Holistic Family Support

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 13 January 2022.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I ask members who are leaving the chamber to do so as quickly and quietly as possible. I also remind members that Covid measures are in place and that face coverings should be worn when moving around the chamber and the rest of the Holyrood campus.

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-01840, in the name of Martin Whitfield, on championing the right to holistic family support. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes the belief that all families across Scotland that need additional support should be able to get help when and where they need it; considers that article 18 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes the right of families to help and support; believes that delivering accessible holistic family support is central to Scotland’s commitment to Keep The Promise for children and families, and notes the finding from Change Programme ONE, that work in this area is underway, but not yet sufficient; notes the calls for a shift in public investment towards prevention; believes that many families were already struggling to access support services prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that vulnerable children, young people and families in Scotland have been the most affected by the impact of successive lockdowns; welcomes the commitment by the Scottish Government to deliver a Whole Family Wellbeing Fund of £500 million over the course of the current parliamentary session, and notes the calls for an urgent action plan to outline how the Whole Family Wellbeing Fund will be invested to implement the Family Support Delivery Group blueprint and route map, thereby making the right to whole family holistic support a practical and accessible reality for families, which would be consistently available across the country, including the South Scotland region.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour

It is a great pleasure to present this debate, because I think that the term “holistic family support” is at the heart of what we in Scotland believe about the environment in which our young people should grow up.

The idea is founded on article 18 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would like to draw attention to the specifics of article 18, because it is normally paraphrased as a child or young person having

“the right to be brought up by both parents if possible”.

However, the original wording also said that

“States Parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and shall ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children” and young people. It is so much broader than

“the right to be brought up by both parents if possible”.

That in no way undermines the fundamental fact that, for most of society, it is important that a young person grow up with both parents. However, that is not available for all parents and it is not the experience of all children. That is not to lessen the experience of children who, because of their circumstances, do not grow up in an environment with both parents. It is to those children, as well, that we must look, which is why I have drawn attention to the article’s original wording and to the responsibility that rests, to be frank, on all of us to make sure that in every young person’s life, every experience and every opportunity can be provided. That does not happen for every child, but adequate holistic support offers immeasurable help to the countless families to whom it can be provided.

We look to The Promise that we made in the recent past, which speaks so optimistically of what our young people should experience. I pose this question, and not as a criticism: are we committed to keeping the promise to children and families that all children in Scotland will grow up “loved, safe and respected”? If we are, we have to acknowledge that the work that is under way so far is not sufficient. The work that has begun is good, but it is not enough.

I express my thanks to the Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland and the various groups that support it. I particularly thank Children 1st, Action for Children, Aberlour Child Care Trust and Barnardo’s Scotland. I thank them for what their volunteers and staff do, and for what they have done, with young people and families to make their lives better.

Family support looks different for every family, and that is important. What works for the family at number 6 will not work for a different family at number 7. The people in the CCSP understand that tailored support that is right and fit for the individual families and young people who sit before them is essential. The problem could be something massive: there could be financial problems through poverty, which lies at the heart of so many troubles, or there might be physical or mental health problems.

The support might be just to sit down with a cup of tea, have a chat and let the person—a parent or carer—vent about a few of the stresses of the day so that, when they turn to their children to offer the empathy and care that children need in order to develop properly, they can give that.

Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

I thank Martin Whitfield for bringing the issue to the chamber. I want to mention briefly the work of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, which took really strong evidence from the groups that Martin has spoken about.

There is one issue that I would like the member to respond to. A professional occupational therapist has raised the fact that, for some children, access to physical and leisure activities is too expensive or too far away, and that such activity might help in the family’s recovery. Will Martin Whitfield and the minister respond to that?

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour

I am very grateful for that intervention. As Carol Mochan has rightly pointed out, what would work for one child might not be suitable for another but should be facilitated. That might be the free swimming that local authorities sometimes organise during the holidays. I think of all the volunteers who run sporting clubs and who sometimes, when a child is standing there unable to pay the weekly contribution, just smile and let the child through anyway. There is humanity, empathy and understanding not just here in Scotland but throughout the human race. However, we must go further and do better for our young people.

The people who provide family support seek to intervene, to help and to advise at early stages of concern. They provide advice to parents; they provide mental health support, finance and debt help; they provide support for families who experience homelessness, addiction and loss; and they provide assistance with a great number of other issues that families face.

