Support restored for Bantaskin pupil but Greens raise questions over cuts

Ryan Edmond (5)
Ryan Edmond (5)

The parents of a five-year-old boy with autism whose support at school was slashed to just 2.5 hours a week have been told it has been restored.

Michael and Maryanne Edmond, who live in Shieldhill, spoke out last week when they were suddenly told they would have to visit their son’s school twice a day to change Ryan.

The five-year-old, a pupil at Bantaskin Primary, has severe autism and issues around going to the toilet.

The anger and disappointment felt by his parents when his support was cut led to them sharing their story with The Falkirk Herald and other media outlets as well as several politicians.

Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie raised their case in the Scottish Parliament in Friday’s First Minister’s Questions.

“I’ve been hearing from colleagues and constituents across the country about the cuts local authorities are now having to contemplate,” he said, as he explained Ryan’s predicament to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

“That does not strike me as acceptable,” she said, adding she did not know the details of the case and asking education minister John Swinney to look into it.

Soon afterwards, Ryan’s support of two hours a day was restored – although his parents are concerned this simply means they will be taking resources from another child.

Mr Edmonds said: “We believe it wasn’t strictly a budget cut that affected my boy’s support, but a reallocation of services due to increased demand.

“So, rather than increase support, they take support away from other kids and 
allocate it to the new needs.

“I think it’s just a word play on ‘not cutting budgets’.”

Mr Harvie raised the matter with Nicola Sturgeon after being told about the case by fellow MSP Ross Greer.

Mr Greer told The Falkirk Herald: “It’s great news for Ryan and his family that they’ve had their essential support restored after the Greens raised their case at First Minister’s Questions last week.

“We hope this is a sign of a wider change in direction from Falkirk Council and not a one-off.

“Situations like Ryan’s are far too common and they should not need raised with the First Minister before they are fixed.

“Thousands of children across Scotland are losing out because councils have been forced to cut back on specialist support.

“That’s why we urgently need to reverse the budget cuts which have seen thousands of school staff lost at the same time as demand soars because of improvements in identifying and diagnosing children’s additional needs.

“If this financial mess is not sorted out, many more like Ryan will continue to be a badly let down at school.”

Mr Edmonds is also concerned that he had to make his case so public to get a result.

He said: “I would urge other parents whose children are being affected to speak out.

“Many people post on Facebook but don’t take it any further. I’ve heard lots of parents talk about the lack of support for their children but if they don’t speak out these are cuts that can be hidden.

“Nicola Sturgeon is passing the budget but I don’t think she’s aware of some of the situations it’s causing.”

The Scottish Greens are campaigning to reverse cuts that mean there are now 500 fewer additional support needs staff in Scotland’s schools since 2010.