Additional Information to the Analysis of the National Evidence and Trends
The following appendix provides more charts and detail to supplement the analysis chapter. The analysis generally covers fostering at a national level. Experience may be very different at a sub-national level and The Fostering Reference Group would encourage partners to consider such analysis at a local level.
The graphs below are based on information from the General Register Office for Scotland ( GROS).
Starting at the very broadest level, the graph below shows the total population of Scotland over the last 55 years. As can be seen the population has been fairly steady at around 5.1m although the most recent year shows a slight increase after a period of gradual decline since the early 1970s.
This national trend masks differences in the demographic profile of the population. In relation to the work of the fostering reference group it was useful to look separately at the child population (who make up foster children) and the working age population (who make up foster carers). The graph below shows that over recent years there has been a decline in the number of children and adults under 40s and an increase in the 40-64 age cohort.
The graph below shows population projections, again taken from the GROS. The decrease in the population of children and 20-39 year olds that has been seen over the last decade is projected to continue. The number of 40-64 year olds is projected to remain relatively static but the number of people aged over 65 is projected to increase markedly. The population as a whole is projected to increase slightly.
When considering these projections it is important to recognise that there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the actual size of the future population with a number of complex interactions at play. However, there is greater certainty around the demographic profile regardless of which assumptions are adopted in relation to factors such as mortality and birth rates. In line with almost every country in Western Europe, the population of Scotland will continue to age and this will have implications for fostering and other social work services.
It is highly unlikely that these project trends would be consistent across Scotland with some authorities experiencing an increasing population while others will see a decline. Equally it is possible that some authorities see their population ageing more quickly while others age less quickly and understanding these relationships at a local level will be essential for authorities planning their social work services.
Looked After Children
The graph below shows the number of LAC (Looked After Children) and specific LAC groups as a proportion of the 0-18 population over the last 20 years (Source: Scottish Government LAC statistics). As can be seen, total LAC has remained fairly constant over the last 20 years, with the exception of the last 5-6 years which have seen a marked increase.
The main driver underpinning this trend has been the use of foster placements. From 1987-97 the number of foster children, as a proportion of 0-18s remained constant. However, over the last 10 years the proportion of children in foster placements has almost doubled.
It is interesting to see whether the increase in fostering numbers differs between particular age cohorts. The graph below shows the proportion of foster children in each cohort over recent years. It can be seen that the composition of the foster child population has remained fairly stable over this period. In terms of absolute numbers, all age categories have seen an increase in recent years. This may have implications for recruitment strategies if carers have a preference on the age of the children that they foster.
It is not possible to consider strategies for the recruitment of foster carers without the context of national employment trends to see if there are significant challenges/opportunities emerging. At a Scotland level unemployment rates are low and employment rates are high against historical comparisons. The graph below shows the official International Labour Organisation ( ILO) unemployment rate for Scotland and Great Britain.
To qualify under the ILO definition a person needs to be unemployed but looking for and available to start work. This low rate suggests there are a relatively small number of unemployed people actively looking for employment. This has broad implications for any recruitment strategies because it suggests that there isn't a large 'pool' of unemployed labour to target.
The employment rate is also high in Scotland (both historically and compared to the rest of the UK). An economy with historically low unemployment and high employment levels will continue to present a challenge to those looking to recruit foster carers.
In addition to the relatively small pool of unemployed, there may be scope to promote fostering as a career option to those working in other sectors of the economy whether they be in other care professions altogether. The nature of the career may also present an opportunity to target those who are 'economically inactive' and technically not in the labour market such as students or home makers.
The age profile of different occupations also yields some interesting results to inform recruitment strategies. Social work activities tend to have a larger proportion of their workforce in the 35-54 age group than the industry average across Scotland. Based upon a 25% sample of carers from The Fostering Network database, the age breakdown of foster carers tends to be far older, with nearly half over 55 and very few below the age of 34.
On linking this finding with the fact that Scotland has an ageing population this appears to present both challenges and opportunities to the fostering sector. Given that foster carers have historically tended to be older, the ageing population could mean a potential increase in the pool of prospective carers.
