Hundreds of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people are to be given greater rights to continuing their care placement into early adulthood from next year, the Scottish Government has announced.
From April 2015, teenagers in residential, foster or kinship care who turn 16 will be entitled to remain looked after until the age of 21 under new provisions proposed for the Children and Young People Bill. This increased support, to be funded by £5 million a year up to 2020, is in addition to the Scottish Government’s recent commitment to provide support up to the age of 26-years-old for care leavers to help them move into independent living.
Minister for Young People Aileen Campbell said:
“It is vitally important that the support available to young people leaving care will help make the transition to independent living as comfortable and successful as possible. Care leavers in Scotland currently receive care and financial support up to the age of 21 and we have already committed to extending this to 26. We are now able to announce that, from April next year, those 16-year-olds in foster, kinship or residential care will have a right to stay up until the age of 21 before receiving aftercare.
“We are committing £5 million a year for these improvements as we take steps with our partners in the sector to give young people in care the same opportunities and positive future that their non-looked after peers enjoy.
“The commitments we are making follow extensive work with key groups like Barnardo’s, Aberlour, Who Cares? Scotland and our local authority partners to help hundreds of vulnerable young people achieve their full potential.”
The Scottish Government is also announcing a further, longer-term ambition to allow those care leavers who may need it the opportunity to return to care, up to the age of 21. Later this year an expert group, including representatives from the organisations above will meet to consider how best to implement this. They will look at key issues such as the availability, affordability and suitability of care provision to deliver that aim, without impacting on existing and future care users.
Ms Campbell added:
“As well as directly improving lives, this legislation will set out how we intend to continue this well into the future. It will require Ministers to report back to Parliament about how well we are serving our young people and responding to their needs.
“Care leavers have different experiences and priorities. We are taking this opportunity to make sure that the law is on their side and that every young person in care knows that they will not be left to face the world alone.
“We rely on the expertise of everyone involved in working with looked after children and care leavers so we want to put all the mechanisms in place to best-support them in assisting young people achieve their full potential.”
Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland, said:
“Since the Children and Young People Bill was introduced, hundreds of Barnardo’s Scotland supporters have taken action to ask the Scottish Government and MSPs to strengthen support for care leavers, and we are very pleased that the Minister has responded by bringing forward these amendments.
“Allowing care leavers to return to some form of care, and increasing the number who can receive enhanced support after leaving care, will help particularly vulnerable young people when they need it the most.
“We will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government on the detail of these proposals and planning their implementation.”
Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive of Who Cares Scotland added:
“The number young care leavers who will benefit from these changes is significant and I don’t know of any other country in the world who has made a commitment like this. Young people from care are some of the most resilient young people in Scotland. They have to be given what they have faced in their young lives.
“However, all the resilience in the world can’t help them overcome some of the dreadful issues they face as young adults when they leave care at 16 or 18. The long-term effect of what they experience as young adults impacts on them heavily. Many lose hope; stop dreaming for better or look to coping solutions which include drugs and alcohol to get through the day.
“We are delighted that all of the work done with the Minister and the government alongside our, Barnardo’s and Aberlour partners has paid off and secured significant change for Scotland’s most vulnerable and stigmatised young people. We are even more delighted that young people from care were at the forefront of that hard work. This is their success and they truly deserve it.”
Jackie Hothersall, Director of Children and Families Services at Aberlour Child Care Trust welcomed the announcement and added:
“By increasing the age of leaving care in Scotland, to 21 and by increasing the support that those young people receive when they leave care, we can help secure a more positive future for Scotland’s young people.
“This policy will allow young people who are in care, the kind of support that those in the family home rely on as they begin to find their feet in the world. There are 15,000 looked after children in Scotland at any given time and their life chances will be unquestionably be improved by these changes.”