Early years, education and health
Childcare is another key issue in the discussion and considered important in terms of parents accessing work. There are many comments which suggest flexibility and choice are equally as important as availability of childcare, particularly for parents who work outside of nursery or school hours. More breakfast and after school clubs to help with this is a common suggestion.
There are also several comments about providing childcare during school holidays as these periods can prove difficult and potentially expensive for parents, especially those without extended families who are reliant on private childcare during these times.
Support for parents is discussed to a lesser degree. The main points raised include: more supportive information for parents; equal rights for fathers; better paternity and maternity leave arrangements; and additional support for adoptive parents.
There are specific comments on support for parents of disabled children or children with additional support needs. The main points raised here are for services to remain in place for the long term, and that there is more support for disabled children or children with additional support needs in school. Specific suggestions include more carers in special schools and better training for school staff.
For children looked after by the care system, the key point raised is the need for adequate support when they leave care.
Education and health and social care are two of the standout topics in the discussion.
There are a range of views as to how education should be delivered. There is some focus given to starting school later, with reference to the Scandinavian countries, and class sizes and teacher/pupil ratios another issue discussed.
There are various points raised about the school curriculum. A common one is that there should be more variety of subjects taught to include topics such as health; how to vote/get involved in politics; entrepreneurialism/how to start a business; and life skills - budgeting, preparing a meal, nutrition, etc.
There is also a view that vocational learning should have parity with academic learning, and that greater value be placed on vocational study. Apprenticeships and trade schools are two ways suggested to encourage young people to follow vocational career pathways.
There are a number of comments that suggest pupils and students with disabilities need greater levels of support. Further support in school for disabled children is mentioned, as is support for disabled students in further education and higher education. For example, by providing access to transport. Additional support for disabled people moving from education to employment is also suggested.
On health, nutrition and access to healthy food is a key focus. There are a number of ideas suggested as to how to improve nutrition, with an emphasis on child nutrition through healthier school meals and availability of fresh fruit in school. Educating parents on nutrition and providing warnings on unhealthy foods such as sweets and fizzy drinks are other key points.
The cost of healthy food is also raised with comments that it is too high or that unhealthy food is cheaper. Some ideas to reduce these costs include offering tax relief on healthy foods, through VAT, or local suppliers, through business rates relief. Also, one idea suggested is to levy tax on unhealthy foods to make them less appealing.
Mental health is another key issue in the discussion. One of the main points raised is a desire to see mental health services to be the same as physical health services, both in terms of access to mental health services and quality. A particular point made is that there should be more child and adolescent mental health services.
Further reductions in waiting times to access health services is a common point. This is a particular issue in connection with mental health services, especially for people in crisis situations. There is also a focus on GP appointments, with comments suggesting appointments are difficult to get and often too short. This last point is a particular concern of those whose first language is not English.
Health service integration and management of the NHS is also discussed. A common view is that the NHS could be further improved if there were greater levels of integration between different health departments. One example given is that greater integration of services would enable more efficient sharing of patient information and allow patients with multiple or complex issues to access integrated care at one location.
There are some comments suggesting there should be further integration between health and other service departments, such as social work; housing; and education services.
In terms of resourcing the NHS, a common view is that it should continue to remain free at the point of access and that further investment should be provided to ensure it receives the level of funding it requires. A small number of comments suggest that people also need to take more responsibility for their own health and not rely completely on the NHS to protect their health simply because it is free.
Carers are one of the key groups discussed and support for carers is a key theme. There is acknowledgement for the role that carers play and there are calls for greater provision of sufficient respite for carers, and for carers' allowance to be raised to reflect the economic value they contribute to the Scottish economy.
Email: Paul Sloan
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