A Good Childhood For Our Children And Young People
In the previous section we set out how we will progress our overarching ambition to keep families together and to prevent children and young people becoming engaged in the care system. Unfortunately we know, however, that some children and young people are not safe at home and that intervention is required to prevent even more negative outcomes happening in the future.
The Promise tells us that our care experienced children and young people are almost one and a half times more likely to have anxiety at age 16; and almost twice as likely to moderately use drugs at the same age. It also tells us that our care experienced adults are over one and a half times more likely to experience severe multiple disadvantage; and more than twice as likely to have experienced homelessness.
In this section of our Implementation Plan we will set out our vision for how we will ensure that when and where our children enter care they have the support, love and stability they need. As they progress through childhood and have to build a more independent life they have the options, the support and the opportunity to thrive.
Chapter 7 The Scottish Approach To Care
All of our children should have a happy, healthy and safe childhood and everyone in the care system must ensure that our processes, systems and structures do everything possible to make this a reality. There is clear evidence that the overwhelming number of children who are taken into care are from the poorest families. This could be a result of parental drug and alcohol use; mental health and/or engagement with the justice system often leading to imprisonment. The correlation between families trapped in poverty and our young people who are in care is stark.
As set out earlier in this Plan, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the wellbeing of children and young people who are care experienced. Our parents, carers, communities and our public and third sector have all worked hard to provide the support required, however, we know that for many of our children and young people there have been significant negative impacts on their wellbeing.
We also know that the issues that get in the way of many of our care experienced children and young people existed long before the pandemic. In Keeping The Promise, we must adopt a Scottish approach to support those who are in care and ensure the environment they live in is safe, and they are loved and nurtured throughout their life.
We will develop and publish a National Carers Strategy with a focus on COVID-19 recovery and improving carer support in a meaningful and sustainable way. The strategy will focus on carers and their needs, setting out how policies across the Scottish Government can work together with other public bodies to support carers as we recover from the pandemic and beyond. We will publish the strategy by the end of June 2022 to provide a clear vision for how we will respond to the challenges faced by so many carers.
Getting it right for every child is central to all of our policies which support children, young people and their families, including our incorporation, to the maximum extent possible of the United Nations Convention of the Right of the Child. We recognise too that our care experienced children and young people are subject to stigma and, in some circumstances, feel blamed for their separation from their families and the trauma they have experienced.
What The Scottish Government Is Doing To Support Change
How Do We Define 'Care Experience'
There are a number of rights and entitlements in existence for young adults who have care experience. There is not a cohesive, cross sector definition that encapsulates the totality of the experience. The Promise adopted a broad and diverse understanding of care experience, to ensure a collective recognition that care represents a part of all Scotland's communities. It heard that, as a definition, care experience has meaning for many people, it has supported movement building and is helpful as an understanding of personal identity.
Throughout this document, we have taken our lead from The Promise and used the term care experience to refer to anyone who has been or is currently in care or from a looked after background at any stage of their life, no matter how short, including adopted children who were previously looked after. Care may have been provided in one of many different settings, such as in residential care, foster care, kinship care or through being looked after at home with a supervision requirement.
People with care experience must no longer be stigmatised for being different because care should be considered a normal part of society. We will work with partners across Scotland, including The Promise Scotland, to develop a universal and inclusive definition of care experience, we will explore further how this definition can best be reflected in relevant legislation to ensure a consistent and respectful use of language. We must work together to change this.
Consider Our Language
The Promise heard from our children, young people and adults with care experience that the language needs to change to normalise their lives and shift away from professional terminology. Words used by the workforce to describe children's lives, like 'unit' and 'placement' and 'contact' and 'respite' and 'LAC' (looked after child), are not the same as those used by their peers without care experience. The Promise heard that this language compounds a sense of being different, can exacerbate low self- esteem and is stigmatising. We must work together to change this.
We know that the language people hear impacts our understanding and behaviours – often in ways we don't even realise. We must not be stigmatising in our language for children and young people or their families. There will be times where the statutory framework requires certain terms to be used, but this should be done sparingly, with the aim of the reduction of stigmatising language at every opportunity. We must work together to change the story and ensure that our care experienced population are not looked on differently, are not made to feel like they are different and are in no way treated differently. We will prioritise our continued support to change this narrative within our own organisation, with our corporate parenting peers and more widely in our communities to ensure our collective understanding develops and stigma reduces.
We will use destigmatising language at every opportunity and will use certain terminology only where the use of an alternative may create confusion. We will continue to work with The Promise Scotland to identify and use language, across all of our policies and engagement, which respects the views of our care experienced people.
