Martin Whitfield MSP has pledged his support for a proposed members’ bill that aims to secure the statutory right to a transition plan from school to adulthood for every disabled child in Scotland.

Introduced by his colleague Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP, the Disabled Children and Young People (Transitions to Adulthood) (Scotland) Bill would ensure that all young disabled people get the support they need as they move on from school and into adulthood.

As it stands, one year after leaving school, those with impairment related Additional Support Needs (ASN) are more than twice as likely to be unemployed/workless (18%) than those with no ASN (8%). By age 19 things become even worse as young people with impairments are three times as likely to be NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) than their non-disabled peers.

The bill seeks to turn this around by requiring the Scottish Government to improve outcomes for disabled children and young people by making transitions the responsibility of a minister, and making it a statutory requirement for local authorities to create a transitions plan for each disabled child and young person.

At present, every child is entitled to a child’s plan, but there is no statutory requirement in place to support disabled children and young people. As a result, this Transition period can be challenging, and tends to lead to poorer outcomes.

These proposals had previously been laid in the Parliament by former MSP Johann Lamont, and a consultation at the time found majority support in favour of the bill’s provisions. However, the bill was unable to complete its passage through Parliament in time for the end of Session Five of the Parliament.

Speaking about his support for the proposed bill, Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“I agree with Pam that young disabled people have been let down for too long and am delighted to pledge my support for her bill. The measures outlined in the bill have the potential to transform the life chances for young disabled people by addressing the challenges they too often face when making their transition from school.

“This legislation offers Parliament the opportunity to empower young disabled people to take the steps they need to make a tangible, long lasting difference to their lives.  I hope that it can now achieve the cross-party support necessary to deliver the changes that disabled children and young people need and deserve.”

Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP said:

“For too long, young disabled people have been let down. Their outcomes from school are far poorer than anyone else’s and that is not a situation we should allow to continue. The talent and potential of every disabled young person is being undervalued and underused.

“That lets them down, and society down – we need to harness the potential in all of us if we’re to create a society where all children can grow up and have a fighting chance at realising their ambitions.  

“This bill will help do that and I am proud to lodge it today. By assigning a Minister to oversee transitions, requiring, by law, a strategy and plan for every child’s transition from school to adulthood, we can be sure that no one falls through the cracks.”