Highlands & Islands

Increase in young islanders leaving care becoming homeless

Homelessness Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Watchdogs have criticised the level of homelessness among young islanders

Homelessness among young people leaving care in the Western Isles has increased because of "limited collaboration" between the authorities.

Care for looked after children was scrutinised by the Care Inspectorate and other public service watchdogs including Education Scotland.

A report following the inspection said restricted collaboration was "impacting on the life chances" of the youngsters.

Areas of good performance have also been indentified in the report.

The joint inspection examined nine key indicators of performance in services provided to looked-after children by Western Isles Council - Comhairle nan Eilean Siar - NHS Western Isles, police and fire service.

The report rated four of the indicators as "good" and three as "adequate".

Two indicators - planning and improving services and leadership of improvement and change - were rated as "weak".

In the report, the inspection team said: "Limited collaborative working had contributed to poorly developed corporate parenting which was impacting on the life chances of looked after children, young people and care leavers.

"This was evident in poorer education and health outcomes for looked after children and increased homelessness for care leavers."

Image copyright BBC Alba
Image caption Changes were made to care services on the Western Isles last year following the murder of teenager Liam Aitchison

The inspection was led by the Care Inspectorate working in partnership with Education Scotland, Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland.

On the areas of good performance, the report said: "Inspectors are confident that the lives of many children and young people growing up in the Western Isles were improving as a result of services delivered by the Community Planning Partnership.

"Nationally reported statistics showed positive trends in child health, educational attainment and positive destinations for school leavers.

"Children and young people were being well assisted to be safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included as a result of the help provided by committed and responsive staff across services."

A year ago, changes were made to how children in care in the Western Isles are looked after once they become young adults.

The policies were recommended following the murder of South Uist 16-year-old Liam Aitchison in November 2011.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and NHS Western Isles were among the public bodies that have adopted the changes.

They were recommended so that the organisations' care of vulnerable 16 to 18-year-olds better reflected national guidelines.

Councillor Angus Campbell, chairman of the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership (OHCPP), said: "It's good to see the work of the OHCPP recognised and that overall the children and young people of the Western Isles are well served by the various agencies.

"However, there is room for improvement and the OHCPP will be taking work forward to develop and improve performance through the Action Plan. Work on this has already begun and a report will be coming to the next meeting of the OHCPP."

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