That is preventative work. If it happens at the start of a crisis, the cost is less, which is how one might see it as an economist or accountant. If one wants to be a human being, one sees the work as making a crisis much easier to put right and much less likely to cause long-term damage. It will perhaps allow a child to escape a horrendous experience that might otherwise stay with them for the rest of their life. Not only does early intervention lead to better outcomes for our children and young people, but it makes sense economically, as I said.

The problem existed before the pandemic. Many families were struggling long before Covid-19, so we must ensure that our interventions and work help children as soon as possible.

I welcome the commitment by the Scottish Government to deliver a whole family wellbeing fund of £500 million over the course of this parliamentary session, but I call again for an urgent action plan to outline how the fund will be invested and implemented. That is necessary in order to make the right to whole family holistic support a practical and accessible reality for families that is consistently available across the country, including in South Scotland, which is my region. I ask for confirmation on how much of the £500 million is new money and how much is pre-existing and pre-announced pots of money that have been brought together. I also ask for a commitment—this is a request from organisations that have sent out information on the issues—to multiyear funding, so that those organisations can plan ahead and move forward.

Families and individuals should sit at the heart of our decisions and the solutions that are provided for them. They should sit at the table when decisions are made. We claim, in this Parliament and this country, to champion the rights of the child, so we must champion holistic family support.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

I thank Martin Whitfield for bringing this important debate to the chamber. I am pleased to contribute to it.

Martin Whitfield is right. The wording of his motion championing the right to holistic family support is important—in particular, where it says

“that article 18 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes the right of families to help and support”.

Support for families that are struggling or going through difficulties has always been needed, but it is especially needed now, in the midst of a horrible global pandemic, the impact of which affects vulnerable children, young people and families most. That is why holistic family support is so important and necessary.

I am thankful that there are excellent organisations that are skilled at providing that, including Action for Children, Home-Start Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, Aberlour Child Care Trust, Children 1st and many more that provide care and nurture to families across Scotland.

Action for Children protects and supports children and young people and provides practical and emotional care, thereby bringing lasting improvements to their lives. It runs 87 services across Scotland, and its 800 staff support, care for, and love more than 20,000 children and families across 31 of our 32 local authorities.

Home-Start Scotland is a local community network of trained volunteers and expert support that helps families with young children through challenging times in their own homes. In the previous parliamentary session, I attended a Home-Start parliamentary reception that was inspirational, to say the least, and at which I learned much more about what it does. Barnardo’s supports thousands of individuals, and Children 1st is an exemplary pioneer of caring for children and families throughout Scotland.

Those are just some of the fantastic support organisations that help families who are in need. The difference in their holistic approach is that they do not tell parents what to do or lecture them; rather, they empower them to take control in an entirely non-judgmental and non-stigmatising way.

Families can need temporary support because of an unexpected crisis, a health issue, a dependency issue or financial trouble. Such life events could happen to any one of us at any time. If they are addressed early, those problems can be resolved or mitigated to allow the family to heal. Children are always given a voice so that they can help to play a part in creating a happier family environment.

As I said earlier, the Covid crisis has also seen the need for family support soar, with many families reaching out for help for the first time. Action for Children experienced a 415 per cent surge in demand for parenting advice in the first three months of lockdown, compared with the same time the year before. That is why the Scottish Government’s commitment to deliver a whole family wellbeing fund of £500 million in the current parliamentary session is so welcome and important. The groundbreaking baby box and best start grants are testimony to our commitment to giving children the best start in life, as is our transformational early years programme.

However, we must continue to build on that—I agree with Martin Whitfield about consistency—so that families who are under pressure know that help and holistic support are there for them when they are going through the roughest of times.

Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

Does Rona Mackay recognise that 76 per cent of applications to the Scottish welfare fund and 66 per cent of awards from the Scottish welfare fund are repeat applications for crisis support? That suggests that financial support is not really being given to the families that need it.

Photo of Rona Mackay Rona Mackay Scottish National Party

I agree that more must be done in that sense, but establishing a fund—as we have done—is a start. As I said, that has to be built on so that the problem that Pam Duncan-Glancy has brought up is alleviated; I say that it has to be done soon.

Supporting families who are in need is at the core of creating a better society in Scotland. I thank all organisations and volunteers. To all struggling families out there, I stress that there is unconditional help for them, if they reach out.

Photo of Oliver Mundell Oliver Mundell Conservative

I thank Martin Whitfield for bringing the debate to the chamber, and for his thoughtful contribution—such contributions have already become a hallmark of his time in Parliament. I doubt that I will meet that standard or test myself, but I am pleased to speak in the debate and to voice the Conservatives’ support for his motion.

