New plans for looked after children will improve services and help ensure every child has a permanent home, the Scottish Government announced today.
The Scottish Government’s new Strategy for Looked After Children and Young People (LAC) will:
Ensure the right services are available to support families as early as possible; Speed up decisions to lower multiple placements and ensure that all children have a permanent home; Provide improved support matched to each child’s needs; Benefit children who have normally been hard to place, for example those with extra support requirements; Introduce a mandatory learning and development framework for foster carers and a degree qualification for residential staff and; Improve support organisations and services to meet the needs of children in care.
Aileen Campbell, Minister for Children and Young People at the Capita Conference for professionals working with young people in care, said:
“When a child needs to go into foster, kinship or residential care they will have already faced significant challenges. Each and every looked after child deserves to be treated as an individual, with their needs and happiness the most important considerations.
“Our world-leading support for care leavers includes extending the age that young people can remain in care and receive financial support. To achieve this we are investing £9 million each year ensuring our care leavers have every chance to succeed.
“And we are seeing real progress. More young people are finding safe, stable homes earlier and educational attainment is improving but we want to do even more. This strategy brings together what’s already working well across Scotland as we improve services and speed up decision making.
“We are also introducing new learning opportunities and qualifications for foster and residential carers so they have the right skills to support the children they care for.
“I am determined that this strategy will make sure every looked after child has a secure, loving home and supportive relationships with those want the very best for them.”
Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive of Who Cares? Scotland, said:
"Statistically speaking, despite making up less than 1 per cent of Scotland’s population, our looked after young people continue to be overrepresented in every social problem area. Evidence indicates that they make up 30 per cent of the homeless population. They are seven times more likely to be excluded from education than their non-looked after peers. They are more likely to see the inside of a prison, than the inside of a university.
“Who Cares? Scotland welcomes the Scottish Government’s Strategy for Looked After Children and Young People. The Scottish Government has continued to listen to care experienced young people and their views have been represented within the Strategy. From the importance of relationships, to the need for long term, stable placements; the Strategy shows the continued commitment that the Scottish Government is making to improving the lives of Scotland’s children. The key now is for this strategy to mean something in reality for every one of these children and it's all of Scotland's job to make that happen. These, after all, are Scotland's children."
Sally Ann Kelly, Chief Executive of Aberlour Child Care Trust, added:
“We have been hugely grateful to the Scottish Government for working closely with ourselves and other stakeholders to improve public policy across the looked after children agenda, by changing the age of leaving care to 21, by increasing support to care leavers and by actively considering a right to return to care. Together we are working towards transformational change that will improve the life outcomes of Scotland’s looked after children.”
There are no less than 15,000 looked after children and young people cared for in Scotland, indeed the Scottish Government has heralded a mentoring scheme for looked after children and will in the near future appoint an organisation to manage it.