A radical overhaul of Scotland's care system has been demanded after a major review damned it as "fractured, bureaucratic and unfeeling" for children and families.
The Independent Care Review, published today, says the failures of the current system of care for children and young people has a "human and economic cost" and needs to be urgently reshaped.
Fiona Duncan, chair of the Independent Care Review, has launched a damning report on the care system.
The review, which has taken three years and involved 5500 people with experience of the system including children and adults who have lived in care, and those who work in the sector - paid and unpaid - has catalogued 80 specific changes that need to be implemented by the Scottish Government and local authorities.
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It also calculates that the services which deliver and "surround" the care system cost £1.2 billion a year - while the cost of "letting down" children and families totals £1.6bn - £875m meeting the neds of care experienced people after the system has "failed" and £732m in lost income tax and national insurance.
Figures show that "care experienced" school leavers have lower attainment than other young people, that they leave school earlier, and are less likely to be in a "positive destination" nine months after leaving.
Statistics also show that a third of young offenders, and almost a third of the adult prison population, identify as having been in care, and in one study 45 per cent of young people in the care of councils were assessed as having a mental health issue.
Today Fiona Duncan, chair of the Independent Care Review launched the in-depth examination of all aspects of care in Scotland which has revealed "a system that is fractured, bureaucratic and unfeeling for far too many children and families and does not adequately value the voices and experiences of those in it."
She said: “I have heard countless stories of when the care system gets it wrong; separation, trauma, stigma and pain. Too many childhoods have been lost to a system that serves its own convenience rather than those within it.
“The Care Review has listened to what care experienced people have said needs to change and those voices have driven its work and underpins its conclusions.
“It has sought to understand how the system feels to those who live and work in and around it. And it has produced the what, how, why and when of what needs to happen next. This is a radical blueprint for a country that loves, nurtures and cherishes its children. This is Scotland's chance to care for its children, the way all good parents should.”
READ MORE: Duncan Dunlop: Change is needed when caregivers feel their hands are tied by the ‘system’
The report comes a day after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon completed her "challenge" of meeting and listening to more than 1000 care experienced young people, to discuss changes to the system.
Ms Sturgeon had pledged in 2016, when she announced the indepdendent review, to meet at least 1000 young people in care. At the same time she also announced the removal of the upper age limit for the £8,100 per year bursary to which care experienced students are entitled, the introduction of the Children’s Bill to ensure siblings and wider family relationships are protected where it is safe to do so and the introduction of a £33m "Care Experienced Children and Young People Fund" to improve educational outcomes.
However, the indepenent review has urged the government go futher and demanded that the "power balance" in the system be "upended" so children and young people are "always the basis of all decisions made about their lives"; that there is a focus on building and maintaining life-long relationships; that Scotland should "parent not process" children so "there is no difference between the lives of children in care and their peers"; and that families be kept together wherever it is safe to do so with the support required given at the earliest opportunity.
Ultimately, it say that with such changes children in care should be "free from stigma" and be able to live "a safe, happy life at home with their families."
The report is made up of a number of parts - "The Promise", which lays out what Scotland's ambition for children and young people in care should be, "The Plan" of what needs to be done, by who, by when and how, "The Money" how Scotland must change the way it invests in the care sector and "The Thank You", which gives thanks to the 5,500 people who shared their experiences.
Today the leading organisation for people who have grown up in care welcomed the findings of the review, which had promised to look at the practices, culture and ethos of the care system.
Who Cares? Scotland had called for a root and branch review of the care system because of the “intolerable and stubborn” outcomes those who experience the care system face in life. The organisation has argued that young people in care are unnecessarily separated from their brothers and sisters; aren’t respected in the formal processes that govern their lives and experience stigma as a result of their experience.
Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive of Who Cares? Scotland said: “We want to do is congratulate Fiona Duncan for her commitment and recognise the strength of every care experienced person who contributed their voice to the review over the last three years. This was promised to be a review like no other and that is why we believe its findings should provide a platform for the kind of change that care experienced people desperately need.
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“Care experienced people are capable, thoughtful and have enormous potential. What we have seen, unfortunately, are generations of people living with the consequences of a care system that focused on containing them then leaving them, rather than ensuring that they are loved and supported forever.
"We have also seen Scotland struggle to connect with how it can support care experienced people. With that in mind, we will now take the necessary time to reflect on the findings that have been published today and consider in what ways the recommendations realise our ambitions for change."
He added: “In January this year, the Care Inspectorate published figures on the early deaths of care experienced people. They said that between 2012 and 2018, 36 people in the care of the state died unexpected or untimely death. We know from our own networks that this is an under-representation, with six young care experienced people in our network dying in December 2019 alone.
"The evidence shows that what the Scottish Government chooses to do next is literally a matter of life and death. We expect to see urgent action, in the next few weeks, that makes a tangible difference to young people’s lives. Any further delay would be unacceptable.”