scotlandA shared vision of what success would look like for children in care must be established, according to a key report issued by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee.

The Committee's report, released yesterday [23 Sept] has also suggested that too many of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people have been left in unsuitable home environments when they should have been taken into care. 

Appalling merry-go-round of care
Committee Convener Stewart Maxwell MSP said: "The evidence we heard from a range of witnesses, particularly from young people who have been in care, was often shocking. We were told about a ‘merry-go-round of placements’, where many children come into care but go home again only to suffer further abuse and neglect. This is simply appalling.

"There’s no doubt that deciding whether or not to remove a child from the family home and into care is one of the hardest decisions to make. However, we believe current decision-making processes do not always deliver the best outcomes for children and families.

"We also welcome the huge amount of work underway to deliver improvements ,but need to see tangible evidence that these efforts are fully coordinated and will actually deliver better outcomes for looked after children."

Quarter of children have multiple placements
According to Scottish Government figures, there are over 16,000 children looked after by local authorities with more than a third of these being looked after by foster carers.

Statistics have also shown that 63% of looked after children have one placement, around a quarter have 2 or 3 placements and 11% have more than 3 placements.

The Committee heard from a wide range of expert witnesses and undertook a series of visits to hear first-hand about how decisions to take children into care are made and the impact they have.

Recommendations contained within the report include:
•The Scottish Government should state whether early interventions will lead to fewer children becoming looked after. If so, it should explain what the implications would be for service providers.
• The complementary skills of staff in universal services and in social work must be used more effectively.
•The Scottish Government and local government must take all necessary measures to improve staff retention in children’s social work.
• Further research is needed on claims that parents with learning disabilities are discriminated against.
• Work on establishing a “better, more rounded picture of a looked-after child’s wellbeing” should be progressed as a matter of priority.

Launched in June 2012, the Committee’s inquiry took an in-depth look at the decision making process involved in deciding whether to take a child into care. A copy of the Committee’s final report is available at: www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/52590.aspx