Martin Whitfield MSP has led his first Member’s debate in the Scottish Parliament on the subject of ‘Championing the Right to Holistic Family Support’.

The South Scotland MSP is also his party’s Spokesperson for Children & Young People and it is in that capacity that Mr Whitfield initiated the debate. It attracted widespread support and praise from charities and voluntary organisations working in the children and families sector, including Children 1st and Barnardo’s Scotland.

The motion tabled for the debate noted the belief that all families across Scotland that need additional support should be able to access help when and where they need it, a right established under article 18 of the UN Convention on the Rights for the Child.

The motion also highlighted that delivering accessible holistic family support is central to Scotland’s commitment to Keep The Promise made in 2020 to implement change to make sure that all Scotland’s children grow up ‘loved, safe and respected.’

During the debate Mr Whitfield underlined the importance of shifting public investment towards prevention. He also highlighted the need for an urgent action plan to outline how the Scottish Government’s £500m Whole Family Wellbeing Fund will be invested and implemented.

In her response to the debate, Claire Haughey MSP, Minister for Children and Young People, thanked Mr Whitfield for bringing the debate to the chamber and said she welcomed the opportunity to discuss the issue in Parliament. She also reflected on the fact that family support is a policy issue on which there is much cross-party consensus.

Commenting after his debate, Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“Ensuring that holistic family support is available and accessible to families is an issue that has been important to me for a very long time.

“As a teacher I have always championed the right for all families to be able to access the support they need. However, while that need has long been recognised by government and public authorities, the reality for the families seeking it has all too often been very different.

“There is no doubt that a lot of progress has been made in recent years. In particular, The Promise, agreed in 2020 to ensure that all of Scotland’s children grow up ‘loved, safe and respected,’ was certainly a significant and welcome milestone.

“But this is an issue that requires constant, ongoing consideration to ensure that the range of different support required is in place and accessible to those children and families who need it, when they need it.

“I was glad to have the opportunity to bring this topic to the Chamber and pay tribute to the many charities, groups and practitioners across Scotland who work so hard day in, day out on the provision of family support.

“I hope that the debate will help to keep the focus on this crucial agenda and further enhance Scotland’s approach to holistic family support.”

Martin Crewe, Barnardo’s Scotland director, said:  

“It’s refreshing to hear this important issue being debated by MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

“Over the past few years there has been an increasing recognition that family support is an effective response to many of the current key priorities for children and young people – including mental health, early intervention to reduce the number of children coming into care and reducing the poverty-related education attainment gap. 

“A key catalyst has been the work of The Promise team which is taking forward the recommendations from the care review and has highlighted that current activity on family support is simply not sufficient.

“But if we are to keep The Promise, helping families stay together in an environment which allows children to thrive, we need much bolder action from the Scottish Government to work with partners in a shift towards preventative spend.

“We want to see a long-term commitment from government to take forward the work of the Family Support Delivery Group and deliver large scale investment to ensure family support is universally available.” 

The full text of the debate can be found here