Scotland's councils have been accused of failing children after figures revealed fewer than one per cent of pupils with additional needs have a legally-binding education support plan in place.

Drawn up for youngsters with the most complex requirements, Coordinated Support Plans (CSPs) are subject to rigorous monitoring, scrutiny and review, and typically involve multiple agencies.

But statistics show just 1,534 were issued last year – down from 1,707 in 2019 and 3,458 in 2010.

This is despite the number of pupils identified as having additional support needs (ASN) soaring, jumping from 215,897 to 226,838 between 2019 and 2020. In 2010, the figure was 69,587.

READ MORE: Parents 'ignored' over ASN provision amid worries over teacher training

Parent representatives said councils were going to “great lengths” to avoid providing CSPs and opting instead for alternatives that do not have the same degree of legal enforceability.

The risk of being brought before a tribunal if it is felt a child’s requirements are not being met is thought to be another reason for authorities’ reluctance to issue them.

Council representatives have insisted CSPs will not be necessary in the vast majority of cases and stressed work was under way to assess possible barriers to their use.

But Ross Greer, education spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said: “Children in Scotland with the most significant and complex additional needs are being failed.

“Coordinated Support Plans are the only service available to them that has statutory underpinning, giving them and their families the option to take legal action if their needs are not met.

“That is exactly why councils have been so reluctant to issue them, which simply isn’t good enough.”

HeraldScotland: Ross Greer has warned that children "are being failed".Ross Greer has warned that children "are being failed".

Mr Greer, whose party collated the statistics on CSP use, added: “Some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children are being badly let down, with many forgotten during the pandemic.

“We will shortly be proposing ambitious plans to transform Additional Support Needs services, which we will work to deliver as soon as possible after May’s election.”

Eileen Prior, executive director at parents’ organisation Connect, said the ASN system was “not functioning” to help children and young people.

“Parents report repeatedly that local authorities go to great lengths to avoid carrying out the assessments that may then lead to a CSP,” she added.

READ MORE: Teachers supporting children with additional needs given 'totally inadequate' guidance

“Even where a need for support is identified, parents are also told CSPs have been replaced by alternatives, such as Children’s Plans.

“In some cases parents are told an existing CSP will not be updated, but be replaced by another type of plan.

“Of course, these are non-statutory and give the child and parents no rights where needs are not being met.”

Ms Prior also said her organisation had been told by school and local authority staff they were “having to work as gatekeepers” and “ration resources”.

She added: “It should also be remembered that if parents pursue a case through the ASN tribunal system, local authorities can bring in their legal team, but families generally have to find the cash to hire a lawyer.

“As identified in Angela Morgan’s Review, the system around ASN in Scotland is not functioning to support children and young people: we support her call for a significant overhaul to ensure services deliver.”

HeraldScotland: Critics are concerned about levels of support for children with additional needs.Critics are concerned about levels of support for children with additional needs.

Earlier this year, Andrea Bradley, of the EIS teaching union, told MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee that, because of the statutory nature of CSPs, there was “much closer monitoring of their number and the outcomes from them”.

She continued: “Because of that enhanced scrutiny... there is perhaps more of a reluctance to open them for young people than is the case for Child Plans, which are not statutory.

“That is one issue members have reported to us as an element of the kind of manoeuvring and perhaps massaging of the bureaucracy to manage what are scarce resources and slow or inhibit access to the limited resources that are available.”

A spokeswoman for Cosla, which represents Scotland’s councils, said the body was working with a range of partners to examine how CSPs are used.

She said: “A Coordinated Support Plan is developed for children who have complex or multiple additional support needs that affect their learning. These will generally be longer term needs and involve more than one agency, in addition to education such as social work or health.

“The vast majority of children and young people who require additional support with their learning will have their needs met without a CSP being prepared.”

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The spokeswoman added: “Cosla is working with the Scottish Government, the EIS and others to consider the implementation of CSPs and whether there are barriers to their use.

“This includes consideration of the relationship between CSPs and other planning mechanisms used to co-ordinate support and services to children and young people.

“The result of this work will be reported to Scottish ministers and the Cosla Children and Young People spokesperson in October this year.”

Government officials have said the Additional Support For Learning Act places duties on education authorities to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils, including those with complex additional support needs. The law sets out a clear definition of when a coordinated support plan is required.