Scottish Parliament buildingThe Scottish Government has released its Programme for Government, highlighting priorities for investment for the year ahead. There are several areas of interest in the programme that will directly impact our families and communities, some of which have the potential to significantly improve access to services and support for adoptive and kinship families.

This year’s Adoption Barometer revealed a clear need for improvement in services for adopted people, and we particularly welcome the announcement of additional funding for child and adolescent mental health support. We also welcome the announcement of annual payments for care experienced people as they transition into adulthood, which was highlighted as a key area of priority in the Barometer.

The creation of a new £500m family wellbeing fund is also to be commended, however, we are disappointed that the programme does not directly address the needs of adoptive families. The Barometer revealed that families in Scotland were the most likely of all UK nations to be experiencing significant challenges when contacting their agency for support, and we call on the Scottish Government to ensure that their needs are properly considered in future policy decisions.

Mental health support
We welcome the pledge to invest 1% of all frontline NHS budget in children and adolescents’ mental health services. Currently families struggle to access the support that their children need yet our Adoption Barometer told us that over 50% of adopted adults sought help from mental health services. Early investment in mental health support could make significant difference to adopted individuals, if they can access services at the time of need.

We’re also pleased to see further investment in development of services and professionals to become more trauma informed, and hope this will continue to improve services for families with children who have experienced trauma. In particular we support the successful ‘Barnhaus’ model being developed under the name of ‘Bairns Hoose’ in Scotland – bringing together child protection, criminal justice, health and recovery services for children who have experienced abuse, this initiative intends to minimise further trauma for children.

The continuation of funding through the Care Experienced Children and Young People’s Fund has been promised within this programme, with £11.6m allocated to support attainment and education of care experienced and adopted children in education. Families’ experience of this funding to this point has been that specific support for adopted children has been lacking in many local authority areas. While we are pleased to see the continued commitment to this programme, we will be asking for greater acknowledgement of adopted children as being intended recipients of this funding, and requesting specific support to be provided through this funding.

Scottish child payments, childcare and free school meals
The commitment to doubling the Scottish Child Payment is a welcome one, but we know that many of our families, particularly those accessing our Kinship Care service are struggling now and we join the voices of our partners Child Poverty Action Group in calling for an earlier roll out of this initiative. Similarly we are pleased to see the offer of childcare and free school meals provision for families who need them. We will continue to ensure our families are aware of all benefits that they are entitled to through our helpline and advice services.

Care experienced grants and bursary
We will be watching with interest the roll out of the newly announced scheme of £200 per year that will be offered to all care experienced young people from the age of 16 – 26 and will ensure our communities are kept informed of access to this grant. We also welcome the news that the care experienced bursary will be continued for young people in higher education, with consideration of the best way to provide this support.

Family Wellbeing fund
The announcement of a family wellbeing fund that will invest £500m in family support as part of keeping The Promise in Scotland is significant. The fund is designed to keep families together, and we welcome this – however, we also know that in situations where children cannot stay within their first families additional support is required for their families to ensure further disruption and family breakdown is not a risk. We will work to ensure that adoptive families and kinship families are highlighted, and to request that the specific family support that they require to benefit their children is highlighted.