We have already touched on some important points, but I want to say up front that all families struggle. Being a parent is not easy. Being a carer is not easy. Of course there are those who face profound and difficult challenges, but it is important to remember that all families deserve our support and the support of the Government, its agencies and the many charities that do tremendous work.

During the pandemic, we saw how dependent we are on those third sector organisations, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude. The same applies to those in underfunded departments in our local authorities who struggle and who, when many have been working from home, have continued to go out and work with vulnerable families to make sure that they can eat and heat their homes and, most important of all, that someone is there to listen.

Rona Mackay’s point in that regard was excellent. That listening ear must be non-judgmental and helpful, and support must be provided. Most important of all, the support must be consistent. We cannot put services in place and then pull them away. Pam Duncan-Glancy was right to say that, if people bounce in and out of crisis situations, we will not find a long-term fix. We all need to find the political will to address that.

Often, good support is provided during pregnancy or when people are about to have children. National health service classes are offered, although the fact that some of those have been provided online in the past few years has presented challenges for many new mothers, who have struggled to make connections and to find the support networks that they need.

The support that is provided at that stage often starts to drop off. Although support is provided by health visitors, that can often be sporadic and might be provided only at set points to meet arbitrary cut-off dates. That is where consistency is important. People need support and advice right the way through the development of the children who they care for.

I am running out of time, but I would like to take a moment to reflect on some of the work that I have seen being done in my Dumfriesshire constituency by Aberlour, in particular, which provides many services to help and support people, from homework clubs through to drop-ins. It is clear that the staff who are involved in those projects care passionately about the people whom they work with.

It is important that we ensure that provision is consistent across the country. Every member of the Parliament will be able to point to good projects and good practice in their constituency or region, but it is equally the case that many young people and families fall through the net. Until there is consistency of provision, we cannot consider it job done, no matter how much money—new or otherwise—is announced.

Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

I congratulate my colleague Martin Whitfield on securing the debate.

No two families are the same, but under the UNCRC, every child has the same right to tailored family support. Disabled children are entitled to the exact same rights and fundamental freedoms as non-disabled children. That right is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, too.

However, for families with disabled children to enjoy their human rights on an equal basis to that on which others enjoy them, they sometimes need things to be done differently. Disabled people being able to live independently and to have full enjoyment of our human rights does not mean that we want to live on our own or to fend for ourselves. Full enjoyment of our human rights means having the same freedom, choice, dignity and control as everyone else, and having rights to practical assistance and support in order to be able to do that.

It is that approach that allowed me and my family to be able to live with the same choices and freedoms as others. I am incredibly grateful for that and for the support that I have, which allows me to live the life that I want to live, and without which being here today in this chamber would not be possible.

I know the difficulties that my family faced in fighting to ensure that I was able to enjoy my rights to leave home, to get a job and to go to university, and that they could enjoy their right to live their lives. I will never forget the day that we finally secured my support, when my mum said to me, “At last, I can be your mum—not your carer or your social worker, but just your mum.”

My transition experience forced my family to become project managers in our own lives, and too many young disabled people still face that reality today. That is exactly why I am working to give all young disabled people a fighting chance through my proposed disabled children and young people (transitions to adulthood) (Scotland) bill.

Disabled children across Scotland are still being denied the opportunity to realise their full potential. They go without the support that they need. That is why there is a stubborn disability employment gap of 32 per cent. It is why disabled people have poorer mental wellbeing than non-disabled people and it is why young disabled people are twice as likely not to be in education, training or employment after they leave school. It is why they believe that nothing that they will do will change their future. The support that young disabled people get is too often a postcode lottery: some get what they need, others in different areas have no access to anything at all.

The disability movement is testament to what can be achieved when people are given a fighting chance. Not to do so is a loss for us all. Children who go hungry in homes that families cannot afford to heat do not have a fighting chance either. They face barriers to their needs. A Parliament that prides itself on being progressive must recognise that meeting basic human rights is a low bar. It should be unquestionable. Without meeting those rights, how do we expect to enable people to fully enjoy and realise all their rights? We must urgently address child poverty and get on track to meet our child poverty targets, not because they are targets but because they are for children.

We all support doubling the Scottish child payment now, but we must go further. It must be doubled again by April next year to increase the chance for more children to live up to their potential. At the moment, only one in four children gets the rate of payment that the Government agrees that they need. Until the Scottish Government fully rolls out that payment, children who are older than six will miss out on that lifeline, and 125,000 children will continue to receive no payment at all. The Scottish Government must work with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure a full roll-out as soon as possible.

