Children's Social Work Statistics Scotland, 2012-13

statistics on children looked after, child protection and young people in secure care and close support accommodation

This document is part of a collection

Background notes

1. Context and related publications

1.1This publication includes data on children and young people who were looked after, on the child protection register or in secure care accommodation between 1 August 2012 and 31 July 2013. Children most commonly become looked after or placed on the child protection register following a referral to the Children's Reporter. The majority of referrals to the Children's Reporter are on care and protection grounds, although a small proportion are on offence grounds. Young people are placed in secure care either as an outcome of the criminal justice system or through a referral to the Children's Reporter. Figures on referrals to the Children's Reporter are published by the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA):

1.2 This publication collates demographic data on children who were looked after during 2012-13. In June 2014 Education Outcomes for Looked After Children statistics 2012-13 will be published on a subset of these children - those looked after continuously for year from August 2012 to July 2013. The education outcomes publication will be available here:

1.3 The annual Civil Law Statistics published by the Scottish Government include a table (Table 8) which gives the number of petitions for adoption made through the courts. These figures include looked after children who are adopted from care as well as children who are outwith the care system. The 2012-13 Civil Law Statistics are available here:

Cross-UK comparability

1.4 It is possible to draw comparisons between the looked after children, child protection and secure care accommodation statistics of the four UK countries. However it should be borne in mind that there are differences in legislation, the children's social work systems and the definitions of categories that will affect these figures.

1.5 Work has been undertaken between the Scottish Government and administrations from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to document clearly the differences between each administration's looked after children statistics and to scope out the feasibility and need for a comparable dataset. Further developments from this work have been published on the Scottish Government children's statistics web site at:

1.6 Work was commissioned by the Department of Education to document clearly the differences between each administration's child protection statistics. Further developments from this work have been published on the Scottish Government Children's Statistics web site at:

Equivalent data across the UK

1.7 Looked after statistics:

Northern Ireland

1.8 Child protection statistics:

Northern Ireland

1.9 Official/national statistics are not produced on secure accommodation in Northern Ireland. However, there is one secure unit which when at full capacity can house sixteen 11 to 18 year olds. The latest national statistics on children accommodated in secure children's homes in England and Wales were released on 6 June 2013 and can be found at:

2. Data sources and coverage

2.1The looked after children data in this publication were collected at an individual level from local authorities. Data were collected on all children/young people who were looked after between 1 August 2012 and 31 July 2013, on every episode of being looked after which occurred at some point in the reporting period, every placement that took place during these episodes and every legal reason for which a child was looked after. Statistics were also collected at an individual-level for eligible for aftercare and current planned series of short-term placements sections.

2.2 The child protection information in this publication has previously been collected in full or in part as aggregate summarised data. In 2011-12 individual-level information was collected on the children on the child protection register at 31 July 2012. For the first time in 2012-13, all child protection data was collected at individual-level and includes information on age, gender, ethnicity, religion, local authority, concerns identified at case conference and known/suspected abuser.

2.3 The child protection statistics survey covered the period 1 August 2012 to 31 July 2013. If a member of the public or professional report concern about a child, a referral will be made to an agency such as the local authority social work team. If they decide that the child is at risk of significant harm, an investigation will be undertaken. In 2010-11 and previous years aggregate information was collected on the referrals that were initiated during the period (so numbers starting). From 2011-12 information has been collected on child protection investigations which ended during the collection period. Information on child protection referrals has not been collected since 2010-11.

2.4 The secure care and close support accommodation statistics in this publication were collected from six secure care units which were open at 1 August 2012, two of which had dedicated close support units. One of these units (the Elms) closed on 20 December 2012, meaning that at 31 July 2013 there were five secure care units.

2.5 The secure care and close support accommodation census covered 1 August 2012 to 31 July 2013. The secure care and close support accommodation data collected at the unit level covers the number of places, emergency bed usage, staffing, and average cost per week per bed. Individual-level information was collected on the characteristics of the young person, admissions and discharges. For those in secure care accommodation information was also collected on medical care.

3. Definitions and notation

3.1 The survey forms, data specifications and guidance notes for the statistics presented in this publication (and previous years publications) are all available online. The data specifications include the standard validation checks undertaken to quality assure these data.

Online documentation
Looked after
Child protection
Secure care accomodation

Children Looked After

3.2 Looked after child - The definition of a looked after child is in section 17(6) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, as amended by Schedule 2, para 9(4) of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007. Information on this definition is available here:

3.3 Supervision Requirement - A children's hearing is a lay tribunal which considers and makes decisions on the welfare of the child or young person before them, taking into account the circumstances including any offending behaviour. The hearing decides on the measures of supervision which are in the best interests of the child or young person. If the hearing concludes compulsory measures of supervision are needed, it will make a Supervision Requirement which will determine the type of placement for the child. In most cases the child will continue to live at home but will be under the supervision of a social worker. In some cases the hearing will decide that the child should live away from home with relatives or other carers.

