Publication - Statistics

Children's social work statistics: 2018-2019 - republication

Revised children's social work statistics for Scotland for 2018 to 2019, including data on children and young people looked after, on the child protection register and in secure care, originally published on 31 March 2020.

Contents
Children's social work statistics: 2018-2019 - republication
Children Looked After

Children Looked After

  • The total number of children looked after has fallen for the seventh consecutive year.
  • The number of children starting to become looked after decreased, compared with 2018.
  • The number of children ceasing to be looked after decreased, compared with 2018.

This section presents data on looked after children from 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2019. This is referred to as 2019 for ease of reporting, with 2017-18 referred to as 2018, and so on. Local authorities have a responsibility to provide support to certain children and young people, known as 'looked after children'. A child may become looked after for a number of reasons; including neglect, abuse, complex disabilities requiring specialist care, or involvement in the youth justice system.

At 31 July 2019, there were 14,262 looked after children - a decrease of 292 (2%) from 2018. This is the seventh consecutive year the numbers have decreased following a peak of 16,248 in 2012. The number of children ceasing to be looked after each year has been consistently more than the numbers becoming looked after over this period, as is shown in the attached publication tables 1.3 and 1.4.

Placement type

There are several types of care setting in which looked after children or young people could be looked after, including at home (where a child is subject to a Compulsory Supervision Order and continues to live in their usual place of residence), foster care, residential unit or school, a secure unit, with prospective adopters, or in kinship care (where they are placed with friends or relatives).

Table 1.1 and Chart 1 show the proportion of children being looked after at home has decreased over the last decade, with 25% of the total in this group in 2019 compared to 39% in 2009. Increasing proportions of children are being looked after away from home in community settings, in particular with foster carers (34% of the total in 2019 compared with 29% in 2009). Kinship care (29% of 2019 placements) was the second most common setting type for looked after children in 2019. Children looked after in residential care settings remain static at around 10% of the overall total.

Table 1.1: Number and percentage of children looked after at 31 July, in each type of accommodation (1)
2009 2018 2019
In the community 13,707 13,042 12,814
At home with parents 5,924 3,789 3,569
With Kinship Carers: friends/relatives 2,993 4,073 4,175
With Foster Carers provided by LA 3,594 3,453 3,335
With Foster Carers purchased by LA 905 1,491 1,463
With prospective adopters 242 186 212
In other community 49 50 60
Residential Accommodation 1,580 1,512 1,448
In local authority home 611 599 581
In voluntary home 138 122 127
In residential school 598 383 344
In secure accommodation 102 57 63
Crisis care 18 0 0
In other residential (1) 113 351 333
Total looked after children 15,287 14,554 14,262

(1) Information on the number of children looked after by accommodation type is available back to 1988 in chart 1 data of the spreadsheet version of the associated downloadable publication tables

(2) 'In other community' is a category that captures those people in community placements outside those listed, such as supported accommodation.

(3) The bulk of the 'other residential' placements are private/independent residential placements for young people with complex needs.

Chart 1: Children looked after per 1,000 children under 18 by type of accommodation, 1988-2019
This shows the proportion of looked after children by accommodation type

Care Plan

When children become looked after, a care plan should be produced. The care plan should include detailed information about the child's care, education and health needs, as well as the responsibilities of the local authority, the parents and the child. A care plan is considered 'current' if it has been produced or reviewed in the past 12 months.

Table 1.2a shows that 94% of the 14,262 children who were looked after at the end of July 2019 had a current care plan, down 3 percentage points from 2018. Of those looked after by kinship carers, 91% had a current care plan. This compares with 95-96% for other placement types for those looked after away from home.