To support this, we must shift public attitudes and understanding, and challenge the stigma that is felt by our care experienced children, young people, adults and families. We will build on the Each and Every Child Initiative and will develop further work to address stigma over the course of 2022/23, with input from local partners and our care experienced young people.
Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC)
Our Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) approach aims to provide consistent and holistic, rights-based, child, young person and family centred co-ordinated support. In 2021, we refreshed the aspirational values and principles that underpin GIRFEC as a strengths-based approach. Consultation on the refreshed materials included care experienced children and young people as well as local authorities, health boards, third sector organisations, umbrella groups and national organisations.
Children's rights and wellbeing are intrinsically linked and are mutually reinforcing. Where a child's rights have been respected, protected and fulfilled, their wellbeing should improve. Where a child's wellbeing is flourishing, they are better able to enjoy their rights, and defend their rights and the rights of others. The updated values and principles take account of The Promise and the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and signifies that the three areas are aligned and connected. In so doing they provide the workforce with a clear framework to support implementation and to make life better for all children in Scotland.
We reaffirmed our commitment to GIRFEC policy in September 2019 and we continue to work with practitioners and other stakeholders to refresh national guidance materials to support consistent effective practice across all children's services.
Publication of phase one of refreshed GIRFEC materials is planned by August 2022. Phase two includes work on refreshed guidance for the child's plan and single planning process, alongside supporting GIRFEC implementation and linking across relevant Scottish Government policy teams.
Some children and young people who cannot live safely at home, come to live in Scotland from other areas of the UK. We are working to deliver solutions to ensure that they are able to experience the same high level of care that we expect for children who start their journey within Scotland, and that their rights are equally upheld. Such a move away from home communities should occur only in exceptional circumstances and if this is in the best interests of the child.
Delivering a Good Childhood: Scotland's approach to care
As set out in chapters 2 to 4, we have taken key early actions to Keep The Promise, such as ensuring that where living with their family is not possible, children can stay together with their brothers and sisters if it is safe to do so.
There is no doubt, however, that to fully meet the ambition and ethos set out in The Promise's priority area of A Good Childhood, we need to fundamentally transform the way that care looks and feels for children, families and caregivers in Scotland. The Scottish Government needs to lead from the front and strengthen its focus on collective leadership, delivery and outcomes if we are to give every child and young person with care experience a childhood that sets them up to thrive.
To this end, and with input from partners, we have developed a vision and key principles. These articulate what the Scottish Government wants to achieve and the values that will guide our policy, resourcing, business planning and strategy decisions to deliver the positive progress needed. They are explicit about our ambitions for children with care experience and set a strategic direction of travel that we hope will help galvanise the sector and generate momentum, building on the good work already underway, as we embark on a work programme to re-imagine care in Scotland that will span a number of years.
The vision and principles focus specifically on children with, or on the edges of, care experience, building on the GIRFEC principles and values, and principles of holistic family support. This work will contribute to the shared aims and wellbeing outcomes of the Children, Young People and Families Outcome Framework, described further in Chapter 18.
The vision and principles also draw on a wide range of existing policy, legislation and key publications, including the seminal Independent Care Review and subsequent Promise reports, the National Performance Framework, and standards such as the secure care pathways and standards. They are not intended to replace the way local partners plan, commission, or deliver services.
Our vision is that 'Every child lives in a safe and loving home where families are given support to overcome difficulties and stay together. Where this is not possible, the focus of a child's care must be based, first and foremost, on what a child wants and needs, underpinned by nurturing relationships, to enable them to have happy childhood experiences and live their life to the full'
Scotland's approach to care is supported by six key principles which will guide our policy and delivery decisions. They are thematic in nature, applying equally wherever a child lives, and should engender transformational change in the way Scotland cares for its children, reducing poverty, inequality and giving children with care experience the best chance of the life they rightly deserve. Taking action to tackle child poverty is a key factor to achieving this and, as indicated earlier, this work is closely interlinked with the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-26.
The principles are specific to children, young people and families on the edges of care and those with care experience, who may have experienced adversity and trauma, and will have additional needs. They must, however, be seen in the context of the important role of preventative health services in our communities, which are universal, and minimise or remove the risk of babies and children becoming care experienced, particularly in the earliest years of life, and also have a role to play if a child is care experienced.
The principles focus on meaningful relationships, family support, health and wellbeing, support for caregivers, smooth transitions and reducing the stigma that can isolate children, young people and families who have experience of care.
Principle 1: Loving, safe and stable relationships are–above all else–the most important aspect of care for every child: The development of nurturing, compassionate and respectful relationships within families, by caregivers, people in the workforce and the wider community will enable children to feel loved and safe wherever they live. Children must be actively supported to develop and strengthen healthy and positive connections and friendships that are important to them, including lifelong links, and this must be the bedrock of everyday practice of the workforce and carers.
