Monica Hosts Additional Support Needs Event with Juniors Play Cafe

Monica was pleased to co-host a community event with Juniors Play Café in Hamilton aimed at providing support to parents and carers of young people with additional support needs (ASN).  

Through her casework and community engagement, Monica has witnessed a marked increase in the number of parents and carers across the Central Scotland region who are seeking better support for their children with additional support needs. Many families are at breaking point. 

 Some of the main issues raised by families include a lack of knowledge around available support, long waiting times for services, exclusion in education settings and a feeling of isolation.  

Monica wanted to host an event that would connect parents and carers with trusted organisations, helping them to access independent advice and information. She also wanted people to feel less alone and to have the opportunity to meet others in the community who shared similar experiences. 

Juniors Play Cafe in the heart of Hamilton town centre was chosen as the perfect partner for the event due to its open and inclusive space.  Lesley Robertson and her team have created a welcoming environment for everyone in the community. 

Juniors work with local organisations such as the Autism Resources Co-ordination Hub (ARCH) and COAST Lanarkshire to create a safe and fun centre for children and adults to meet new friends, receive advice and get guidance for those on the pathway to diagnosis.  

In advance of the event, Monica sent invites to constituents who had contacted her about ASN issues in recent months, and shared the details on social media and in the local newspaper. 

There was a great turnout on the day and Monica was able to chat face-to-face with local people about their concerns over a cuppa. Some people brought their children along and they were able to enjoy supervised play thanks to the amazing Juniors team. 

Many of the parents and carers in attendance also benefitted from one-to-one discussions with experts from the organisations who had set up advice stations. This included representatives from South Lanarkshire Council, NHS Lanarkshire, Lanarkshire Carers and the Govan Law Centre. 

Monica also highlighted the important role that government action should play to overcome obstacles and tackle gaps in support.  

This gathering not only provided a platform for sharing experiences but also for suggesting potential solutions to present to the Scottish Government and relevant public bodies. 

Collaboration from REACH Lanarkshire, COAST, ARCH, Govan Law Centre, South Lanarkshire Council Pupil Support, Liber8, Pamis, Lanarkshire Carers, NHS Community Health and Social Care Partnership, Money Matters and Hamilton Judo Club gave attendees a range of advice across many areas.  

Monica with organisations outside the event

The event was also attended by the Hamilton Advertiser and was featured extensively in the paper. This helps raise awareness and gives hope to children and families with additional support needs. 

By bringing together key stakeholders, caregivers were given a rare opportunity to share their struggles and receive guidance. The positive feedback received after the event highlights a real need for continued action on ASN support. Monica will work to ensure community and government support are accessible and effective for the people of Lanarkshire.  

Speaking after the event, Monica said: 

“It was great to spend the day chatting with local parents and carers in Hamilton, to understand the issues they are facing when accessing additional support for their children and how I can support them as a local MSP. 

“I extend my gratitude to all the organisations local that participated, offering invaluable support and guidance throughout the event. 

“Many caregivers expressed how isolating and stressful navigating additional support for their children often is.  

“The number of families in attendance highlights the gravity of this problem. A collaborative approach needs to be taken at community and government level to address the diverse needs of children and their families.”