Martin Whitfield MSP has lent his support to families of disabled children across Scotland as they tell the Scottish Government “Our kids won’t wait” and demand fairer funding.

Gathering outside the Scottish Parliament, families put pressure on the First Minister to reconsider a decision to hold a funding decision at 2016 levels, which Scottish charity The Yard claims has cost them £125 per family.

The charity has three centres, in Edinburgh, Dundee and Fife, and provides a wide range of services including family support, respite, school and play services to over 2,300 children with disabilities.

Essential funding from the Scottish government comes from the Children and Young People Early Intervention Fund. The charity received £90,000 in 2016 – enough to support 550 children – around £164 per family supported. In 2022, The Yard supported four times that many, so received £39 per family – a reduction of 76%.

Service user Lawrence Cowan said his daughter Eilish is happiest at The Yard:

“It is a place of pure joy. It is where Eilish can truly be who she is – a rare place where she is not defined by her disability.

“She is four years old. She is one of around 200 kids in the world with a genetic abnormality in a gene called TUBA1A. It means she struggles to walk; it means she struggles to see like you or I and it means she has a learning disability. But what it doesn’t mean is that she is any less deserving of love or a sense of belonging.

“Our kids won’t wait for fair funding any longer. Their childhood and chance to make friends are as precious as anyone else’s. Yet it appears not to be a pressing priority. That needs to change.”

Households containing a disabled person have higher levels of child material deprivation (20%) compared to households with no disabled people (8%)* and 33% of Scottish families have extra disability and care-related costs of £300+ a month**. This summer, just 4% of families with disabled children had a holiday club for all the days and hours the family needs, with over a third reporting that providers could not meet their disabled child’s needs.***

Yard chief executive Celine Sinclair said:

“We are only asking for a fair award, based on the growing number of families we support. The Yard is a recognised centre of excellence and even the Scottish Government learns from its approach.

“Every £1 invested in The Yard generates a social return on investment of £23. By rolling forward the grants without adjustment, the Scottish Government is, in effect, penalising organisations who have successfully grown their impact to meet growing need. That is simply not fair.”

Martin Whitfield MSP added:

All disabled children in Scotland deserve to have safe places full of joy and belonging. That’s why I’m pleased to be supporting The Yard’s campaign for fair funding.” 

*Scotland’s Wellbeing: national outcomes for disabled people” 2019, Scottish Government

** “Caring More than Most”, 2017, Contact

***”The Loneliest Summer: Holiday Club Survey of Parents of Disabled Children” 2023, Contact and Disabled Children’s Partnership