Threat to support posts in council budget

Dumfries and Galloway Council’s plans to cut costs by axing 52 learning support posts has been flagged up to Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner.

Last week, MSP Joan McAlpine wrote to Tam Baillie, the children’s commissioner, to warn him that the proposed changes would be detrimental to children, depriving them of the professional support they need to fulfil their potential.

The MSP goes on the ask the children’s commissioner to use his statutory powers under the Children and young People’s Act (Scotland 2014) to investigate this action by Dumfries and Galloway Council.

Mrs McAlpine added that should the ASL service be dismantled Dumfries and Galloway council would be failing in its duty to ensure children are safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.

In her letter to the commissioner the South of Scotland MSP states that “the affected families maintain the council consultation was flawed”.

At yesterday’s meeting of the full council in Dumfries to decided the budget, Stranraer and North Rhins councillors, Willie Scobie and Grahame Forster, were set to oppose the cuts arguing that the jobs could be safeguarded by using police headroom and a windfall in energy savings money.

But chair of the education committee Jeff Leaver said that the final budget proposals have a £500,000 contingency fund for learning support.

He said: “Unfortunately, Ms McAlpine has failed to do her homework and read the actual final budget proposed by the administration which included new proposals for a £500,000 contingency fund for Supported Learning and a further £1 million to reduce overall education savings.

“It is also extremely disappointing that Ms McAlpine did not attend any of the six parental engagement sessions held across the region over the past three weeks to inform concerned parents about the new improved Supporting Learners service and listen to their individual concerns.

“Had she done so she would be better informed of how the new service will be an improvement on the current one.”

Dumfries and Galloway Council aim to identify savings of £30 million over the next three years by targeting spending on community and customer services, planning and environment, education, social work and chief executive and corporate services.