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Needs Analysis for Strategic Commissioning of Services for Children with Complex Additional Support Needs: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of this research?

This research is for the Scottish Government’s Learning Directorate Support and Wellbeing Unit.  The research will explore stated needs for strategic education, health and care services for children with complex additional support needs in Scotland.  It will explore perspectives of those using and commissioning services, as well as wider stakeholders.

The focus is on understanding needs in relation to centrally funded services, funded by the Scottish Government.  This central funding is currently largely allocated to seven Grant Aided Special Schools and national support services such as CALL Scotland, Enquire and the Scottish Sensory Centre.  This research will inform the way in which the Scottish Government spends future funding.

What does the research involve?

The research will involve two main phases.  The first phase runs to the end of December 2014, and will involve:

  • Exploring current use of centrally funded services: We will gather information from centrally funded services, exploring how many children and families use their services, the profile of these service users, and the geographical spread of use across Scotland.  We will also hold telephone interviews with these services to explore their experiences and views.
  • Views of service users: We will gather views from children, young people and their families and carers.  We will work with local organisations and services which have strong connections with children with complex additional support needs, and their families, to agree the best way to engage locally.  We will hold 20 focus groups (or series of individual discussions) – some just with children; some just with families and carers; and some mixed.  They will be across the country, in rural and urban areas, and will involve children with a range of needs, receiving a range of services and of a range of ages.  Participation in these groups will be incentivised – both for individual participants and for the organisations helping to set these groups up.  The approach will be very robust but flexible, to ensure as many children as possible can be involved.
  • Views and experiences of commissioners: We will hold telephone interviews with three contacts in each local authority in Scotland, and one contact in all regional NHS Boards and relevant special NHS Boards.  Over 100 telephone interviews will be undertaken across Scotland.  Contacts will be identified by Directors of Education, Directors of Social Work and Chief Executives of NHS Boards.
  • Information on local need: As well as gathering views, we will ask each NHS Board and local authority to complete a short template which gathers information on the profile of young people with complex additional support needs; budgets and spend on supporting children with additional support needs; and current support accessed from Grant Aided Special Schools and other centrally funded services.
  • Views of other stakeholders: We will speak to around eight strategic stakeholders with a policy interest in commissioning for services for children with complex additional support needs.  This will include organisations like the Scottish Government, COSLA, Education Scotland, representative associations and inspection bodies.


We will draw all of this information together into an interim report by the end of December 2014.

The second phase will run from January to March 2015 and will involve:

  • Four case studies: These will demonstrate interesting practice or challenging experiences in terms of needs assessment, commissioning and service delivery.  They will be selected based on findings from the first phase of the research.
  • Workshops with commissioners: We will hold six workshops with commissioners across Scotland.  These will allow people to hear about our initial findings, explore their own experiences, and discuss their priorities for the development of central services.  These will be held in January and February 2015.


We will produce a final report by the end of March 2015.

Who is undertaking this research?

The research is being undertaken by ODS Consulting, an experienced social research company based in Glasgow (www.odsconsulting.co.uk)

Katy MacMillan (Director) is leading the research.  To find out more call Katy on 0141 424 3765 or email katy.macmillan@odsconsulting.co.uk

The research is being supported by a Research Advisory Group, involving a wide range of stakeholders, which will meet throughout the course of the research.