Table 1.2a: Children looked after with and without a current care plan, at 31 July 2019 (1)
At home Away from home Away from home - breakdown by category Total
With Kinship Carers: friends/relatives With Foster Carers With prospective adopters/ other community In Residential Care
With a current care plan 3,404 10,033 3,804 4,588 259 1,382 13,437
Without a current care plan 165 660 371 210 13 66 825
Total 3,569 10,693 4,175 4,798 272 1,448 14,262
With a current care plan 95% 94% 91% 96% 95% 95% 94%
Without a current care plan 5% 6% 9% 4% 5% 5% 6%
Total 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

(1) Some children without a current care plan may have one in progress on this date; local recording may differ with regard to when a care plan is recorded as being in place.

Children starting and ceasing to be looked after

The reduction in total numbers being looked after is because more people are leaving care than starting.

As shown in table 1.3, 3,824 episodes of care began between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019. This represents a 4% decrease from the 3,979 episodes of care beginning in 2018.

Table 1.3: Number of children starting to be looked after, by age (1)
Age Number Percentage
2009 2018 2019 2009 2018 2019
Under 1 641 626 565 12% 16% 15%
1-4 1,138 852 891 22% 21% 23%
5-11 1,563 1,275 1,137 30% 32% 30%
12-15 1,800 1,149 1,128 35% 29% 29%
16-17 55 73 102 1% 2% 3%
18-21(2) 4 2 1 0% 0% 0%
Not known 0 2 0 0% 0% 0%
Total 5,201 3,979 3,824 100% 100% 100%

(1) A child may start to be looked after more than once in a year and so may be counted more than once.

Table 1.3 also shows that over the last 10 years children have started episodes of care at younger ages. In 2009, 34% of children starting episodes of care were under five years of age. By 2019 this had risen to 38%, although this is a decline from a peak of 41% in 2014. Fifteen percent of children starting episodes of care were less than one year old, increasing from 12% in 2009.

There were slightly more boys than girls starting episodes of care in 2019 - 52% boys compared with 48% girls, (the Scotland-wide population of under 18s was 51% male in 2019).[1] The gender split of those starting episodes of care has remained stable over the last 10 years.

Table 1.4 shows the number of episodes of care which ceased by length of time looked after. There were 4,068 episodes of care which ceased between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019, a decrease of 6% from the previous year.

The length of time for which children ceasing to be looked after had been looked after remained similar between 2018 and 2019. However, when compared with 2009, there are a higher proportion of children who had been looked after for more than five years, and a lower proportion who had been looked after for under six months.

Table 1.4: Number of children ceasing to be looked after, by length of time looked after (1)
Length of time looked after Number Percentage
2009 2018 2019 2009 2018 2019
Under 6 weeks 409 219 259 9 5 6
6 weeks to under 6 months 333 326 321 8 8 8
6 months to under 1 year 767 594 543 17 14 13
1 year to under 3 years 1,718 1,545 1,474 39 36 36
3 years to under 5 years 652 675 643 15 16 16
5 years and over 515 968 828 12 22 20
Not known - - - 0 0 0
Total 4,394 4,327 4,068 100 100 100

(1) A child may cease to be looked after more than once during the year and will be counted once for each episode of care ending.

When a child ceases being looked after, a destination is recorded (Table 1.5). This is the second year that the destinations of Kinship Care Order and Continuing Care were recorded. A Kinship Care Order is a court order that confers all or part of parental responsibilities and rights to a friend or relative of the child and can be a trigger for receipt of kinship care assistance. More information on Continuing Care is available in the Continuing Care section.

Most children (58% in 2019) go home to their biological parents and 16% go to live in kinship care with friends or relatives or leave care through a Kinship Care Order when they cease to be looked after. The proportion of children leaving care due to being adopted was 7% in 2019, the same level as in 2018. The majority of adoptions (63%) are of children aged under five years old, as shown in Additional Table 1.9. There is a much more even spread of ages of young people leaving care to go home or to live with friends and relatives.

