Scotland leads UK for troubled children not with parents

The number of children looked after away from their parents has doubled since devolution. Picture: Christopher Furlong

The number of children looked after away from their parents has doubled since devolution. Picture: Christopher Furlong

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The proportion of troubled children being cared for away from their parents has almost doubled since devolution and now outstrips the rest of the UK, official figures show.

Ten years ago the proportion of children being looked after away from home was similar to the rest of the UK at around 50 children per 10,000.

This almost doubled to 109 per 10,000 while rates in Northern Ireland are increasing at a slightly slower rate to 66, England is steady at around 60, and Wales has fallen slightly after years of increase to 89, Children’s Social Work Statistics Scotland 2014-15 show.

The total number of children being classified as “looked after”, both at home and away from home, has tailed off slightly in recent years following a sharp rise since devolution to a peak in 2011.

A young person may become “looked after” for reasons such as neglect, abuse, complex disabilities which require specialist care, or involvement in the youth justice system.

Children can remain at home under a Supervision Requirement which requires regular visits from a social worker.

However, more looked after children are now being cared for by relatives or friends (4,158), known as kinship carers, than at home with their parents (3,927) and almost as many (3,891) are with council foster carers.

The number of children in residential units has also 
risen in recent years, from 1,433 in 2011 to 1,529.

The report states: “When children looked after at home are excluded, in the last three years, the rate is ... increasing more quickly than in the rest of the UK.

“Northern Ireland is increasing at a slightly slower rate, England is steady, and Wales has fallen slightly after years of increase.

“This sharp increase in numbers in Scotland over the past 10 years coincides with a focus on intervening earlier in the lives of vulnerable children and may explain the higher rate in Scotland.”

It added: “At July 31 2015, there were 15,404 looked after children – a decrease of 196 (or 1 per cent) from 2014.

“This is the third consecutive year the numbers have decreased following a peak of 16,248 in 2012; the numbers leaving care each year have been consistently more than number starting.”

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