With energy bills rising, the Government must also listen to our calls for a targeted winter fuel payment for families on low incomes. I know from engagement with the third sector that many organisations saw extraordinary increases in applications for support, as another member has mentioned. The reward for the sector has been a £1 million cut to its budget. The third sector cannot afford to plug every gap left by the Government. People are in real long-term crisis. We see that in the large number of repeat applications to the Scottish welfare fund. We need bold and sustainable solutions, not stopgaps.

A commitment to the full incorporation of human rights treaties plays a key part in that. Three months on from the Supreme Court’s ruling that UNCRC incorporation fell outwith devolved competence, the Scottish Government has failed to bring the bill back. Children and young people are not interested in the constitutional debate that has held back the bill. They want to see their rights enshrined in Scots law. That includes a right to family support. They fought long and hard for that incorporation. The UNCRC incorporation bill must be brought back to Parliament at the earliest opportunity. I call on the Government to set out a clear timescale for when it will do that, so that we can get the bill on the statute book and build a Scotland where children really do flourish.

Photo of Paul McLennan Paul McLennan Scottish National Party

I thank Martin Whitfield for bringing the debate to Parliament. I also thank Aberlour, Barnardo’s, Children 1st and the CCPS for their briefings.

Just before Christmas, I met with First Step, an organisation that is based in Musselburgh and offers services in other parts of East Lothian. I also met with Home-Start East Lothian, an organisation that was mentioned by Rona Mackay. First Step is a community project for families with young children and is based in the Musselburgh East housing estate. It is an independent voluntary organisation funded by East Lothian Council and other funding bodies.

First Step was set up in 1990, more than 30 years ago, by a group of local parents who wanted somewhere safe and comfortable where they could meet and their children could play. The continued involvement of families and the local community in all aspects of First Step has been key to its success. That is a key idea that we should take from this debate: we need local solutions. The project has developed its services to meet local needs while continuing to be managed by a community-led management committee and employing a staff team to support local families.

First Step aims to provide opportunities for local families with young children to make positive choices in their lives by providing supportive centre-based and outreach activities that encourage parents and children to develop their self-esteem, confidence and skills. It offers parenting support, individually and in groups. It has nursery provision for children aged one to four and for funded eligible two-year-olds. There are groups and courses for parents, outreach and family support, and counselling and dedicated support for young parents. It is truly a one-stop shop for families.

In its briefing for the debate, Barnardo’s said:

“Family support is an approach that centres on relationships, by providing a range of practical and emotional support to help strengthen and nurture family connections—getting alongside children, young people, parents, and carers in their communities and providing compassionate, consistent, and practical support and operating a ‘no wrong door’ approach.”

The previous session of the Scottish Parliament saw publication of the Independent Care Review’s final report, “The Promise”. One of its core recommendations was that public spending be shifted away from dealing with the consequences of failure and inequality to invest in prevention and enable children and families to thrive, and it highlights the key role that family support can play in achieving that. The Scottish Government has convened the family support delivery group in recognition of the fundamental importance of keeping the promise and as a critical component in realising the rights of children as enshrined in the UNCRC.

The doubling of the Scottish child payment is, of course, a major step forward and it is very welcome as a first step. The Scottish Government’s announcement of the creation of a £500 million whole family wellbeing fund as part of its Covid recovery strategy is also very welcome. There is a high-level strategy that sets out the aims, which include financial security for low-income households and enhanced wellbeing for children and young people. Children 1st states in its briefing that the commitment to create the whole family wellbeing fund and invest 5 per cent of community-based health and social care spend on such support is welcome.

I return to the point that we need to build on local solutions. First Step and Home-Start in my constituency are examples of how well that can work. However, detail is needed on how the investment will help to ensure that the Government delivers on the commitments that it made when it accepted the report “The Promise”.

Holistic family support has been recognised by all parties in the Parliament as being a key element in tackling poverty, supporting attainment and preventing mental health issues. I look forward to working with the Scottish Government, First Step, Home-Start and East Lothian Council to expand family support services in East Lothian.

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

I thank my friend Martin Whitfield for bringing his important motion to the chamber for debate today, because my belief in the family is central to my political beliefs. It fills me with sadness to see the increased rate of family breakdown, and the sadness is not derived from some romantic, utopian view of family; it arises because the breakdown of families has a devastating impact on those who are involved.

