Falling through the cracks

In 2012, a young angry woman called Ashley Cameron walked in to my office.

She sat down, crossed her arms and told me that, throughout her lifetime, governments had written 19 different reports about people like her. Countless promises had been made and broken. She wanted to know why this encounter would be any different.

Together, along with many organisations across the children’s sector including Barnardo’s, Aberlour and Who Cares? Scotland, we worked on improving and shaping what would become the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

This Act gave young people the right to return to care up to the age of 21 and the right to receive support in the community up to the age of 25. It’s called Continuing Care.

Four years on, Ashley and I have decided to join forces again to look at whether all the promises made have been kept.

We’ve looked at how the delivery of Continuing Care has been operating in practice and we’ve also looked at the life chances of young people after they leave care: lives which too often lead to early deaths.

The results are startling and deeply worrying. They also show how little we actually know because the State doesn’t record the data properly. It should move public policy makers to act, but it should also make us all angry.

Care experienced children are our children. The State is the parent and we’re all responsible for their care. Our taxes pay for it.

We also all pay the price of their lives being diminished by poor health and opportunities. 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.

We hope that the Scottish Government, MSPs, campaigners and practitioners reading this report will be moved to act in response; moved to either demand change or be the ones delivering it.

Together we can stop care experienced young people falling through the cracks.


Please read the report in full by clicking on the image below to open a PDF document.


WATCH: Kez launches the report at the 6VT Youth Cafe in Edinburgh:

"Falling Through The Cracks" Report

Here’s a 30 second video about the report Kezia has published today. – You can read "Falling Through The Cracks" here: http://www.keziadugdale.com/falling-through-the-cracks/ Once you've read it, contact your MSP and ask what they're going to do about it's findings.

Posted by Kezia Dugdale on Monday, 30 July 2018


Executive summary

This report provides an analysis and evaluation on the implementation of the Continuing Care provision in Scotland’s local authorities in relation to funding allocation and expenditure since the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act came into force on the 1st of April 2014.

The data contained within this report has been collected and collated from Freedom of Information requests which were submitted to all 32 local authorities in Scotland in 2017 and 2018. The report also utilises evidence that third sector organisations have submitted in response to the ongoing Independent Care Review which reinforces the responses from local authorities.

Analysis of the data collected in part one of this report highlights how little information is recorded in relation to the premature death of young people in care.

Part one of the report also highlights the need to expand current mandatory Fatal Accident Inquiries to include all care experienced people up to the age of 21, regardless of the type of care placement. At present, Fatal Accident Inquiries for care experienced young people automatically take place only if the young person was under the age of 18 and had been residing in secure care accommodation.

Analysis of the data collected in part two of this report shows a range of issues from the point of funding allocation to how the funding for Continuing Care is being used to meet the provision requirements. Part two also highlights a disconnect between the number of care experienced young people eligible for Continuing Care and those receiving it. At present, care experienced young people are eligible to stay in their foster, kinship or residential house up to the age of 21 if they were born after the 1st of April 1999.

This report makes four recommendations in relation to the Fatal Accident Inquiries legislation and the reporting of robust data to track the deaths and long-term outcomes of care-experienced people in Scotland. It makes a further six recommendations which relate to improving the sustainability and implementation of Continuing Care.


Quick facts

• Care experienced young people are thought to be 20 times more likely to die before the age of 25 than their non-care experienced peers (Who Cares? Scotland).

• 2% of care leavers completely disappear from the system before their 19th birthday. Their ‘destination’ is completely unknown by any agency (National School Leavers Survey).

• 52% of care experienced children aged 5-10 have a mental health condition compared to 8% of children from the general population.

• Among care experienced young people aged 5-17 years, 45% have been assessed as having mental health issues (Office for National Statistics).

• It is estimated that one of the highest rates of youth smoking exists for care experienced young people at 67% (ScotPho, 2009).

• Official statistics suggest that at least 21% of care leavers become homeless within five years of leaving care (Scottish Government, 2016), however practitioners estimate the figure could be as high as 50%.

• 26% of young people continue to leave care without a formal plan for what happens next (Scottish Government, 2016).

• Over 22% of care experienced people have tried to self-harm or complete suicide (National Health Survey).

• Only 7% of care experienced young people go on to higher education, compared with 39% of the general population (Scottish Government 2016).

• 28% of the Scottish prison population indicated they had spent time in care at some point during their up-bringing. That’s around 2,000 people at any one give time.

• …50% of them were in care aged 16 (Scottish Prison Survey, 2017).

• Almost half of looked-after young people have not had their educational needs assessed, even though they are entitled in law to additional support (Scottish Social Work statistics).

• Nine months after leaving school, 30% of care experienced young people are classed as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training), compared to 8% of their peers (National School Leavers Survey).

• At least one-third of care experienced young people have experienced three or more placement moves during their childhood. There is no requirement to report on the number of placements, so we only know this because of an Audit Scotland investigation in 2010.

• It is estimated that care experienced young people have experienced seven placement moves (Who Cares? Scotland).

…. Ashley Cameron was moved 30 times.

