Children Looked After
The total number of children looked after has fallen for the sixth consecutive year
The number of children starting to become looked after decreased.
The number of children ceasing to be looked after increased, compared with 2017.
This section presents data on children looked after during the period from 1 August 2017 to 31 July 2018. This will be referred to as 2018 for ease of reporting (with 2016-17 referred to as 2017 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 which require specialist care, or involvement in the youth justice system.
At 31 July 2018, there were an estimated 14,738 looked after children - a decrease of 159 (1%) from 2017. This is the sixth 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 - see main tables 1.3 and 1.4.
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 normal 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 an estimated 26% of the total in this group in 2018 compared to 43% in 2008. Increasing numbers of children are being looked after away from home in community settings, in particular with foster carers (34% of the total). Foster care and kinship care are the most common settings for looked after children in 2018. Numbers of children looked after in residential care settings have been fairly static over recent years 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(1,4)
|In the community||13,275||13,388||13,219||89%||90%||90%|
|At home with parents||6,360||3,766||3,818||43%||25%||26%|
|With Kinship Carers: friends/relatives||2,399||4,138||4,103||16%||28%||28%|
|With Foster Carers provided by LA||3,579||3,509||3,529||24%||24%||24%|
|With Foster Carers purchased by LA||664||1,743||1,529||4%||12%||10%|
|With prospective adopters||237||197||190||2%||1%||1%|
|In other community(2)||36||35||50||0%||0%||0%|
|In local authority home||695||619||585||5%||4%||4%|
|In voluntary home||58||127||122||0%||1%||1%|
|In residential school||649||375||395||4%||3%||3%|
|In secure accommodation||93||56||52||1%||0%||0%|
|In other residential(3)||83||332||365||1%||2%||2%|
|Total looked after children||14,888||14,897||14,738||100%||100%||100%|
(1) Information on the number of children looked after by accommodation type is available back to 1971 in chart 1 data of the spreadsheet version of the associated downloadable publication tables: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/PubChildrenSocialWork
(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.
(4) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
Chart 1: Children looked after per 1,000 children under 18 by type of accommodation, 1988-2018(1)
(1) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
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 1.2 shows that 95% of the estimated 14,738 children who were looked after at the end of July 2018 had a current care plan, remaining around the same level as 2017. Of those looked after away from home with kinship carers, only 90% had a current care plan. This compares with 98-99% for other placement types for those looked after away from home.
Table 1.2: Children looked after with and without a current care plan, at 31 July 2018(1,2)
|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||3,636||10,423||3,710||4,971||236||1,506||14,059|
|Without a current care plan||182||497||393||87||4||13||679|
|With a current care plan||95%||95%||90%||98%||98%||99%||95%|
|Without a current care plan||5%||5%||10%||2%||2%||1%||5%|
(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.
(2) Data is estimated using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
Children starting and ceasing to be looked after
The reduction in total numbers being looked after is simply because more people are leaving care than starting.
As shown in table 1.3, an estimated 4,063 episodes of care began between 1 August 2017 and 31 July 2018. This represents a 3% decrease from the 4,186 episodes of care beginning in 2017.
Table 1.3: Number of children starting to be looked after by age(1,3)
(1) Cells containing * represent numbers that are suppressed to maintain confidentiality.
(2) The 18-21 category in this table may include a small number of looked after young people who were over 21 years.
(3) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
Table 1.3 also shows that over the last 10 years children have started episodes of care at younger ages. In 2008, 32% of children starting episodes of care were under five years of age. By 2018 this had risen to 37%, although this is a decline from a peak of 41% in 2014. A large proportion of the under-five group are the under-one year olds, and the proportion in this youngest group has increased from 10% in 2008 to 16% in 2018.
There were slightly more boys than girls starting episodes of care in 2018 - 54% boys compared to 46% girls, compared with 51% of the total under 18 population in Scotland being male in 2018. The gender split of those starting episodes of care has remained consistent at 54% male and 46% female over the last 3 years.
Table 1.4 shows the number of episodes of care which ceased during 2017-18 by length of time looked after. There were an estimated 4,412 episodes of care which ceased between 1 August 2017 and 31 July 2018, an increase of 3% from the previous year. For the local authorities for which we have 2018 data, the number of children who ceased episodes of care increased by 4% in 2018. This is because zero change in the figures is assumed for Glasgow City over the year due to lack of data for 2018, so all the change in 2018 is due to more people who ceased episodes of care in the 31 other local authorities.
The length of time that children ceasing to be looked after were in care for remained similar between 2017 and 2018. However, when compared with 2008, there are a higher proportion of children being looked after for more than five years, and a lower proportion looked after for only a period of weeks. This is in line with the policy that children should remain looked after until a permanent placement is found.
Table 1.4: Number of children ceasing to be looked after, by length of time looked after(1,2)
|Length of time looked after||2008||2017||2018||2008||2017||2018|
|Under 6 weeks||460||235||213||10||5||5|
|6 weeks to under 6 months||504||337||325||11||8||7|
|6 months to under 1 year||803||594||597||18||14||14|
|1 year to under 3 years||1,591||1,521||1,530||35||36||35|
|3 years to under 5 years||653||658||697||14||15||16|
|5 years and over||414||929||1,050||9||22||24|
(1) Excludes children who are on a planned series of short term placements. If a child ceases to be looked after more than once during the year they will be counted more than once.
