A new report launched today, 7 October 2015, by Barnardo’s Scotland, highlights the poor outcomes and lack of effective support for young people subject to state supervision while living at home.
‘Overseen but often overlooked: Children and Young People ‘Looked After at Home’ in Scotland’ reveals children and young people who are looked after by a local authority but living at home with their parents can have the worst educational outcomes of all children in care, despite being on formal supervision orders.
Working with the Centre for Excellence for Looked after Children in Scotland (CELCIS) at University of Strathclyde, Barnardo’s Scotland has raised concerns that while these young people may well be overseen by the state, their needs are often overlooked.
In Scotland more than 4,000 young people who are ‘looked after’ are not in foster or residential care, but are ‘looked after at home’ (around a quarter of those in care). These children and young people are subject to a type of legal supervision order at home, unique to the Scottish system of child welfare and protection, which was introduced in the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. While they are considered to be ‘looked after’ by a local authority, they continue to live at home with a parent or another person with parental responsibility for the child. A social worker is allocated to the child, in order to ensure that the terms of the order are met.
Despite the long history and extensive use of this Act, little research has been carried out into children looked after at home or the experiences of the children and young people who are subject to this intervention.
A series of *reports commissioned by Barnardo’s Scotland from the Centre for Excellence for Looked after Children in Scotland (CELCIS) found that these children can experience some of the worst outcomes of all children in care. Official statistics regularly show that ‘looked after at home’ pupils fair worst (in terms of school attendance or attainment) than looked after children in foster or residential care.
These are children and young people often on the edge of being taken into local authority foster or residential care. Barnardo’s Scotland argue that if we fail to provide effective support to children who are looked after at home we risk having to invest much more in support when their vulnerability turns to crisis. A range of additional and different strategies and services needs to be developed for children and young people on home supervision orders.
Barnardo’s Scotland recognise that there have been major changes to the children’s hearing system since 2011, and that new responsibilities on public bodies to young people in care and care leavers brought in under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 should help, but argue that more still needs to be done to recognise and address the particular needs of this group.
Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said:
"The questions around the system of children being looked after at home are of long standing – ever since the establishment of the system in 1971 there have been questions about its status as an effective intervention. But the time has now come to act.
We hope this Barnardo’s Scotland report, accompanied by the three CELCIS research reports, will help to open up a debate about the needs of children looked after at home, and about how to improve the current model of children being looked after while living at home."
Jennifer Davidson, Director of CELCIS, said:
"The challenge we face is in ensuring that those children and young people who are looked after at home receive the same access to services as other looked after children. We know they are less likely to do well at school and more likely to end up in prison and that a large amount of these children live with families where poverty, domestic violence, addiction and poor mental health are prevalent. This is simply not good enough.
This research is particularly important as it gives us the evidence to back up what we have thought for some time. These children are some of the most vulnerable in our society and yet services for them are limited, inconsistent and patchy. It’s time to change that."
The report ‘Overseen but often overlooked: Children and young people ‘looked after at home’ in Scotland makes a series of recommendations, based on the evidence from three research reports produced by CELCIS for Barnardo’s Scotland.