Number of children in care rockets by 50%

The number of children in care in Scotland has increased by almost 50 per cent in a decade, a new report on the changing shape of families has revealed.

Aileen Campbell, Minister for Children and Young People. Picture: Lisa McPhillips

In 2011 there were 16,231 youngsters in care – a total which has risen every year since 2001, when it was 10,897.

While the overall number of children in care has jumped 49 per cent over that period, the number of these youngsters looked after by grandparents or other relatives in formal kinship care arrangements is almost four times higher than ten years ago, according to the study commissioned by the organisation Parenting Across Scotland.

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There were 980 children in care who were in formal kinship care in 2001, with this rising to 3,910 by 2011.

The report said: “In terms of children in need of care, the most striking change between 2001 and 2011 was the marked increase in the number of looked-after children, which rose from 10,897 to 16,231, an increase of 49 per cent.”

It added that while most children in care remain in the family home, there was a trend to children being looked after in other community settings, such as staying with friends or relatives, with this “indicative of increasing levels of kinship care”.

But the report warned kinship carers could themselves be a “vulnerable group”, as “most kinship carers are grandparents amongst which there are high levels of disability”.

In 2011, 9 per cent of Scots – some 500,000 people – were providing unpaid care for a friend of family member struggling as a result of disability, illness or age.

The proportion of men who are classed as being “economically inactive” because they are looking after the home or family increased from 1 per cent to 3 per cent over the decade, but nearly six times as many women perform this role, with 17 per cent of females “economically inactive” for the same reason in 2011.

The report, which draws on census data from 2001 and 2011, found the number of households in Scotland increased by 200,000 to 2.4 million. Single person households were the most common living arrangement in 2011, accounting for more than a third of all households. The trend towards smaller households also saw a rise in families with only one dependent child, with the report stating that almost a third of children in 2011 were growing up in a home without any siblings.

Parenting across Scotland – an umbrella body made up of leading charities including Children 1st, Children in Scotland and One Parent Families Scotland – will launch the report at a conference tomorrow where Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell speak. Clare Simpson, project manager at Parenting Across Scotland, said: “To ensure families are able to flourish in these hard pressed times, it is imperative we ensure the right supports are in place to allow parents to work.”