However, the ageing population also presents some significant challenges to the sector. Firstly, it could put additional strain on social services budgets as the ageing population require care services thus potentially detracting from child focused services such as foster care. An additional challenge may be that the ageing population may require increasing levels of informal care diverting potential foster carers towards looking after older relatives instead.
Of key importance throughout the analysis for the recruitment task group was the impact of the resources available to social work departments on the demand for services. The following graphs highlight expenditure trends over recent years. While resource constraints remain, spending on all public services has increased to record levels over the last 5 years (in real terms) and local authority expenditure on social services (including fostering) has increased at even greater rate.
The majority of social work expenditure is accounted for by expenditure on salaries. Given this relationship it is unsurprising to see that the number of staff employed in social work activities has followed a similar pattern. The chart below shows a significant upwards trend over the last decade although individual years show fluctuations both upwards and downwards (Source: Labour Force Survey).
While expenditure on social work has risen, expenditure specifically on fostering services has seen an even more dramatic increase, doubling in the last 8 years in real terms. It has been shown that the number of children in foster care has risen over recent years but expenditure on fostering has increased by a greater proportion. This emphasises that the increase in spending is not due solely to increased numbers of children in care but also factors such as increased allowances or training for carers intended to improve the quality of care and/or support retention.
The relationship between expenditure and demand remains a contentious issue and ultimately it is not possible to say whether the increase in fostering numbers has led to the increase in expenditure or vice versa. It could be that increased need has led to more foster care spending. Alternatively it may be that the increased resources available to social work departments has enabled more need to be identified and addressed.
Location of Carers
While location of individual foster children is not yet collected centrally, The Fostering Network member database does contain information on the home location of carers and also the local authority where they are registered. Analysis of this data showed some interesting relationships and confirmed what the experts on the recruitment task group had previously anecdotally believed to be the case.
The analysis showed that while authorities tended to recruit locally, this was not always the case and on occasion carers could reside hundreds of miles from the authority that they were registered with. It was felt that his may result from a registered carer moving home and not de-registering with the original authority but there were still less extreme examples of out of authority placements.
The analysis also emphasised that some authorities appeared to have less carers than required while others were essentially net exporters of carers. This typically manifested itself as the large urban authorities seeing excess demand for carers while neighbouring authorities were often better placed with more carers than required for their internal needs. The map contained within the analytical chapter of the main report shows this visually for the city authorities of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
This again reinforced the benefits from continued, and improved, collaboration between neighbouring authorities to ensure the needs of vulnerable children across Scotland are met as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The analysis provided to support the development of the recommendations of the Fostering Reference Group focussed on a number of key areas and trends related to care in Scotland. The group was advised that the size of the population of Scotland is relatively static but ageing over time. The evidence shows that the national labour market remains quite tight with limited excess capacity and it appears unlikely that significant increases in resources will be available to Scottish Government in the immediate future. With this as context, as long as demand for care services remain at the currently high levels, the need for effective and efficient use of resources is greater than ever.
The analysis presented to the group focused primarily on the national situation but the presentation of the results at the policy consultation event in Perth was well received by all and exposed a great deal of appetite for local analysis. The process of taking forward the analysis also highlighted the importance of partnership. No one component of the care system holds all the required information and the work of the recruitment group was only possible through partnership working between central and local government and private and third sector agencies. The Fostering Reference Group would encourage delivery partners to consider similar collaborative analysis in local areas since much of the intelligence required to drive forward effective local solutions is only held locally.
The population statistics were obtained from the General Register Office for Scotland (see the website: http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/index.html). The website contains the data used for the current/past population charts as well as population projections.
The statistics on the number/age of looked after children are available from the Scottish Government website (see: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics). The social services/fostering expenditure analysis was also based on Scottish Government statistics. The estimate of the total number of kinship carers in Scotland was based on analysis of the Scottish Household Survey which can also be found in the statistics section of the Scottish Government website.
TFN provided anonymous information on carers (age, location etc.) from their membership records. This information was compared with statistics from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) on the age profile of other occupations within Scotland (see: http://www.statistics.gov.uk). The employment/unemployment charts and social work employment figures were also obtained from the ONS.