Care-experienced young people in Scotland are ‘falling through the cracks’ when they reach adulthood, a major new report authored by Kezia has warned.
Four years on from a flagship reform by the Scottish Government, data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act shows that only 6 per cent of young people eligible for ‘continuing care’ after their 18th birthday have requested or been offered the option to remain in care.
The year-long research work has found that in many local authority areas the £5million-a-year provision is under-funded, and places additional pressure on already-stretched council budgets.
Several councils have exceeded the amount allocated, while others have spent the money to relieve pressures elsewhere.
Continuing care was introduced as part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and places a duty on councils to care for young people up to the age of 21 in the same accommodation type as before they turned 18.
A major new report authored by Lothians MSP Kezia Dugdale and care-experienced researcher Ashley Cameron will demand more is done to improve the lives of Scotland’s care-experienced young people.
Care-experienced children are more likely to die and their lives ‘don’t count’ in public policy terms, the report also concludes.
The project has found that over the last decade at least 84 care-experienced young people in ‘secure care’ have died prematurely – but figures are not available for those in foster or residential care.
The most common reasons for the premature death of a care-experienced young person are suicide, overdose, accidents and complex health issues.
For looked-after children, the authorities don’t record either their lives or deaths properly, and the absence of data means the absence of public policy to improve their life chances.
The 40-page report – Falling through the cracks – includes research findings following Freedom of Information requests to every council in Scotland. It sets out ten recommendations for the Scottish Government, including:
• Fatal Accident Inquiries should include all looked-after young people who die suddenly or as the result of an accident up to the age of 25.
• The Scottish Government should ensure the recording of information relating to the specific causes of deaths in care-experienced young people is a statutory reportable requirement.
• The Scottish Government should ensure that the funding allocated to local authorities for young adults continuing in care is ring-fenced, ensuring protection from budget cuts.
Scottish Labour MSP for the Lothians, Kezia Dugdale, said:
“Four years since flagship legislation was introduced, we have examined whether all the promises made by the Scottish Government have been kept. The results are startling and deeply worrying.
“For too long, care-experienced young people have been abandoned at the age of 18, and are more likely to end up in a prison than a university lecture theatre.
“The introduction of continuing care was designed to address this, but our report reveals a patchwork of provision across Scotland, with only a small number of young people being offered the option to remain in care.
“Care experienced children are our children: the state is the parent and we’re all responsible for their care. Our taxes pay for it and we also all pay the price of their lives being diminished by poor health and opportunities.
“Too many care-experienced youngsters are falling through the cracks, and we require urgent action to improve their life chances.”
“It’s a scandal that we don’t know exactly how many care-experienced young people die before their 25th birthday – but we do know it’s far too many.
“This report has examined three keys aspects of their lives. Firstly, they are far more likely to die than their non-care experienced peers. Secondly, if they live, their lives will be poorer both in terms of their health and economic outlook.
“Finally, we have demonstrated beyond all doubt that their lives don’t count in public policy terms because we don’t count them. We don’t record either their lives or deaths properly, and the absence of data means the absence of public policy to improve their life chances.
“We hope that the Scottish Government and MSPs will be moved to act in response. Together we can stop care experienced young people falling through the cracks.”
Report researcher Ashley Cameron, who grew up in care, said:
“The lives of care-experienced people and their subsequent premature deaths should always be considered a matter of public interest.
“Care-experienced young people who struggled with a lack of stability while in care go on to have poorer outcomes and poorer life chances. Issues around attachment and a lack of long-term stable relationships have a detrimental impact on social and emotional development, educational outcomes, and long-term mental health issues.
“We should never expect poor outcomes to remain static in the vicious cycle of homelessness, fragmented employment and poor mental and physical health.
“Academics state that people who influence law change are more likely to be the ones who report when things go wrong, and that’s what we have done here. Because if not now, then when? And if not us, then who?”
READ THE REPORT IN FULL HERE: http://www.keziadugdale.com/falling-through-the-cracks/