Table 1.5: Number of children ceasing to be looked after by destination (1)
Destination after leaving care Number Percentge
2009 2018 2019 2009 2018 2019
Home with (biological) parents 2,797 2,367 2,365 64% 55% 58%
Kinship carers: Friends/relatives(1) 499 571 563 11% 13% 14%
Kinship Care Order(2) - 113 70 - 3% 2%
Former foster carers(1) 71 116 110 2% 3% 3%
Continuing Care(2) - 84 167 - 2% 4%
Adoption 204 309 265 5% 7% 7%
Supported accommodation / own tenancy 225 235 223 5% 5% 5%
Other(3) 279 218 281 6% 5% 7%
Not known 319 314 24 7% 7% 1%
Total 4,394 4,327 4,068 100% 100% 100%

(1) A child may cease to be looked after more than once during the year and will be counted once for each episode of care ending.

(2) New destination categories of 'continuing care' and 'kinship care order' were added in 2018. Children who left care for these destinations in previous years were mostly recorded in the friends/relatives category for 'kinship care order' and the former foster carers category for 'continuing care', which partly explains the decrease in these 2 categories in 2018.

(3) "Other" includes residential care, homeless, in custody and other destination.

Pathway Plans

Local authorities have a duty to provide advice, guidance and assistance for young people who at the point of leaving care have reached 16 years of age. This is referred to as 'aftercare services'. Local authorities are required to carry out a pathway assessment for aftercare services for all currently looked after young people who are over the age of sixteen and every 'compulsorily supported person' (a care leaver who has not yet reached their nineteenth birthday). These young people should be provided with a pathway co-ordinator who assesses their needs and a pathway plan which outlines how the local authority plans to meet the needs of the young person. The pathway assessment should be done within three months of a young person becoming a compulsorily supported person but it is expected that all young people over age 16 will have had their pathway assessment, and will have a completed pathway plan in place as to their future before they cease to be looked after.

Of those young people who had reached 16 years of age at the time they ceased to be looked after during 1 August 2018 to 31 July 2019, 71% (down from 73% in 2018) had a pathway plan and 60% had a pathway co‑ordinator (Table 1.6), a decrease from 68% in 2018. Where a young person's final placement type was 'at home' they were less likely to have a pathway plan or a pathway co-ordinator than if the final placement type was 'away from home'. Of children whose last placement was at home, 64% had a pathway plan and 51% a pathway coordinator, compared with 75% and 64% respectively of those whose final placement type was 'away from home'.

Table 1.6: Pathway plans and nominated pathway co-ordinators of young people who were at least 16 years of age on the date they ceased to be looked after during 2018-19 (1,2)
Number Percentage Away from home - breakdown by category
Looked after at home Looked after away from home Total Looked after at home Looked after away from home Total With Kinship Carers: friends/relatives With Foster Carers With prospective adopters/ other community In Residential Care
With a pathway plan at discharge 249 692 941 64% 75% 71% 132 252 38 270
Without a pathway plan at discharge 141 236 377 36% 25% 29% 105 57 9 65
With a nominated pathway co-ordinator at discharge 198 592 790 51% 64% 60% 122 202 30 238
Without a nominated pathway co-ordinator at discharge 192 336 528 49% 36% 40% 115 107 17 97
Total 390 928 1,318 100% 100% 100% 237 309 47 335

(1) Figures include all episodes of ceasing to be looked after beyond 16 years of age (i.e. a child may be counted more than once).

(2) It may be the case that some young people who don't have a relevant pathway plan/coordinator may be receiving similar support from adult services instead.

Aftercare services

Table 1.7 shows the number of young people eligible for aftercare services by age and the percentage of these young people in receipt of aftercare on 31 July 2019.

From April 2015, aftercare eligibility has been extended to cover all care leavers up to and including people aged 25 where it previously only covered up to their 21st birthday. As this is an extension of the original policy, the data in this publication are unlikely to be a full report on the additional eligible age group. These data will continue to improve in quality in future publications as extension of support services to this group becomes more completely embedded. Figures have risen from 4,602 in 2016 to 6,650 in 2019 as a result of better reporting of the over-21 age group.