Principle 2 : Strengthening and supporting families to stay together where children are safe and feel loved: Universal holistic family support, at the right time, is key to strengthening families and overcoming difficulties that get in the way. Some families face a range of challenges unique to them – poverty, mental health issues, job loss – and they need bespoke, relationship based timely support to manage these as a family unit. Universal family support – and more intensive targeted help, if it is needed – must be both a safe harbour and a lifeline to all families to avoid relationships breaking down and crisis interventions, so that people can continue to care for their children where it is safe to do so.
Principle 3 : Support to fully meet wellbeing needs, including health and education: Children, no matter where they live, should enjoy good emotional, physical and mental health. Children have the right to play, as well as learn and achieve through education. Children with experience of care must have the same opportunities to flourish as their peers, and must not be held back by poverty or inequality. Every child in our community should have the same level of support to fully meet health, educational and wellbeing needs. And this means additional support for children without a family support network, or if they have experienced adversity in childhood. Caregivers and the wider workforce have a crucial role in ensuring that all needs are met, in particular, supporting children with developmental trauma to heal and develop as young adults.
Principle 4 : Comprehensive and ongoing support for caregivers: Investing in a comprehensive, continuing programme of training and support
to embed learning for Scotland's caregivers – kinship, adoption, foster and residential and secure care staff, including recruitment where appropriate – is crucial. This investment will give caregivers the skills, knowledge and confidence, particularly in trauma informed practice, to nurture the children in their care, and build loving, stable relationships.
Principle 5: Stability and smooth transitions: A stable and secure home helps a child flourish: to make friends, build relationships and settle at school and in a local community. Multiple moves make this harder. Likewise, significant transitions must be limited, planned and relational to prevent further trauma for a child. As young adults transition into independent, self-reliant individuals they must receive support across a range of areas such as housing, finance, employment and education. This support must be inclusive, accessible and bespoke to a person's individual circumstances, especially where they have additional support needs. Support from the people who matter to the young person is also critical, and all support must be available for as long as necessary to help transition to adulthood and a positive future. Aftercare, and wider universal services, must also recognise that the impact of being care experienced can continue throughout a person's life.
Principle 6: The rights,dignity and voice of children is at the heart of everything we do:All children must be treated with compassion, care and kindness and their rights must be upheld and championed by their families, carers and the workforce, with access to independent individual advocacy and legal support. Children and their families wishes must be listened to and they must be empowered to be meaningfully involved in decisions about their care and how best their needs can be met. Children should not have to 'tell their story' multiple times to different people. The experience of care must also be normalised and free from stigma, blame and shame. Media stereotypes of children with care experience can affect attitudes and behaviours in ways people do not realise. There is, therefore, a key role for the workforce, organisations, national and local government and the media to change the narrative by using positive, easily understood, well framed and respectful language.
The Role Of The Workforce, Partners And Stakeholders
In addition to the important role of caregivers described above, children will be supported by a wider workforce (for example education, health, housing, social security, social work and social care, justice) who implement the GIRFEC multi- agency approach. The support of senior corporate leaders is critical to ensure the workforce continues to be skilled, trained, trauma informed and compassionate in their decision making and care. They must also feel valued and supported to respond to the individual needs and wishes of a child or young person and their family.
Within this, there is a key role for social workers who are often at the centre of these multi- disciplinary relationships that support children and families getting the help they need when they need it, and for as long as they need it. Social workers must feel empowered and confident so they can, in turn, instil that feeling in the children and families they work with.
Our vision and principles will inform the development of a comprehensive, evidence based work programme, with key delivery milestones, to ensure that the Scottish Government leads and plays its part in delivering the recommendations, ambition and ethos reflected in The Promise's A Good Childhood. We will establish a stakeholder advisory group, and seek input from people with care experience, to develop and implement this work programme between now and 2030. This will ensure that the sequencing of the work aligns with partners' abilities to deliver, given the varying demands and pressures upon them.
We will also work with local and national partners to develop a monitoring and evaluation strategy to ensure we can measure the effectiveness of the implementation of the plan and, in particular, how it feels for, and the experience of, children and young people affected.
Key Actions We Will Take
- We will work with partners across Scotland, including The Promise Scotland, to develop a universal and inclusive definition of care experience so as more people can understand and relate to it.
- We will build on the Each and Every Child Initiative and will develop further work to address stigma over the course of 2022/23, with input from local partners and care experienced young people.
- We will refresh national guidance materials to support consistent effective practice across all children's services including Publication of phase one of refreshed GIRFEC materials is planned by August 2022.
- We will implement our vision and key principles for Scotland's approach to care.Articulating what the Scottish Government wants to achieve and guiding our policy,resourcing,business planning and strategy decisions to deliver the positive progress needed.
