such closures lead to reduction in services and where services are removed to become more remote from local people.

Ante-natal and post-natal services should be developed and improved.

The provision of paediatric health care should be consistently improved with specialist paediatric services being within easy reach of every child and their family wherever they live in Scotland.

Full time free nursery provision should be available to every child. We believe that nursery schools should be developed as major centres to develop the potential of each child and as places which could assist and empower parents to access a range of services to help parent and child.

The SSP pledges to continue to develop detailed policies on nursery school education with a view to fully realising the potential offered by universal free nursery school education. The Party will consult with interest parties with a view to submitting additional proposals in 2001.

We should seek to increase the number of health visitors and to enable them to give an enhanced service to mothers and young children.

The identification of developmental needs, special and additional needs should be consistently improved for young children with a view to guaranteeing that all children who require written records of needs receive them. Specific targets to achieve these aims should be set and reviewed by the Scottish Parliament.

5. Children and the Education System

The SSP believes that Primary and Secondary education should be child centred focussing on developing both essential skills of literacy and numeracy, and on producing well rounded and confident individuals. To this end we oppose the testing of children at school, especially of younger children, if there is evidence that such testing will lead to unreasonable stress on children.

We note the concern of many teachers and educationalists about early and too frequent testing.

We call for a major reduction in classroom sizes in both primary and secondary education as part of a broader strategy of improving the educational chances of children. We call for maximum class sizes of 20 reducing to 10 within 5 years. We call for an integrated strategy to improve the educational chances of children which would include smaller class sizes, radical improvements in child's environment including better housing, extensive provision of breakfast clubs, homework clubs, programmes to assist parents in supervising school homework, summer schools, and for these services to be available to every child in Scotland.

Every school should be able to offer a full range of remedial, psychological assessment and other services.

We note the difficulties in sustaining adequate numbers of educational psychologists in some parts of Scotland and call for the numbers of such professionals to be increased.

6. Inclusive Education,
Children with Special Needs

We note the growing support for inclusive education (the provision of education appropriate to the needs of children with special educational needs within mainstream schools).

All Scotland's children should be valued, resources should be increased to assist all children who would benefit from inclusive education to receive it.

Children with special educational needs and their parents and carers are likely to benefit from access to independent Advocacy as provided by citizen advocates supported by Advocacy and Children's Rights organisations.

It is important that children and families have access to representation and advocacy especially in relation to issues such as obtaining a record of needs, implementing records of needs, producing future needs assessments, and ensuring effective transitions to adult services for young people.

7. Democracy and Education

The rights of children to be able to express a view on their education and how it is provided should be protected by law.

We call on SSP members, legislators and young people to examine how this could be done.

We suggest that the Children Scotland Act (1995) could be amended to strengthen the ability of children and young people to express their views and to actually obtain favourable decisions and access to services.

We also suggest that scope of the Children Scotland Act (1995) could be extended to embrace the education system.

Education authorities should be under a statutory obligation to provide an appropriate education to all children including those children who have been excluded from school. We note the comments of parents and young people that some education authorities are failing to abide by their existing statutory obligations to provide education for children who have been excluded.

We call for children as well as parents to have the right to seek representation to challenge and reverse exclusions.

Schools should be under a statutory obligation to establish students councils where school students can express their views on the running of the school, and about all decisions which affect them, and be able to relay their views to head teachers, school boards, and where necessary the local education authority and elected members.

All relevant adults should be prepared to respond to representations from such councils and budgets should be available to assist with training and facilitating the work of student council representatives.

Provision should be made to enable school students to be represented on school boards. we note the new standards in Scotland's Schools etc Bill which appears to offer children a chance to be involved on issues such as exclusions and talks about establishing school councils. The SSP will scrutinise this bill (which has just been published) with care. We can say now however that we do not want pupils to be consulted about a narrow range of issues, but on all decisions that may affect them, for example school closures (see section 8).

We note the reservations about the scope of the bill by bodies such as the centre for the study of the child ; OIt does not fully recognise the rights of all children to be involved in all decisions which affect them as laid down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child'. In particular we believe that through schools or pupil councils, and through individual representation, that children and young people should be able to have a say on the curriculum of the school. No school or local authority should be able to refuse to teach a subject on the grounds of lack of resource.

We call for increases in educational expenditure in general but also to allow for children to exercise genuine choice in the subjects they wish to study.

8. Fighting School Closures

The SSP is committed to fighting school closures wherever that results in a detrimental situation for children and their education. We see school closures as leading to reduced chances for children, lost resources for the community as a whole, and will often involve longer journeys to school, which not only place strains on the transport systems of the area but may increase risks to children's safety.

The SSP sees school closures as violating the rights of children, accordingly we call for the Scottish Parliament to enact legislation to ensure that children and young people attending school must be fully consulted on any school closure proposal. Such legislation should stipulate that any local authority which fails to gain the explicit approval of parents, teachers or children should withdraw the proposals.
9. Combating Bullying,
Protecting Children

Many children are victims of bullying. The SSP calls for funding to combat bullying to be ring fenced by the Scottish Parliament, and for a long term anti-bullying strategy to be developed.

Current initiatives such as the anti-bullying hotline, Childline, Children's Rights Projects should be guaranteed long term financial support.

All organisations concerned with the welfare and care of children should have formal written anti-bullying policies, which are regularly reviewed and subject to public scrutiny. Children and young people should have the right laid down by statute through the Scottish Parliament to be consulted about the framing of and implementation of anti-bullying policies.

10. Children in Care

The SSP believes that children in care of being Olooked after' in the community are often multiply disadvantaged. It is vital that the rights of children in care are protected Many children in care have poor educational attainment, extra resources should be allocated to ensure that children in care can achieve more.

We express concern about the numbers of cases of abuse and malpractice which have occurred to children in care, across the UK over the last 20 to 30 years.

We call for the establishment of and independent body headed by a Children's Ombudsman to review cases of abuse, malpractice and maladministration and other failures to protect children. We also call for a review of all funding and registration of homes which care for children and staff. We recognise that the vase majority of staff engaged in looking after children in care are caring and committed, we call for a review to investigate ways of improving staff training, management support, and staff conditions in order to increase the quality of care that children are able to receive. The individual rights of such staff should be protected and this is particularly important where staff members may wish to bring malpractice to the attention of the authorities.

The SSP also calls for increased government support to organisations which help children in care and to which they can turn to in time of trouble, for example organisations like OWho Cares Scotland'. The provision of independent advocacy is vital in protecting the rights of children.

11. The Children's Hearing System

The SSP calls for the active promotion of children's rights organisations and of independent advocacy to ensure that children are empowered to express their views at children's hearings.

12. Children's Parliaments

The SSP calls for funding to be provided to establish local and national children's parliaments where children can express their views on issues which affect their lives. Such parliaments could give direct feedback to elected members, propose possible legislation to be considered by the Scottish Parliament, and question members of the executive about issues which concern them. The SSP feels this would be an excellent way of preparing children and young people for the active citizenship which the UK government and Scottish Executive say they believe in.

13. The Vote at 16

The SSP reiterates its intention to campaign to give 16 year olds the right to vote.

14. The SSP will continue to campaign for the above policies through it's branches and the Scottish Socialist Voice as well as through elected representatives. The SSP also encourages it's members to take forward the work needed to realise these policies through collectives or sub groups, subject to national policy and consultation with national council.

15. The SSP will continue to develop policy on children and will seek ways to directly consult with children and young people to ascertain their views. An enhanced policy document reflection such consultation with children and young people and party members will be presented to the 2001 party conference.

Simon Hensby -

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