For young people eligible for aftercare, more than half have taken up these services in some way across all age groups, up to age 21. For the 22 and over age group, the majority are not receiving aftercare, which may be expected as many of this group may have moved onto adult services where required.

Table 1.7: Young people eligible for and in receipt of aftercare services by age (1), 2019
Status 16 17 18 19-21 22+ Total
In receipt of aftercare 207 407 647 1,684 923 3,868
Not in receipt of aftercare 159 222 404 791 1,206 2,782
Total eligible for aftercare 366 629 1,051 2,475 2,129 6,650
In receipt of aftercare 57% 65% 62% 68% 43% 58%
Not in receipt of aftercare 43% 35% 38% 32% 57% 42%
Total eligible for aftercare 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%

(1) Age on 31 July 2019.

Continuing Care

Continuing Care is the continued provision of the accommodation and other assistance that was being provided by the local authority immediately before the young person ceased to be looked after. Only children who cease to be looked after aged 16 years or over and were looked after away from home are eligible for Continuing Care. Continuing Care has been available to eligible care leavers from April 2015, enabling eligible young people aged 16 or older to stay in the same kinship, foster or residential care placements when they ceased to be looked after.

The data in Table 1.5 shows that 167 children who ceased to be looked after between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019 received Continuing Care. The 'higher age' for continuing care eligibility has risen annually as part of a roll out strategy. This data, therefore, only includes those aged between 16 and 20. The data in Table 1.5 only includes those who entered Continuing Care when they left care in 2018-19. Continuing Care became fully operational in April 2020, allowing all eligible careleavers to remain in their care setting from age 16 until their 21st birthday.

In the eligible for aftercare collection there is additional information on the population in Continuing Care that can be used to supplement the data in Table 1.5. Table 1.8 shows that, in addition to the 167 young people recorded as ceasing to be looked after and staying in Continuing Care, there were an additional 119 eligible for aftercare in Continuing Care. Therefore, in total there were 286 young people recorded as being in Continuing Care in 2018-19.

Table 1.8: Children in Continuing Care (1,2)
Recorded as ceasing to be looked after with a destination of Continuing Care Recorded as being in Continuing Care and eligible for aftercare(2) Total
Number of children 167 119 286

(1) These figures are likely to be underestimates of the number in Continuing Care as some local authorities have been unable to return the category of data in this collection.

(2) There were 39 additional children recorded as being in Continuing Care and eligible for aftercare, but they were also included in the ceasing to be looked after with a destination of Continuing Care figures. They have been omitted from this column to avoid double counting.

Cross-UK looked after comparisons

The definition of "looked after children" varies across the countries within the UK, which makes cross-UK comparisons difficult. To improve comparability, the Scotland figure at 31 March has been used, rather than the published 31 July figure, as the other nations publish on this date.

Chart 2 gives Scottish figures including a breakdown for children looked after at home and away from home for comparability with the other nations. Scotland has a much higher number of children looked after at home than the rest of the UK, a placement which in Scotland requires a supervision order from the Children's Panel. Overall, Scotland had the highest rate of looked after children in 2019 at an 139 children per 10,000 under 18 population. The rate for only children looked after away from home in Scotland is no longer the highest in the UK at 104 per 10,000 under 18 population. This is slightly lower than the rate of looked after children in Wales (109 per 10,000). The rates in Northern Ireland (75 per 10,000) and England (65 per 10,000) are much lower.

Chart 2: Cross- UK comparison of rate of looked after children per 10,000 children, 2004-2019
This compares the number of children looked after across the 4 nations within the UK

Links to the cross-UK data underlying the chart can be found in Background Note 1.7. There is more information on the comparability of looked after children data across the UK at the bottom of the following link: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/socialservicestats

The data used to produce the charts and tables on looked after children in the publication are available in the supporting files accompanying the publication. There are also additional tables available in the supporting files. www.gov.scot/collections/childrens-social-work


Contact

Email: childrens.statistics@gov.scot