Chapter 8 Minimising Intervention
As we have established through this plan, keeping families together is our key priority, however there will be situations when this is not safe because of the physical, mental and/or emotional trauma that is likely to be suffered by a child or young person in their home. Unfortunately there will be times when, for different reasons, it is necessary for our care services to intervene.
Relationships are key to all of our lives. Through The Promise, our care experienced people told us that the relationships that mattered to them are not appropriately recognised and respected by the services and systems that are in place to support them. We must commit to changing this and ensuring that we support our children and young people to maintain the relationships that are important to them.
It is vitally important that we recognise and understand the network that is important to each individual person. As a first step, in July 2021 we introduced a requirement for services responsible for the care and welfare of looked after children and young people to promote their relationships with their sisters and brothers placing a legal duty on local authorities, supported by practice guidance.
Preventing harm is of course paramount, and through the work of our national implementation group, local Child Protection Committees, leaders, managers and practitioners across services,
we are working to ensure that robust child protection procedures are in place wherever there is a likelihood or risk of a child coming to harm and that appropriate actions can be taken. In identifying this action we must ensure that the voice of the child or young person and what matters to that child or young person is heard, understood and respected.
What The Scottish Government Is Doing To Support Change
In Scotland, there is now a legal duty on local authorities to take steps to promote contact between care experienced infants, children and young people and their brothers and sisters. This includes a duty to establish the views of the child's brothers and sisters before making any decisions about their care, and to ensure that where it is safe for them to do so, brothers and/or sisters are able to live together or as near to each other as possible.
In July 2021, we published new National Practice Guidance, 'Staying Together and Connected: Getting it Right for Sisters and Brothers' to support implementation of legislative changes introduced under the Children (Scotland) Act 2020. This legislation protects the rights and promotes the wellbeing of children and young people where their relationships with their brothers and sisters could become disrupted.
The National Practice Guidance was developed in collaboration with people representing all those who will be affected and involving the voices and view of infants, children and young people with experience of care, their parents and families, adoptive parents, kinship and foster carers, and the multi-agency practitioners responsible for
the care, protection and wellbeing of our children and young people. The guidance sets out what to consider and what to do, and provides practical advice based on research, evidence and listening to experience about what all children need to grow and thrive through sustained, positive relationships with their sisters and brothers.
We continue to support implementation of the guidance, engaging with our stakeholders and those with care experience, in addressing practical challenges. This work is supported by a National Implementation Group that we have convened to champion best practice and work with families and practitioners to find solutions to any barriers. The Group will also continue to raise awareness of their work to ensure that collectively Scotland ensures that sisters' and brothers' relationships are cherished and supported.
One area of work being progressed by the Group and supported by children, young people and families in the co-design of solutions, is to design definitions of data proposed for use across the represented agencies to understand whether sisters and brothers remain together. This data must reflect the complexity of family situations, including why decisions were made and whether any siblings remained together and help us to measure progress in reducing separation of brothers and sisters.
The Secure Care Pathway and Standards were published in October 2020. When fully implemented standards 25 – 27 will ensure that young people are encouraged and supported to maintain and develop relationships with family, friends and people who are important to them.
Whilst keeping families together is our key priority, there will unfortunately be situations when this is not safe because of the physical, mental and/or emotional trauma that is likely to be suffered by a child or young person in their home. To support families for whom their children are taken into care, we have opened a new fund to improve support for birth parents who no longer have care of their children.
The Supporting Birth Parents Whose Child(ren) Have Been Permanently Removed From Their Care fund has been established to fund relational, trauma responsive services.
Key Actions We Will Take
- We will continue to monitor and evaluate the Brothers and Sisters Practice Guidance and put in place mechanisms by 2023 to measure progress in keeping brothers and sisters together.
- We will support families whose children have required to go into care through the Birth Parents Whose Child(ren) Have Been Permanently Removed From Their Care fund
Chapter 9 Our Approach To Interventions To Safeguard Children's Welfare When It Is Necessary
The Promise tells us that a new approach to youth justice in Scotland is required. An approach which continues to align with United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), that proceeds from a rights-respecting approach, supports all children under the age of 18 and young people up to age 26 to participate in decisions about them, directs positive support to families, and offers that support through safe and caring relationships.
This approach must be centred on avoiding and stopping the criminalisation of care experienced children. Realising this requires a fundamental shift in focus, time, commitment, resourcing and underlying structures.
What The Scottish Government Is Doing To Support Change
Delivering The Priorities Within The Youth Justice Strategy
The Justice for children and young people–arights-respecting approach: vision and prioritiesand accompanying action plan were published in June 2021. The vision builds on the Youth Justice Strategy which concluded in 2020 and represents a shared foundation between the Scottish Government and partners to continue to support the agenda to keep children out of the criminal justice system and promote the continued use of the whole system approach to preventing offending by young people and possible expansion of that approach beyond the age of 18.
We will continue to work with partners to ensure delivery of the priorities until 2024. Specific actions will be taken forward through implementation groups including; children's rights and advancing whole system approach; and working groups on community alternatives, participation and speech, language and communication needs.
Reshaping Our Approach to Secure Care
Secure care – provided by a secure accommodation service, as defined in statute – is among the most intensive and restrictive form of child care available in Scotland, whereby children up to age 18 are placed in a locked care setting. This can occur through involvement of the children's hearings system or the criminal justice system and arises due to the level of concern about the risks, or actual significant harm, which parts of a child's behaviour pose to them and/or others.
We are clear that where a child's liberty requires to be restricted or deprived, this should be
in a setting which is child friendly and rights respecting, with trauma-informed staff. As a Government we are committed to safeguarding young people within the Youth Justice system, supporting a presumption against under 18s in the Criminal Justice System, keeping them out of young offenders' institutions where possible and appropriate, while ensuring victims receive the support and information they need.
There are presently a total of 84 secure care placements across Scotland. It is clear that we need to consider the nature and scale of secure care that will be required in Scotland for future years. This especially applies where a Scottish secure estate with more vacancies may have an important part to play in decarcerating more young people from young offenders' institutions. The future offer will be designed in the best interests of each child and will include specialist services and bespoke packages in order to meet the often complex needs of children and young people. It will consider the wider care and justice systems rather than secure care in isolation.
We are committed to ending the placement of 16 and 17 year olds in Young Offenders Institutions without delay. This will provide the support children need in very difficult circumstances, shifting the approach from one of punishment to one of love and support. To achieve this we will fund care based alternatives to custody and a consultation on a Children's Care and Justice Bill was launched on 30 March 2022.
We will continue to explore options around changes to secure care, including working with secure care providers, local authorities and Social Work Scotland to find a sustainable funding model to be implemented over the next 2-4 years. We acknowledge that in considering the funding basis of Secure Care, and in seeking to significantly reduce the numbers of cross-border placements from elsewhere in the UK that providers accommodate, some Secure Care centres will have to stop operating as they currently are. We will support them to transition to a new operating model and ensure the skills, expertise and staff are retained to ensure that expertise can be repurposed to support care experienced children and young people.
Key drivers for these conversations include how we will reduce the number of cross-border placements; how we promote better post-secure placement transition planning and service provision; how we support secure care provider diversification into non-secure residential and community provision; how we provide support to some young people to stay in secure care beyond their 18th birthday rather than transferring them to Young Offenders' Institutions for short periods; and potential legislative change to moderate and allocate placements on a national Scottish basis and to minimise – with a view to eventually eradicating – reliance on cross-border placements. There may still be cross-border placements, but these will be for those exceptional circumstances where they may be in the best interests of the child only and not based on financial reasons.
Safeguarding Children's Rights
In 2020 we consulted on raising the age at which someone can be referred to the Children's Reporter. Currently only under 16s or 16/17 year olds on a Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO) or being considered for a CSO are able to be referred.
To enable this, and to promote and advance children's and victims' rights, safeguarding and supporting Scotland's children through age- appropriate systems and services in-line with The Promise, we will introduce a Children's Care and Justice Bill this Parliamentary session.
A consultation was launched on 30 March 2022 on policy proposals including:
- To ensure children receive the right help and support they require, at the right time, as far as possible and appropriate without statutory intervention.
- Where any child requires the support and intervention of formal systems, to ensure this is available through the age-appropriate Children's Hearings System, exploring what is needed to support raising the maximum age of referral to the Principal Reporter.
- To ensure children are treated in a way that is trauma-informed and recognises their age and stage of development, recognising that this might not be possible within the current structures and systems.
- To maximise the use of measures to support children in the community, and with their family wherever possible. Where a child requires to be deprived of their liberty, to ensure that this is in age-appropriate care facilities where possible and appropriate by enabling more children to access secure care or other alternative residential or community-based alternatives.
- To introduce additional safeguards and regulation for children placed in cross- border placements which should only occur in exceptional circumstances where the placement is in the best interests of an individual child.
- To enhance the rights to support and information for victims to ensure appropriate protection, information and support irrespective of the age of the person who has caused the harm or the system through which the child's case is dealt.
As well as a future Children's Care and Justice Bill to address legislative transformation, there are practice and cultural changes which need to take place to further reduce under 18s in young offenders' institutes and ensure readiness and confidence in alternatives. A range of actions are already underway to address this including:
- Ongoing discussions with key partners including COSLA, Scotland Excel, Secure care providers and Social Work Scotland to consider funding of secure care placements from July 2022 onwards, to allow priority capacity for under 18s living in Scotland.
- A workshop will take place before June 2022 with key partners such as secure care providers, Scottish Prison Service, COSLA, the Care Inspectorate and Social Work Scotland to consider alternative options to young offenders' institutes.
- The Youth Justice Improvement Board and implementation groups are continuing to deliver on the priorities within the Youth Justice Vision published in June 2021, ensuring that children's rights are respected and that there is reinvigoration of the whole system approach to preventing offending by young people. This includes specific work on community alternatives available across Scotland and the publication of a framework for practitioners on community alternatives to remand by September 2022.
- A Children's Hearings Working Group has been set up to report on current practice by December 2022, with future work to enact the recommendations due in 2023.
- A short life working group was set up in December 2021 under the Scottish Government Collective Leadership Group. The group has met 3 times between December and March. Four recommendations were agreed including undertaking a trauma informed review of an under 18s pathway to young offenders institutes; recognising the needs and rights of the young person and supporting their understanding of court processes to ensure meaningful participation; assessing and reviewing key policies through the lens of the UNCRC; and identifying and removing legal impediments to alternatives to remand and taking immediate actions where possible to remove under 18s from custody.
The Use of Restraint
The wellbeing and safety of children and young people in care settings is always paramount. For this reason, we will continue to ensure the use of restraint in residential or secure care is not used unless it is the only practicable means of securing the welfare and safety of that or any other service user and there are exceptional circumstances.
Holding safely guidance published in 2005 and updated in 2013 specifies that any approach to restraint must be approved by the employers and will only be used by trained care staff with appropriate monitoring and recording after each physical restraint. On 30 March 2022 we launched a consultation on a Children's Care and Justice Bill which asks whether further change is needed to existing law and guidance on the use of restraint in residential and secure care settings. To support the continued safe use of restraint we will:
- Continue to support the workforce to ensure a caring, relational and trauma-informed response to any challenging behaviour.
- Work closely with the Scottish Physical Restraint Action Group which is exploring definitions of restraint, the data that is held and the training and support available for residential care staff.
These actions align with ongoing work to develop new human rights-based guidance in the use of physical restraint and seclusion in schools set out on Chapter 3.
An advocate is someone who provides support to individuals and families accessing information and advice. An advocate can help individuals to access rights and benefits that they are entitled to and guide them to legal advice and through legal processes if that is what is required.
The Promise says that Scotland must aim to ensure that care experienced children, young people, adults and families can navigate the system of care without such extra support. The workforce should become the primary trusted adults who children and young people turn to for support, advice and care. However, advocates will be required for as long as the care system remains complex.
In November 2020, we launched a national advocacy service to support all children and young people who may need independent, expert advocacy support to reinforce the rights of children involved in the Children's Hearings System. The children's hearing advocacy scheme is a demand led service that offers support to children and young people to express their needs and views on decisions that affect their lives. From July 2021, this provision was expanded to also support the right of siblings to participate in Children's Hearings, where they are invited to give their views on contact with their brothers or sisters. This national scheme was backed by an initial £1.5 million and increasing to £2 million in 2022-23. A Children's HearingsAdvocacy Expert Reference groupsupports the design, delivery and implementation of the service, which is offered Scotland wide by ten third sector providers.
The Children's Hearings advocacy service does not however, fully meet The Promise's view that independent advocacy organisations must be commissioned to ensure that advocacy is structurally, financially and psychologically separate from statutory organisations and service providers. There are still service providers delivering advocacy in areas, while also delivering services.
We will undertake an external evaluation of the implementation of children's advocacy in children's hearings by 2024 and consider the findings to inform any changes or potential expansion of the children's hearings advocacy scheme.
Advocacy for care experienced people and their families can help them navigate the system better and ensure their voice is heard. The need for such advocacy for children and young people will reduce as fewer engage with the care system following the delivery of The Promise. As a next step, we will work with The Promise Scotland to scope national lifelong advocacy service for care experienced people, and advocacy for families coming into contact with the care system It will recognise there may be a need for distinct offerings, independent of one another. It will also take account of the need for independent advocacy and be clear about the definition. The Promise Scotland will present recommendations to Scottish Ministers for consideration by the end of 2023.
Children and their families must have a right to legal advice and representation if required. As The Promise identifies, the provision of advocacy does not replace rights to legal representation but the two roles (advocacy and legal representation) have a separate, distinct purpose. It is recognised that advocating the rights of children on the edge of and within Scotland's system of care requires a unique skill set. There must be ready access to legal advice and representation when aspects of the care system go wrong and there must be clarity about where care experienced children and young people can turn for legal redress.