(2) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
When a child ceases being looked after, a destination category is recorded (Table 1.5). In 2018, for the first time, 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 (57% in 2018) go home to their biological parents and 18% go to live in kinship care with friends or relatives or leave care through a Kinship Care Order. The proportion of children leaving care due to being adopted fell from 9% in 2017 to 7% in 2018, although this remains much higher than the 3% recorded in 2008. The majority of adoptions (67%) are of children aged under five years old, as shown in additional table AT1.9. There is a much more even spread of ages of young people leaving care to go home or to live with friends and relatives. There has been an improvement in data quality over the past five years, as shown by the large decrease of the 'Not known' category in Table 1.5.
Table 1.5: Number of children ceasing to be looked after by destination(1,2,5)
|Destination after leaving care||Number||Percentage|
|Home with (biological) parents||2,336||2,326||2,502||52%||54%||57%|
|Kinship carers: Friends/relatives(3)||377||877||662||8%||21%||15%|
|Kinship Care Order(3)||-||-||113||-||-||3%|
|Former foster carers(3)||47||123||84||1%||3%||2%|
|Supported accommodation / own tenancy||282||283||278||6%||7%||6%|
(1) Table excludes planned series of short term placements. 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. Some totals do not exactly equal the sum of their component parts due to the effects of rounding.
(2) Figures for 2017-18 are provisional and may be revised in 2018-19.
(3) 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.
(4) "Other" includes residential care, homeless, in custody and other destination.
(5) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
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 2017 to 31 July 2018, an estimated 72% had a pathway plan and 70% had a pathway co‑ordinator (table 1.6), a decrease from 73% and 75% respectively in 2017. 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, 52% were estimated to have a pathway plan and 53% a pathway coordinator, compared with 79% and 77% 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 2017-18(1,2,3)
|Looked after at home||Looked after away from home||Total||Looked after at home||Looked after away from home||Total|
|With a pathway plan at discharge||190||813||1,003||52||79||72|
|Without a pathway plan at discharge||176||210||386||48||21||28|
|With a nominated pathway co-ord at discharge||195||784||979||53||77||70|
|Without a nominated pathway co-ord at discharge||171||239||410||47||23||30|
(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.
(3) Data is estimated using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
Table 1.7a shows the number of young people eligible for aftercare services on 31 July 2018 by age and Table 1.7b shows the percentage of these young people in receipt of aftercare.
Since 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 figures will continue to improve in quality in future publications as extension of support services to this group becomes more completely embedded. Figures have already risen from 4,602 in 2016 to 6,109 in 2018 as a result of better reporting of the over-21 age group.
There were an estimated 6,109 young people reported to be eligible for aftercare services on 31 July 2018, of whom 62% were known to be receiving aftercare.
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 over-21 age group, the majority are not receiving aftercare, which may be expected given that this is a relatively recent implementation, and many of this group may have moved onto adult services where required.
Table 1.7a: Number of young people eligible for aftercare services by age(1,2), 2018
|In receipt of aftercare||215||438||753||1,720||691||3,817|
|Not in receipt of aftercare||84||187||359||732||930||2,292|
|Total eligible for aftercare||299||625||1,112||2,452||1,621||6,109|
(1) Age on 31 July 2018
(2) Data is estimated using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
Table 1.7b: Percentage of eligible young people in receipt of aftercare services by age(1,2), 2018
|In receipt of aftercare||72%||70%||68%||70%||43%||62%|
|Not in receipt of aftercare||28%||30%||32%||30%||57%||38%|
|Total eligible for aftercare||100%||100%||100%||100%||100%||100%|
(1) Age on 31 July 2018
(2) Data estimated using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
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.
The data in Table 1.5 shows that 116 children who ceased to be looked after between 1 August 2017 and 31 July 2018 stayed in 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. This group who stayed in a Continuing Care placement form a small part of the population of care leavers. The data in Table 1.5 only includes those who entered Continuing Care when they left care in 2017-18. Because the 'higher age' for eligibility has been rising annually as part of an agreed roll out strategy, this data, therefore, only includes those aged between 16 and 19. The Continuing Care policy will be fully commenced by April 2020, allowing all eligible care leavers 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 116 young people recorded as ceasing to be looked after and staying in Continuing Care, there were an additional 92 eligible for aftercare in Continuing Care. Therefore, in total there were 208 young people recorded as being in Continuing Care in 2017-18.
It should be noted that this is likely to be an underestimate of the total number in Continuing Care as some local authorities have been unable to return the new category of data on Continuing Care as a destination for those ceasing to be looked after in this first year of collection. Also, no Continuing Care figures for Glasgow City are available as data was not provided in 2017-18. We will be working with local authorities to gather feedback on the process of data collection, and make changes to improve the completeness of the return next year, and ongoing.
Table 1.8: Children in Continuing Care(1)
|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||116||92||208|
(1) These figures are likely to be underestimates of the number in Continuing Care as some local authorities have been unable to return the new category of data in this first year of collection.
(2) There were 30 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. In Scotland, children placed at home require a supervision order from the children's panel, whereas in England and Wales, being looked after at home is an informal situation put in place by a social worker, often as an interim measure until a foster or kinship care placement can be found.
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. Overall, Scotland had the highest rate of looked after children in 2018 at an estimated 143 children per 10,000 under 18 population, the highest rate in the UK. The rate for only children looked after away from home in Scotland is still the highest in the UK at 107 per 10,000 under 18 population. However, this is only slightly higher than the rate of looked after children in Wales (102 per 10,000). The rates in Northern Ireland (71 per 10,000) and England (64 per 10,000) are much lower.
Chart 2: Cross-UK comparison of rate of looked after children per 10,000 children, 2004-2018(1)
(1) Data for Scotland for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities.
Links to the cross-UK data underlying Chart 3 can be found in Background Note 1.7. There is more information on the comparability of looked after children data across the UK: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/socialservicestats
There are additional tables on looked after children available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/PubChildrenSocialWork