3.5 Permanence order - This is an order that the sheriff court can make for the protection and supervision of children. By default, parents have a right for their child to live with them and control where the child lives. A Permanence order, which can only be applied for by the local authority, transfers this right to the local authority. Other parental rights and responsibilities can be shared between the local authority, birth parents and carers of the child (e.g. foster or kinship carers).

3.6 Types of placement

  • At home with parent(s): at home with parent(s) or 'relevant person(s)' as defined in Section 93(2)(b) of the Children's (Scotland) Act 1995
  • With friends/relatives: placed with friends or relatives who are not approved foster carers. Also referred to as 'kinship care'.
  • With foster carers provided by the local authority
  • With foster carers purchased by the local authority
  • With prospective adopters
  • Other community: such as supported accommodation, hospital (e.g. at birth)
  • Local authority home: in local authority children's home/hostel, local authority home/hostel for children with learning disabilities, local authority home/hostel for physically disabled children
  • Voluntary home: in voluntary children's home/hostel which may be specifically for children with learning disabilities or for physically disabled children
  • Residential school: in local authority or voluntary residential school (home/hostel), private school or independent school
  • Secure accommodation
  • Crisis care: in women's refuge, local authority/voluntary hostel for offenders or for drug/alcohol abusers
  • Other residential: a known residential setting but does not fit with one of the above

3.7 There is information on the process by which children come to be looked after and legislation governing this on the Scottish Government website:

Child Protection

3.8 Child Protection Case Conference (CPCC) - a meeting where the risk of harm or neglect of a child is addressed. There are four types of CPCC:

Type Who it is for Potential outcome
Initial a child not currently on the child protection register

- Child is registered or

- Child is not registered

Pre-birth an unborn child

- Child is registered or

- Child is not registered

Review a child already on the child protection register or where there are significant changes in the child or family situation

- Child remains on register or

- Child is de-registered

Transfer a child already on the child protection register moving between local authorities

- Child is de-registered or

- Child remains on register

3.9 Registrations - The children who were the subject of a child protection case conference and were subsequently added to the child protection register between 1 August 2012 and 31 July 2013.

3.10 Deregistrations - Children who were subject to a transfer or review conference and subsequently removed from the child protection register between 1 August 2012 and 31 July 2013.

3.11 The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland, published in 2010, is available here:

Secure care and close support accommodation

3.12 Secure accommodation legal framework - The children's hearings system has responsibility for dealing with most children and young people under 16 who commit offences or who are in need of care and protection. In some cases children's hearings have responsibility for young people under 18 where the young person is under the supervision of the hearing when he or she reaches 16 and the supervision requirement is extended.

3.13 For children who commit very grave crimes (the circumstances are set out in the relevant Lord Advocate's guidelines), the option remains for them to be jointly reported to the children's reporter and the procurator fiscal and together, they will decide whether prosecution through the court is appropriate. The court may then sentence, or return the young person to the hearing to be dealt with.

3.14 A young person who appears in court accused of an offence, where bail is not considered appropriate, can be remanded to the care of the local authority responsible for them under section 51 of the Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act 1995. Local authorities are then responsible for placing that young person in secure care.

3.15 A young person convicted of an offence in court can be sentenced to detention in secure accommodation under section 205 or 208 of the Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act 1995. In these cases, it is the responsibility of Scottish ministers to place the sentenced young person in suitable accommodation.

3.16 Before a child or young person can be placed in secure accommodation through the children's hearings system, the children's panel must consider that the young person meets the legal criteria set out in section 70(10) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. That is:

(a) having previously absconded, is likely to abscond unless kept in secure accommodation, and, if he absconds, it is likely that his physical, mental or moral welfare will be at risk; or

(b) is likely to injure himself or some other person unless he is kept in such accommodation.

3.17 Average number - The average number of young people in secure care accommodation over the year is calculated using the dates of admission and discharge for every child. Ages on admission, discharge during 2012-13 and age at 31 July 2013 are the actual ages for all young people.

3.18 Ethnicity and Religion - Data was collected on ethnicity and religion of young people in secure care and close support accommodation, but we are unable to publish this due to small numbers and data confidentiality issues.

3.19 Additional support needs - Additional support needs categories were based on ISD Health and Social Care Data Dictionary codes when the survey form was finalised in December 2007. Information was collected on types of additional support needs for young people in close support, but we are unable to publish a detailed breakdown of additional support needs due to small numbers and data confidentiality issues.

3.20 Emergency beds - these can be used at short notice, for example, when a young person is admitted during the night as it is less disruptive for the other young people. The young person is usually admitted to the main facility the following day. Three units operated such a place.

3.21 Mothballed - The term mothballed was used when recommendation 6 from the Securing our Future Initiative report recommended the targeted closure of 12 beds to bring the capacity of each of the independent secure units down to 18 beds. Beds were mothballed for the first year with on-going review meaning provision was reduced although a group of key core staff were retained to provide emergency cover if there was ever a short term need to increase capacity.

