Disabled Fife Girl’s Campaign Unites Political Leaders
Opposition party leaders sign letter to FM calling for “fairer funding” for disabled children
A Fife girl’s campaign for fair funding for a charity supporting disabled children in Scotland will be debated in Parliament today (3 October 2023) after capturing the attention of the nation’s politicians – including the leaders of Scotland’s main opposition parties.
Fronted by Eilish Cowan (4) from Dunfermline, who has a rare genetic disability, the ‘Our Kids Won’t Wait’ campaign was launched by dad Lawrence in June, urging the Scottish Government to introduce a fairer funding deal for charities supporting families with disabled children like The Yard. The Yard works with children and young people aged 0-25 with Additional Support Needs through adventure play sessions in Edinburgh, Dundee and Kirkcaldy.
Today, leaders of Scotland’s opposition parties joined together to sign a letter urging the First Minister to act. (for full letter, see Notes to Editors).
Almost 2,000 people have also signed the online petition urging the First Minister to rethink the decision to roll forward the Children and Young People Early Intervention Fund (CYPEIF) based on a funding level set seven years ago. Campaigners say the move is “short changing” charities like The Yard which have needed to grow significantly to meet demand. In 2016, the Scottish Government contributed £163 per family in core funding towards the work of the Yard through the fund. In 2023, this has reduced in real terms by 76% to £39 per family because demand has increased by more than four times 2016 levels.
Eilish, who has been attending The Yard since last year, is one of around 200 children in the world with a genetic abnormality in a gene called TUBA1A, meaning that she struggles to walk and is visually impaired. She also has a learning disability.
Now, Claire Baker, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, has secured a public debate about the campaign at the Scottish Parliament.
Ms Baker said, “I have heard at first hand how much support and enjoyment Eilish gains from attending The Yard and want to ensure this continues for her and other children with disabilities. My debate is an opportunity for the Minister and the Scottish Government to listen to how valuable charities like The Yard are for families and to hear their plea for funding to continue and expand their work.”
Eilish’s dad Lawrence Cowan added, “My daughter and disabled children like her deserve every opportunity to be loved and belong just like everyone else.
“Time and again parents with disabled children have to fight or wait for support we need. This funding decision means The Yard cannot grow to meet demand. It effectively means that disabled children and parents are missing out on vital support, yet again.
“Our kids won’t wait any longer. The First Minister says his priorities are tackling poverty and improving childcare. Charities like The Yard are essential services delivering both these priorities for some of the most vulnerable children in Scotland. We need to see a fairer funding approach.”
Celine Sinclair, CEO of The Yard added, “The Yard is well placed to support the Scottish Government in effectively achieving its key priorities of tackling poverty and childcare. Disabled children and their families face multiple barriers to inclusion and are simply not getting a fair deal. The Yard directly supports over 2300 children and young people from 16 different local authorities. By rolling forward our grant without adjustment, our funding has in effect dropped from £163 per family annually to only £39 per family. By reversing this decision and reinstating funding levels in real terms, Scottish Government will be supporting some of Scotland’s most vulnerable children and giving them the chance to flourish.”
The Yard offers creative and inclusive play experiences in a well-supported environment, alongside wraparound support for the whole family, with a varied programme of drop-in, respite and transition youth clubs, early years, specialist sessions with schools, family play sessions, plus inclusive play and disability training.
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.***
To sign the petition, visit https://www.change.org/ourkidswontwait
For more information about The Yard, visit www.theyardscotland.org.uk
*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
Notes to Editors
Demand for the wide range of services The Yard offers is growing but, due to Scottish Government decision-making around CYPEIF grant funding, it cannot grow to meet demand. Since 2016, The Yard has received £90,000 core funding from the Scottish Government – enough to support 550 children. Seven years on, the charity’s reach has grown fourfold, delivering family support, respite, school and play services to over 2,300 children in the East of Scotland from centres in Edinburgh, Dundee and Kirkcaldy. The charity also plans to offer services in Glasgow, but this requires additional funding.
Letter from party leaders to the First Minister
Dear First Minister
We are offering to work with you and the Scottish Government in establishing a fairer funding model to support children with disabilities.
The recent decision to roll forward the Children and Young People Early Intervention Fund (CYPEIF) grants at 2016 levels is preventing frontline third sector organisations from meeting demand.
Since 2016, The Yard has received £90,000 core funding from the Scottish Government through the fund – enough to support 550 children. Seven years on, the funding has remained the same, but demand has grown fourfold to over 2,300 children. For the Yard, that means CYPEIF funding has been cut in real terms from £163 per child to £39 per child.
The Scottish Government’s approach means that disabled children and their families are missing out on vital support in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. We can and must do better.
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**.
Every £1 invested in The Yard generates a social return on investment of £23. By rolling forward the grants without adjustment, we feel that the Scottish Government is, in effect, penalising organisations who have successfully grown their impact to meet growing need.
I hope you agree this is not fair and that an urgent review and better support is needed to help vital organisations like The Yard grow their work to support children with disabilities and tackle poverty.
Anas Sarwar MSP – Leader of the Scottish Labour Party
Douglas Ross MP MSP – Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party
Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP – Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats