Disabled Young People (Life Skills)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 February 2024.

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Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government what steps it is taking to provide access to life skills programmes for disabled young people. (S6O-03134)

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

Since 2016, the Scottish Government, through the children, young people, families early intervention fund and the adult learning and empowering communities third sector fund, has provided core funding of just over £106 million to 115 organisations to deliver support that tackles inequalities and child and family poverty, improves learning and builds skills. Our transition fund delivers often life-changing support to help young disabled people with the transition after leaving school. Individual institutions support the specific needs of young people to acquire life skills in different ways across school and post-school interventions.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

Following a report from disability charity Scope that found that disabled people often face regular extra expenditure of a whopping £975 per month, does the minister agree that further action must be taken to ensure that disabled young people have access to the highest-quality support services in schools to help equip them with essential life skills in their post-education lives?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I am sure that the member will appreciate that the post-16 landscape is more my area of expertise—assuming that I have one—than schools.

As the member knows, life skills is not a specific area of the curriculum and is covered by a range of subjects. It often falls to the individual school to determine what offering it will provide. I recognise that we must do more for disabled young people than simply furnish them with life skills—we need to help them to maximise their full potential. That was one of the topics under discussion when I met a range of disabled young people’s organisations just last month: we were looking at what more we could be doing to support young people into meaningful career opportunities.

Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

In Scotland, we have made investments in and offered programmes to support our disabled young people. That could not be further away from the Tory-led United Kingdom Government approach of austerity, which has, according to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, resulted in gross and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights. Does the minister agree that the best approach to supporting the educational development of disabled young people is one of inclusion and support as opposed to one of exclusion and austerity?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I agree with the member. It is entirely right for inclusion to be at the heart of our education policy and our legislation. That enables children and young people to receive the support that they need in order to reach their full potential, as I touched on earlier.

The Government is committed to improving the experiences and outcomes for people with additional support needs. Spending on additional support for learning reached a record high of £830 million in the most recently published figures. It is not only our approach to education that is different; the Scottish Government is unique in committing to halving the disability employment gap. We focus on reducing the gap in employment rates between disabled and non-disabled people.