Personal statement by Ashley Cameron 

This report is in two parts: the first part explores Fatal Accident Inquiries in relation to the deaths of care experienced young people, while the second part explores the implementation of Continuing Care in Scotland’s local authorities.

The two-part approach highlights serious concerns relating to data collection – or a lack thereof – on a local authority level regarding the lives of care experienced young people.

Data from answers to Freedom of Information requests sent to all of Scotland’s local authorities provides the evidence base for this report. During the initial research stage, I was horrified – but not surprised – at the lack of data that is collected by local authorities relating to care experienced young people on both the funding of the Continuing Care provision; and the number of deaths of care experienced people – which relate only to the deaths of young people in secure care.

The lives of care experienced people and their subsequent premature deaths should always be considered a matter of public interest. It is well evidenced that care experienced young people who struggled with a lack of stability while in care go on to have poorer outcomes and poorer life chances. In addition, it has been found that 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.

Throughout the Continuing Care formation process, care experienced young people and adults, including myself, shared their often-traumatic experiences with the Scottish Government of their care journey, and explained how quickly the support was removed when they left care at just 16–years-old. Care experienced adults also discussed how it took much longer to get to college and/or university, notwithstanding experiences of repeated homelessness, poor health outcomes and the struggle in finding permanent employment.

From stakeholders and MSPs to the care experienced young people themselves, there were high expectations around the implementation of Continuing Care and the huge benefits that the provision could bring in relation to support, resources and permanency. It has become apparent through the research findings contained within this report that the provision has been rushed; this means that care experienced people will continue being left behind to fall through the cracks.

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?

Research findings

• The Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Act 2016 only requires a mandatory inquiry to take place if a child was subject to a court order to reside in a Secure Care Unit.

• From the 1st of January 2009 to 31st of December 2011, 30 care experienced young people died in secure care before their 18th birthday. 70% of these deaths were boys and 30% were girls.

• In 2012, eight care experienced young people under 18 died in secure care.

• The most common reasons for the premature death of a care experienced young person are: suicide; overdose; accidents; and complex health issues.

• Over the last ten years, 84 care experienced young people in secure care have died prematurely; 16 of these are categorised as ‘reasons unreported’.

• There is currently no statutory duty placed on the Care Inspectorate to annually publish a report on the numbers of deaths of looked-after children.

… There are no recorded or published statistics about the lives of care experienced young people’s lives nine months after leaving care and into adulthood.

• In many local authority areas, the Continuing Care provision is under-funded and places additional pressure on already stretched council budgets.

• Several local authorities’ expenditures have exceeded the amount allocated, with no promise of increased funding on a per annum basis.

• Local authorities are not recording vital information regarding the allocation and expenditure of funds received for the Continuing Care provision.

• Local authorities such as Dumfries and Galloway, Shetland Islands and East Dunbartonshire are not aware of a ring-fenced grant for the Continuing Care provision.

• Some local authorities have de-registered foster carers and re-registered them as ‘supported carers’, placing a strain on resources – this has resulted in reduced numbers of foster carers available for those currently awaiting care placements (Fostering Network, 2018).

• Some local authorities have spent the allocated funding for the Continuing Care provision to relieve pressures elsewhere in their area.

• Some local authorities, despite having eligible young people for the provision and allocated funding to implement it, currently have no young people receiving Continuing Care provision.

• Foster parents receive half the amount they do for looking after an under-18-year-old when they take on Continuing Care responsibilities.


1. The Scottish Government should ensure the recording of information relating to the specific causes of deaths in care experienced and accommodated young people is a statutory reportable requirement for all local authorities in Scotland. This should apply to both those under 18 who are in the care system, and those between 18 and 25 who have experienced it.

2. The Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths (Scotland) Act 2016 inquiry protocol should be amended to include all looked-after young people who die suddenly or as the result of an accident up to the age of 25.

3. Where the Lord Advocate takes the decision not to hold a FAI in to the death of a care experienced person, a written reason should be provided and made publicly available.

4. There should be a duty on the Care Inspectorate to annually publish a report on the numbers of deaths of looked-after children and young people up to the age of 21.

5. The Scottish Government should ensure that the funding allocated to local authorities for the Continuing Care provision is ring-fenced, ensuring protection from budget cuts and that the funding is used only for the implementation of the provision – and not for relieving other financial pressures within the council.

6. The Scottish Government should amend current legislation in the form of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 to place a legal responsibility on local authorities to track and record information relating to the funding and implementation of the Continuing Care provision in a way which can be monitored centrally.

7. The Scottish Government should develop and provide further vital guidance to local authorities on the practicalities of implementing the Continuing Care provision and encourage all local authorities to work towards a pre-set standard of how to implement the provision where appropriate.

8. The Scottish Government should ensure that the Continuing Care provision funding through local authorities is statutory so that it is offered to all care experienced and accommodated children and young people who reach the qualifying age.

9. The Scottish Government should ensure that foster parents who provide Continuing Care for young people aged up to 21 receive the same fee as they do for those under 18.

10. The Scottish Government should address the need for approximately 900 new foster carers. It is recommended that the Scottish Government initiates a national foster carer recruitment campaign.


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