Children leaving care

The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (as amended) set out that local authorities have a legal duty to:

  • prepare young people for leaving care or ceasing to be looked after
  • provide advice and assistance to young people who have ceased to be looked after on or after their 16th birthday. Local authorities are legally required to provide aftercare support until the care leaver turns 19, and to assess any eligible needs for aftercare support until they turn 26 (or beyond in some cases)

These duties are set out in the Support and Assistance of Young People Leaving Care (Scotland) Regulations 2003. We published guidance on services for young people leaving care in March 2004.  This was adjusted by The Support and Assistance of Young People Leaving Care (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2015 and also the Aftercare (Eligible Needs) (Scotland) Order 2015.

We have also produced guidance for corporate parents on improving housing and accommodation for care leavers.

Throughcare and aftercare legislation

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 strengthened our approach to throughcare and aftercare by putting into law the policy aspirations of:

  • These are our Bairns - guidance for community planning partnerships (CPPs) on how to be a good corporate parent
  • Staying Put Scotland - guidance for all corporate parents on ensuring the wellbeing of care leavers, including coverage of Continuing Care (detailed below)

The 2003 Regulations were amended as of 1 April 2015 by the Support and Assistance of Young People Leaving Care (Scotland) Regulations 2015 (SSI 2015/62) to extend the categories of aftercare support provided for by the 2014 Act.

Continuing care after the age of 16

Section 67 of The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 inserted a new section 26A into the Children (Scotland) Act and from April 2015, a young person born after 1 April 1999 who is looked after in foster, kinship or residential care is eligible to remain in their current care placement until they turn 21. This is called Continuing Care.

If the placement cannot be maintained, or if it is in the young person's best interests to start an alternative placement, a welfare assessment must be provided showing why staying in their current placement would significantly adversely affect their wellbeing.

Any eligible young person ceasing to be looked after on or after they turn 16 can request Continuing Care. A young person receiving Continuing Care will no longer be defined as 'looked after' but will continue to receive the same support. When Continuing Care ends the young person is then eligible for Aftercare support until they turn 26.

We published guidance on Continuing Care in November 2016.

Extension of aftercare

Section 66 of The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 amended sections 29 and 30 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. From April 2015 any young person who ceases to be looked after on or after their 16th birthday, and is less than 26 years of age, is eligible (between the ages of 16 and 19) or potentially eligible (from the age of 19 up to 26) for aftercare. This applies to all care leavers regardless of the placement type while looked after.

We published guidance on the extension of aftercare in November 2016.