Additional support needs

3.22 The information that was previously labelled as 'disability' does not meet the definition of disability outlined in the Equality Act 2010 and is more accurately described as additional support needs. For this reason the equivalent data that was labelled as 'disability' prior to 2011-12 will, from 2011-12 onwards, be presented as 'additional support needs'. The statistics themselves have not changed in any way - the content of the data and categories remain the same, so are still comparable over time.

Notation and rounding

3.23 The following notation is used in this publication

- zero

*In cases where information is presented on a small number of children and is potentially disclosive, indicates that data have been suppressed.

3.24 The sum of the breakdowns in the tables may not sum to the total displayed due to rounding.

4. Data Quality and revisions

4.1The data for all three parts of this publication - looked after children, child protection and secure care - come from administrative data held by local authorities and secure units. As this information is used to monitor and manage these sectors it should be robust and accurate.

4.2 Automated validation checks are undertaken at the point the data is submitted. These validations are outlined in the relevant data specifications (see Background note 3.1 for links).

4.3 The Children and Families statistics team undertake a range of validation checks on administrative data as part of the quality assurance process of preparing this national statistics publication. These procedures include; trend analysis, comparing against other available sources, and checking outliers with data providers. The data providers are then asked to confirm their data - for looked after children and child protection data this confirmation comes from local authorities, for secure care accommodation this confirmation comes from secure units. In cases where concerns about data quality outweigh the value of have an estimated figure publically available, we would not publish particular information (e.g. legal reason data from the looked after children collection).

4.4 There is more information on the data quality of the administrative sources underlying this publication here:

Looked after - comparability over time

4.5 Looked after children statistics for years prior to 2008-09 used data supplied by local authorities aggregated at a local authority level. Since 2008‑09, local authorities are reporting significant improvements in the quality of their data reporting as a result of the new individualised collection methodology. This should be borne in mind when performing cross-year comparisons.

4.6 Data collected on children in a current planned series of short-term placements was collected for those up to 21 years old for the first time in 2010-11. In previous years it was only collected for those up to 18 years. This change is intended to capture more complete information on the provision of short-term placements by local authorities by including those who were receiving a service but were over 18 years old.

Looked after - data quality of specific variables

4.7 From 2011-12, local authorities were requested to supply information on all legal reasons for a child being looked after (i.e. a child may have more than one legal reason at any time). While the quality of this information is improving it is still not being consistently recorded across local authorities. As a result, only information on the final legal reason that was recorded within the year has been published (Table 1.5 in the additional tables).

4.8 The only looked after field for which data is collected but not published is religion. This is due to data quality concerns as each year around 75 per cent of children are recorded with religion as 'unknown'.

Child protection

4.9 For the first time in 2012-13 the child protection data has been collected entirely at individual-level. As there is much more detail and complexity to the 2012-13 data than in previous years there is much more scope for small errors. As a result, the accuracy of the 2012-13 data will be lower than in previous years. It is likely that the 2012-13 figures will be revised in future years as processes and validations improve.

4.10 The data on children on the child protection register at 31 July 2012 had been revised since the original publication for seven local authorities, resulting in a less than one per cent change in the national figure.

4.11 Prior to 2011-12, some local authorities did not place 'unborn' children on the child protection register until the child was actually born. The revised National Guidance now states that 'unborn' children should be placed on the child protection register if this is required and not wait until the child is born.

Secure care and close support accommodation

4.12 As the number of young people using secure care is very small, relative changes over time will show greater percentage changes than would be expected in children looked after or child protection.

4.13 Information was collected in 2011-12 to help monitor outcomes for the National Contract for Secure Care on whether a full medical assessment was received, an individualised Care/sentenced/remand plan completed, an individualised learning plan based on educational assessment completed and a transition/pathway plan in place. As the contract for secure care continues to develop, this information has become less relevant to the annual collection. To reduce burden on units, we have not collected the information listed above or on information on secure authorisations turned down from 2012-13.

4.14 This publication presents revised 2010-11 and 2011-12 data for close support accommodation. The revised figures exclude Edinburgh's data because they did not meet the criteria of being directly related to the secure unit. Edinburgh's close support is in a separate building and they have a mechanism to separate costs for their secure accommodation and close support provision. This publication only includes close support in the same physical location as the secure unit where capital and overhead costs will be inherently linked. This has reduced the previously published number of close support places by around half from 2010 onwards. Because of this revision, the close support numbers presented are comparable over time.

5. Enquiries

Please send any media enquiries to:

  • Children Looked After/Child Protection: Lesley Brown, 0131 244 4001
  • Secure Care and Close Support: Ashley Duff, 0131 244 3073
    Ruth Jays, 0131 244 3069

These data and additional tables on looked after children, child protection and secure care and close support accommodation are available at:

Email any requests for further analysis to

Children and Families Statistics
25 March 2014


Email: Carrie Graham

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