We are currently grant funding a project of legal advice service delivered by Clan Childlaw, for advocacy workers to ensure their practice in hearings is legally informed and where necessary can support a child to access legal representation when needed.
In recognising the importance of facilitating access to advice and representation, in 2019 we consulted on proposals for the reform of Legal Aid in Scotland. The consultation sought views on developing a user centred, public service and examined how user need could be addressed by providing the Scottish Legal Aid Board with enhanced statutory powers to target the provision of legally aided services, whilst embedding accountability and quality assurance in service delivery. It was agreed that more targeted provision could improve access to legally aided services in certain geographical areas or for groups with specific legal needs, such as care experienced children. This will be taken forward in the development of legislation to support reform
We continue to progress work to assist all children in accessing justice. This includes work with the Scottish Legal Aid Board who are managing funding in 2022-23 of approximately £2.4 million for projects under the Early Resolution and Advice Programme; the Making Advice Work Programme; and for the Scottish Women's Rights Centre.
The Age Of Criminal Responsibility
The age of criminal responsibility in Scotland is 12. This means that children under 12 can no longer be arrested or charged, or referred to a children's hearing on an offence ground. Pre-12 behaviour can no longer automatically be disclosed by the State, and so follow a person through to later life. The Promise requires Scotland to aim for the age of criminal responsibility to be brought in line
with the most progressive global Governments, alongside efforts to prevent criminalisation of all children. In this regard, Scottish Ministers have a duty to consider a future age of criminal responsibility, and to report to the Scottish Parliament by December 2025. The Advisory Group, established to support Ministers with the review, will provide recommendations for a future age of criminal responsibility by December 2024.
Key Actions We Will Take
- We will end the placement of 16 and 17 year olds in Young Offenders Institutions without delay. We will fund care based alternatives to custody and consult on new legislation in Spring 2022. This will provide the support children need in very difficult circumstances, shifting the approach from one of punishment to one of love and support.
- We will ensure that all care experienced children,wherever they live,will be protected from violence and experience the safeguard of equal protection legislation.In March 2022,we will consult on the need for further appropriate underpinning in legislation or guidance to ensure children's rights are protected in care settings.This commitment to address the use of restraint in care settings will mean that only trained care staff will use restraint and only when there is a serious risk of harm to the child themselves or another person; and where there is no effective way of keeping them safe. The use of restraint must be an absolute last resort where it is necessary and proportionate and should always be pain free.
- We will support The Promise Scotland to scope the need for a national lifelong advocacy service for care experienced people and their families.This approach to advocacy for care experienced people will help navigate the system better and ensure their voice is heard. The need for such an advocacy service will reduce as fewer children engage with the care system following the delivery of The Promise.
- We will introduce legislation to raise the age at which someone can be referred to the Children's Reporter in this Parliamentary session to promote and advance children's and victims' rights, safeguarding and supporting Scotland's children through age appropriate systems and services.
Chapter 10 Moving On From Care
We recognise the challenges for our care experienced children and young people who are moving on to young adulthood. At any age and for any young person, moving on from home is a challenging time but when there is limited family and/or financial support behind you the challenge can be exacerbated.
Research consistently highlights that care leavers are more likely than other young people to become homeless or experience housing instability (CELCIS,2019). Despite difficult early life experiences, and often multiple placements during childhood, care experienced young people continue to leave care at an earlier age, with less preparation, with less support and often before they are ready
We are committed to ensuring that the policies which aim to maintain stability and security as our care experienced young people grow up, appropriately support transition from childhood to independent living.
What The Scottish Government Is Doing To Support Change
We took a first step to reducing the financial burden on care experienced young people in 2018 when we made people under 26 years old who have previously been in the care of a local authority exempt from Council Tax. The next step, is in delivering the Care Experience Grant.
This is a new £200 annual grant for 16-25 year olds with care experience and will provide some additional financial security and help reduce some of the financial barriers that young people face in transition to adulthood and more independent living.
The Grant will support families with care experience by contributing to the maximising of incomes, which is a key driver of child poverty reduction, and reflects a further investment
of £10 million per year in supporting our care experienced young adults. It will operate alongside other measures in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-26 in reducing the number of children experiencing the effects of poverty by 2030. We are currently working at pace with stakeholders and potential partners to identity the best delivery mechanism for the Grant.
As part of our commitment to improving transitions for young people, we will also introduce Scotland's first National Transitions to Adulthood Strategy
in this Parliamentary session to support disabled young people as they make the transition to adult life. We will also provide them and those who look after them with joined up guidance and support to unlock better educational and employment opportunities and health outcomes.
