Scotland politics

More support for care leavers urged by children's charities

young girl at window
Image caption Charities want more support for young people after they leave residential care

Young people who have been in care in Scotland should be given more support in early adulthood, children's charities have told MSPs.

The Children and Young People Bill currently going through the Scottish Parliament is due to extend the age at which care leavers can get help from 21 to 25.

But a coalition of children's charities have said that does not for far enough.

They have put their case to MSPs at Holyrood.

The new legislation is currently at stage one of its progress through parliament.

The education and culture committee has been hearing evidence on various aspects of the bill.

Every year, 1,300 young people aged between 16 and 18 leave residential care in Scotland.

The coalition, led by Who Cares? Scotland, in partnership with Barnardo's and Aberlour, said many will not get the support they need because they have to go through an assessment.

Continuing care

The charities have called on ministers to amend the legislation to ensure it provides a "continuing care" service to young people up to 26 years old rather than an "aftercare" service.

Duncan Dunlop, chief executive of Who Cares? Scotland told the committee: "As parents, we look after a child through nappies to primary school to high school to college, maybe into further education.

"They leave home as a process, not a point in time. We are suggesting we should be able to afford this to our care leavers."

Mr Dunlop said those leaving care experienced a "trapdoor shutting behind them".

"It's very difficult when they go out there bold as brass aged 16, which is when the majority leave care, and say 'I can take on the big wide world'. But as we all know, it's pretty tough out there.

"We need to be able to continue to care for these young people up to the age of 26. What that means is to continue the care relationship. It is not necessarily suggesting continuing the care in a very high-cost residential bed to the age of 26.

"It is about going home for your tea. It is about going for your Sunday dinner. It is about somewhere to go for Christmas. It's about all of that support that they want from the same person."

Named person

Mr Dunlop said research by Who Cares? Scotland suggested that for every £1 spent on continuing care to the age of 26, £6 is saved in costs in other areas such as homelessness housing.

He told the committee the total cost of continuing to provide care to the age of 26 would be about £2m a year.

"This is as close as we will get to a silver bullet to reforming the care system at a relatively low cost," he said.

The committee also heard support for provisions within the bill to provide a named person for every child in Scotland.

That person, who could be a social worker or teacher, would be responsible for safeguarding a child's welfare and liaising with their family.

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