When I talk about the breakdown of families, I am not just talking about divorce and separation. I am also talking about the breakdown of safe, stable and nurturing relationships in families where parents stay together. A recent study from Canada concludes that 44.3 per cent of parents with children under the age of 18 who are living at home had experienced deteriorated mental health during the pandemic. As Professor Hazel Borland of NHS Ayrshire and Arran told the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, there has been a significant impact on mental health which, tragically, is also resulting in an increase in suicides across the country. With the pandemic affecting the mental health of both parents and children, it is important that every family that is in need has access to the appropriate family support.

However, our approach to providing family support must change. Family support must emphasise the importance of relationships. Rather than looking at child and parent support in isolation, we must see them as being interrelated. We must look at the whole family. Pam Duncan-Glancy spoke well on that aspect. Central to that thinking is the understanding that children want loving relationships. As “The Promise” states,

“When children talk about wanting to be safe, they talk about having relationships that are real, loving and consistent.”

For us to truly understand that, there must be a fundamental shift in our thinking. We must recognise the long-term pain that removing a child causes for children, families and communities.

Long-term, loving relationships are key to the nurturing of children and to their happiness and wellbeing. That is recognised in “The Promise”, as several speakers have said. “Change Programme ONE” is a great way to deliver that, and I note that the third and charitable sectors add the love and nurturing that are often missing from Government programmes. Family support must be about exactly that. Children do not exist in a vacuum. They are raised by families and a broader community of people who love them. We are all responsible.

It is incumbent on the state to let family life flourish and to ensure that everything that it does enhances, rather than detracts from, the family. Teachers in schools, social workers, youth leaders and others must always work with families to support them and help them. Cutting across that is to be avoided.

However, support from Government is always to be welcomed. In the recent programme for government, as previous speakers have said, there was an announcement that £500 million will be provided over the current session of Parliament for a whole family wellbeing fund. That funding has been welcomed by members throughout the chamber. I have asked for a breakdown of how it will be allocated, but I have not yet received any answers that I deem to be sufficient.

To conclude, I would like to ask two questions, which I hope the minister will address in her remarks. How much of the £500 million for the whole family wellbeing fund that was announced in the programme for government will be allocated to each local authority in each year of this parliamentary session? Given the commitment to dedicate at least 5 per cent of community health and social care spend to family support services by 2030, can the minister inform us what the current percentage is? Those are pretty clear questions.

Decisions on family support must focus on the needs of children and families. That requires funding to be spent at local level and a fundamental shift in our thinking. Families are idiosyncratic and diverse. I have never met two families that were the same. In Scotland, we must be resolved to support that diversity in all its glory and to work alongside members of families to nurture, support and love the next generation.

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

I am grateful to Mr Whitfield for bringing the debate to the chamber and I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue. I want to thank members for their contributions on this important topic. I often reflect on the fact that the Parliament works well when we all work together, and this seems to be an area where we are all wanting to pull in the same direction.

Family support is not a new concept. Experienced practitioners and professionals across Scotland have long highlighted the benefits of a holistic and whole family approach to supporting families. An early offer of support that is sustained for as long as the family needs it is fundamental to our getting it right for every child approach.

As recognised in “The Promise” and Martin Whitfield’s motion, and as mentioned in a few contributions across the chamber today, children have the right, which is enshrined in the UNCRC, to be raised safely in their own families. For all but the very few, that is absolutely what is best.

Access to effective family support can be the critical factor in ensuring that that is achieved. That is even more important now, given what we know about the negative impact of the pandemic on child poverty, inequalities and the wellbeing of children, young people and families, especially those on the edges of care, or looked-after children.

The Scottish Government is already taking significant action across a range of areas to support families. Our baby box programme has distributed more than 200,000 baby boxes across Scotland to provide much-needed support to families at the very start of their child’s life. We are the only country in the United Kingdom to offer the equivalent of 1,140 early learning and childcare hours to all three and four-years-olds and around a quarter of two-years-olds, putting children first regardless of their parents’ working status. We have expanded universal free school lunches to all children up to and including those in primary 5.

We continue to invest heavily in child and adolescent mental health services. Our mental health transition and recovery plan is supported by a £120 million recovery and renewal fund, which will transform services, with a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention in response to the challenges of the pandemic.

We want to do more in recognition of the additional financial challenges that many families are struggling with. We have declared a national mission to tackle child poverty, calling on all of society to work with us to make the changes that are needed. However, while we are doing everything that we can within our devolved powers to support families, the UK Government is doing the reverse.

Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

We have significant devolved powers on social security to reduce child poverty, but at present only one in four children living in poverty in Scotland accesses the £20 Scottish child payment. How does the Government plan to address that to ensure that the other hundreds of thousands of eligible children across Scotland get access to the money that they need?

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

We need to ensure that people are aware of what their entitlements are. I am sure that there are families who are not aware of that, and it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that families get access to the benefits that they are entitled to.

Recent research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that families that do not have an adult in work, and lone parents who are in or out of work, are significantly worse off than they were 10 years ago. That is before we take into account rising food and fuel costs, which will hit the poorest families most.

We have repeatedly called on the UK Government to make fundamental changes to universal credit to make it a proper safety net for all. We echo the calls made last week by charities ranging from Save the Children to Age UK for the UK Government to reinstate the £20 uplift to universal credit that was made during the pandemic and prevent more families from spiralling into destitution.

In contrast, the Scottish Government’s budget sets out our choices to back families through the cost of living crisis. We are making £197 million available in the year ahead to support the doubling of the Scottish child payment to £20 per week per child from April. That will immediately benefit 111,000 children under the age of six. Ahead of the full roll-out of the payment to all eligible children under the age of 16, we continue to deliver bridging payments worth £520 this year for as many school-age children as possible.

Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative

The minister started off by saying something profound and true, which is that, when we work together across the parties, we can get things done. It was rather gratuitous and unnecessary and a deflection for her to move on to talk about the UK Government. As a Scottish Government minister responsible for this important policy area, will she tell me when the Government will bring back its legislation on the UNCRC?

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is committed to bringing back that legislation as quickly as we can. We are working at pace through the judgment that was made by the Supreme Court. However, my constituents would certainly think that a Scottish Tory defending the cut of £20 a week in universal credit in their pockets could be construed as gratuitous and unnecessary.

We are taking a range of action to tackle the cost of the school day for children and help them to reach their full potential. We have committed £11.8 million to deliver the increased minimum school clothing grant of £120 for every eligible pupil in primary school and £150 for every eligible pupil in secondary school. We have also committed £21.75 million to continue alternative free school meal provision for around 150,000 children and young people during school holidays.

Importantly, we do not want families just to survive; we want them to thrive. As the Promise change plan for 2021 to 2024 highlighted, we need our services to feel seamless for the people who experience them.

Although there are many pockets of good practice—we have heard of them in various speeches from members—we need to support whole-system change so that the principles of good holistic family support are delivered consistently and sustainably across all areas. That does not mean a single model of family support. Instead, it means a service that wraps around families so that, when they need help, their needs are met in a seamless, joined-up and sustainable way that is unique to their own circumstances.

We also want families to be able to access support regardless of where that need is identified—a general practitioner, an early learning and childcare setting or wherever it may be. Those services need to work collectively in a multi-agency and multidisciplinary way to provide the spectrum of support that will best enable the whole family to thrive. That means working together across boundaries to support children’s services planning partnerships and our workforces to pool resources and maximise their potential to deliver transformational change.

Over the two years since the independent care review concluded, we have worked positively with The Promise Scotland and other key stakeholders to establish how we ensure that the lives of our children and families who are care experienced are improved. By the end of this parliamentary year at the latest, we will publish a single implementation plan that will set out the actions and commitments that we will deliver to ensure that we keep the promise by 2030.

We have shown our commitment to driving transformation and fundamental service redesign. As part of this year’s programme for government, we announced £500 million of whole-family wellbeing funding over this parliamentary session, with £50 million in 2022-23 and the expectation that it will ramp up significantly in subsequent years once capacity and capability build in the sector.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour

Is there a commitment to a multiyear settlement for our third sector so that it can do forward planning, which is essential?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Minister, please begin to wind up your speech.

Photo of Clare Haughey Clare Haughey Scottish National Party

We are working very closely with the third sector in our planning for the funding, so it will be very closely involved in that.

I had quite a bit more to say, but I have taken some interventions, and the Presiding Officer has asked me to wind up.

I commit to write to Stephen Kerr on his specific points and give him all the detail that I can at the moment, with the caveat that we are, obviously, still working collaboratively with stakeholders and, most importantly, listening to the voices of children and families in the development of services and supports going forward.

Ultimately, we want Scotland’s children to grow up healthy, happy, safe and loved, and we recognise that, in most cases, their families are the best people to make that a reality. We need to challenge ourselves to do things differently but, above all, keep the voice of families at the heart of everything that we do.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Thank you, minister; that concludes the debate.

13:30 Meeting suspended.

14:00 On resuming—