Committee says more data needed on outcomes for children in residential care

22/02/2011

More data on the factors affecting the outcomes of looked after children and young people is needed if their long term adult experiences are to be improved, according to a report published today by the Public Audit Committee.

This data will also assist Councils and other service providers to take informed decisions regarding future service delivery.

The report, Getting it right for children in residential care, explores whether there is enough information about young people leaving care, whether the situation is getting better or worse and why the longer term outcomes for many looked after young people are so poor.

According to a report by the Auditor General of Scotland and Accounts Commission, more than one in ten young people leaving care in Scotland experience homelessness within two years and 45% of looked after children in Scotland have mental health problems.

The committee report expresses concern that only 18 local authorities currently have corporate parenting policies or strategies and that take up of the corporate parenting training by councils has been slow. The committee has requested an update from the Scottish Government on how it proposes to address this given the evidence that better corporate parenting at a local level can result in better outcomes for looked after children.

Committee Convener Hugh Henry MSP said:

“We are concerned that looked after children are more likely to have negative experiences as adults such as homelessness, prison or mental health problems. Good quality data on the factors that affect these outcomes is therefore very important.

“While we welcome the Scottish Government’s work to collect data on outcomes of each looked after child, we would like to know how this will be shared with councils and other service providers. We are also very concerned by the limited uptake of corporate parenting training by local authorities. We would also like to know how the Scottish Government will ensure that all councils have a corporate parenting policy and how they improve councils uptake of training.”

The committee report also asked the Scottish Government for information on:

  • how it is supporting councils, health boards and service providers to work together collaboratively in commissioning care;
  • how it aims to support public services to deliver programmes aimed at preventing children going into care while also meeting the costs of children already in care;
  • and an update on its evaluation of the Loughborough University model for understanding the full costs of residential child care.

Background

The number of children looked after by Scottish councils has grown from 11,241 on 31 March 2002 to 15,288 in March 2009. Around 1,600 children and young people live in residential care at any one time, which equals 10% of all looked after children. Councils spend around £250 million a year on residential care for looked after children.

Corporate parenting means the formal and local partnerships needed between all local authority departments and services, and associated agencies, who are responsible for working together to meet the needs of looked after children and young people, and care leavers.