Publication - Statistics

Children's Social Work Statistics Scotland, 2018-2019

The latest data on children and young people looked after, on the child protection register and in secure care.

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45 page PDF

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Contents
Children's Social Work Statistics Scotland, 2018-2019
Children Looked After

45 page PDF

1.3 MB

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 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 an estimated 14,015 looked after children - a decrease of 723 (5%) 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 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 an estimated 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). Foster care and kinship care (29% of 2019 placements) are the most common settings 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(1,2)
Number Percentage
2009 2018 2019 2009 2018 2019
In the community 13,707 13,219 12,602 90% 90% 90%
At home with parents 5,924 3,818 3,536 39% 26% 25%
With Kinship Carers: friends/relatives 2,993 4,103 4,064 20% 28% 29%
With Foster Carers provided by LA 3,594 3,529 3,290 24% 24% 23%
With Foster Carers purchased by LA 905 1,529 1,440 6% 10% 10%
With prospective adopters 242 190 212 2% 1% 2%
In other community(3) 49 50 60 0% 0% 0%
Residential Accommodation 1,580 1,519 1,413 10% 10% 10%
In local authority home 611 585 558 4% 4% 4%
In voluntary home 138 122 127 1% 1% 1%
In residential school 598 395 341 4% 3% 2%
In secure accommodation 102 52 63 1% 0% 0%
Crisis care 18 0 0 0% 0% 0%
In other residential(4) 113 365 324 1% 2% 2%
Total looked after children 15,287 14,738 14,015 100% 100% 100%

(1) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities. The figures for 2017-18 will be revised during 2020 following receipt of data from Glasgow City.
(2) 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.
(3) 'In other community' is a category that captures those people in community placements outside those listed, such as supported accommodation.
(4) 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(1)
Chart 1: Children looked after per 1,000 children under 18 by type of accommodation, 1988-2019

(1) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities. The figures for 2017-18 will be revised during 2020 following receipt of data from Glasgow City.

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 1.2 shows that 94% of the estimated 14,015 children who were looked after at the end of July 2019 had a current care plan, down 1 percentage point from 2018. Of those looked after by kinship carers, 92% had a current care plan. This compares with 95-96% 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 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 3,374 9,852 3,721 4,521 259 1,351 13,226
Without a current care plan 162 627 343 209 13 62 789
Total 3,536 10,479 4,064 4,730 272 1,413 14,015
With a current care plan 95% 94% 92% 96% 95% 96% 94%
Without a current care plan 5% 6% 8% 4% 5% 4% 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, an estimated 3,824 episodes of care began between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019. This represents a 6 per cent decrease from the 4,063 episodes of care beginning in 2018.

Table 1.3: Number of children starting to be looked after by age(1,2)
Age Number Percentage
2009 2018 2019 2009 2018 2019
Under 1 641 632 565 12 16 15
1-4 1,138 884 891 22 22 23
5-11 1,563 1,302 1,137 30 32 30
12-15 1,800 1,173 1,128 35 29 29
16-17 * * * * * *
18-21(3) * * * * * *
Not known 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 5,201 4,063 3,824 100 100 100

(1) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities. The figures for 2017-18 will be revised during 2020 following receipt of data from Glasgow City.
(2) A child may start to be looked after more than once in a year and so may be counted more than once.
(3) The 18-21 category in this table may include a small number of looked after young people who were over 21yrs.

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 40% 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 12% in 2009 to 15% in 2019.

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 an estimated 4,002 episodes of care which ceased between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019, a decrease of 9% 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 only a period of weeks.

Table 1.4: Number of children ceasing to be looked after, by length of time looked after (1,2)
Length of time looked after Number Percentage
2009 2018 2019 2009 2018 2019
Under 6 weeks 409 213 259 9 5 6
6 weeks to under 6 months 333 325 321 8 7 8
6 months to under 1 year 767 597 539 17 14 13
1 year to under 3 years 1,718 1,530 1,459 39 35 36
3 years to under 5 years 652 697 626 15 16 16
5 years and over 515 1,050 798 12 24 20
Not known - - - 0 0 0
Total 4,394 4,412 4,002 100 100 100

(1) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities. The figures for 2017-18 will be revised during 2020 following receipt of data from Glasgow City.
(2) 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 category 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 (59% in 2019) go home to their biological parents and 15% 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 remained at 7% in 2019. 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 (1,2)
Destination after leaving care Number Percentage
2009 2018 2019 2009 2018 2019
Home with (biological) parents 2,797 2,502 2,355 64% 57% 59%
Kinship carers: Friends/relatives 499 662 550 11% 15% 14%
Kinship Care Order(3) - 113 69 - 3% 2%
Former foster carers 71 84 110 2% 2% 3%
Continuing Care(3) - 116 162 - 3% 4%
Adoption 204 321 263 5% 7% 7%
Supported accommodation/own tenancy 225 278 219 5% 6% 5%
Other(4) 279 317 252 6% 7% 6%
Not known 319 19 22 7% 0% 1%
Total 4,394 4,412 4,002 100% 100% 100%

(1) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities. The figures for 2017-18 will be revised during 2020 following receipt of data from Glasgow City.
(2) 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.
(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.

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, an estimated 74% (up from 72% in 2018) had a pathway plan and 62% had a pathway co‑ordinator (table 1.6), a decrease from 70% 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% were estimated to have a pathway plan and 51% a pathway coordinator, compared with 79% and 67% 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
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 249 692 941 64 79 74
Without a pathway plan at discharge 138 189 327 36 21 26
With a nominated pathway co-ordinator at discharge 198 592 790 51 67 62
Without a nominated pathway co-ordinator at discharge 189 289 478 49 33 38
Total 387 881 1,268 100 100 100

(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 already risen from 4,602 in 2016 to 6,650 or 58% 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 over-21 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
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 162 children who ceased to be looked after between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019 received Continuing Care. Former looked after children are an increasing part of the population of care leavers as the 'higher age' for eligibility has been rising 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 will be fully operational 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 162 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 281 young people recorded as being in Continuing Care in 2018-19.

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. 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 162 119 281

(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 as 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 estimated 136 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 102 per 10,000 under 18 population. However, 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(1)
Chart 2: Cross-UK comparison of rate of looked after children per 10,000 children, 2004-2019(1)

(1) Data for 2018 is estimated by using 2017 figures for Glasgow City and 2018 figures for all other local authorities. The figures for 2017-18 will be revised during 2020 following receipt of data from Glasgow City.

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