An independent ‘root and branch’ review of care in Scotland was launched by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at a reception for care experienced young people from across Scotland on 30 May.
This review aims to improve life for young people in care across the country in accordance with delivering the Getting it Right for Every Looked After Child strategy in full. With an independent care review group now established, the review is set to take an in-depth look at the legislation, practices, culture and ethos of the care system across Scotland. The group will listen to young people with experience of care and their families, those who provide care and, in particular, children and young people in care now, to inform its recommendations to improve both the quality of life and outcomes of young people in care.
Group members, five of whom have personal experience of growing up in care, putting their personal experience at the heart of the review represents an important step towards ensuring that the voices of people with care experience are heard.
This team will support Chair, Fiona Duncan, who has spent over 20 years in the voluntary sector both in Scotland and internationally. She commented on the importance of allowing the review to be driven and shaped by evidence from care experienced young people:
“We really can, will and must deliver a review that changes lives and is transformational. Without the voice of care experience, this review would not happen and without that voice, it will not deliver. Many young people, their families, and professionals involved in the care system have an important contribution to make, and I look forward to learning from them in the coming weeks and months.”
During the planning stages, it was highlighted that the system for many young people who grow up in care has improved. For example, school exclusions have decreased while the number of young people living in permanent rather than temporary accommodation has increased. Nevertheless, while commendable, only 4% of children growing up in care go to university, nearly half will suffer mental health issues and almost a third will become homeless.
The swift progress made in setting up the review makes clear that such poor life chances for children who have experienced care are not acceptable. The First Minister has committed to improving the life chances of those young people dependent on the care system to ensure they enjoy the safe, fulfilling, and loving childhoods they deserve. Ms Sturgeon said:
“Every young person should have an equal opportunity to succeed in life, no matter their circumstances. We should celebrate the progress that has allowed many of our young people who grow up in care to do great things in life and those who work with looked after children do an amazing job.
“However, there are still many challenges facing young people in care and the care system must and can do better by our most vulnerable children and young people. They need to know they are loved and feel cared for. This review is not about determining if this can be achieved, but how we create a system that puts love for the children it cares for at its heart.
“I very much welcome the review group. The wide breadth of experience, expertise and contribution of each panel member is vital in carrying out this review.”
The launch of the Independent Care Review represents a tremendous opportunity to make a difference for our young people in care and both the Scottish Government and the review team are determined to firmly grasp it.