- improve the lived experiences of young people who need additional support to make the transition to young adult life, and to ensure young people are at the centre of all transition planning for their future.
- identify, design and test changes that transform how young people with additional support needs are supported in their transition to young adult life.
- test and bring Principles into Practice and its associated resources to completion to support its implementation more widely across Scotland.
Young Person's Guarantee
As set out in Chapter 3, our care experienced school leavers are less likely to go on to positive destinations than school leavers in general. Our commitment to young people across Scotland through the Young Persons Guaranteewill connect our care experienced 16-24 year olds to an opportunity. By bringing together employers, partners and young people we will support access to a job, apprenticeship, further or higher education, training programme or volunteering. To enable this, in 2022/23 we will invest up to £45 million to support better outcomes for young people, this will include:
- a specific focus on supporting those furthest from the labour market including those who are care experienced;
- a specific focus on improving outcomes for care experienced young people through funding to Local Employability Partnerships;
- funding for DYW School Coordinators and mentors focussing support on these young people
- the positive role of our partners as funders, delivery partners and employers of in adopting a corporate parent approach
As part of our COVID Recovery strategy, to make up for the opportunities lost to young people during the pandemic, we have provided up to £70 million this financial year. This will include targeted measures to support those with experience of the care system, from low socio- economic groups, and for young disabled people.
Our Ending Homelessness Together action plan was updated in October 2020 and sets out our renewed ambition to end homelessness in Scotland. National Homelessness Statisticspublished in June 2021, show that 6% (1,076 out of 17,627) of households assessed as homeless or threatened with homelessness were formerly 'looked after' by the local authority.
We are investing an additional £50 million over this parliamentary session to implement the next phase of our work to end homelessness and rough sleeping. This new investment will allow us to accelerate rapid rehousing approaches and scale up Housing First; end the use of communal night shelters; advance legislative protections for people experiencing domestic abuse; and explore alternative routes to reduce migrant homelessness.
In December 2021, we published our consultation on proposals to prevent homelessness, including new duties for public bodies. The proposals build on three overarching principles; responsibility to prevent homelessness should be a shared public responsibility; intervention to prevent homelessness should start as early as possible; and people facing homelessness should have choice in terms of housing outcomes available.
Way Home Scotland', the national coalition to end youth homelessness, and were published in November 2019 and March 2021 respectively. Both pathways recognise that younger people are more likely to make a homeless application than other groups of the population and are much more likely to have support needs relating to basic housing management and independent living.
The care leavers pathway sets out sensible, evidence based next steps to ensure corporate parents act on their legal and moral duties to prevent care leavers experiencing homelessness, at the point of leaving care and later, by fully implementing existing policy and legislative frameworks. This includes ensuring consistent implementation of Continuing Care as a positive preventative measure, reviewing fostering registration relating to Continuing Care, and exploring the role of the Care Inspectorate and inspection around care leaver support.
Improving implementation and making it more consistent across Scotland is increasingly important given the increased number of young people who have remained in care placements throughout COVID-19 and who may be seeking to transition to independent living as protective measures have been eased. We will continue to employ a multiagency approach to ensure that all care leavers are supported through Continuing Care or transition support to independent living.
Consultation on our draft Rented Sector Strategy 'A New Deal for Tenants' was published on 20 December 2021. This seeks to improve accessibility, affordability choices and standards across the whole rented sector in Scotland. The consultation highlights work already underway by education colleagues to develop a Guarantorship scheme and seeks views on key features of an effective guarantor scheme and how we can support their development. We will publish the Rented Sector Strategy by the end of 2023.
Key Actions We Will Take
- We will invest £10 million per annum through our Care Experience Grant: a new £200 annual grant for 16-25 year olds with care experience. This Grant will provide some additional financial security for young people with experience of care and will help reduce some of the financial barriers that young people face in transitions to adulthood and more independent living. The Grant will support families with care experience by contributing to the maximising of incomes, a key driver of child poverty reduction
- We will support care leavers into positive destinations through implementing the Young Person's Guarantee, which includes Discovering Your Potential, as well as Scotland's Mentoring&Leadership Programmes
- We will continue to implement the'Improving Care Leavers Housing Pathways' report and the Youth Homelessness Prevention Pathway
- We will implement the next phase of work to end homelessness and rough sleeping in Scotland and invest a further £50m to continue this work
- We will continue to ensure people under 26 years old who have previously been in the care ofa local authority are exempt from Council Tax
- We will seek to improve accessibility, affordability choices and standards across the whole rented sector in Scotland through A New Deal for Tenants – our rented housing strategy to be published by 2023
- We will continue to employ a multiagency approach to ensure that all care leavers are supported through Continuing Care or transition support to independent living, which will require corporate parents to work to improve the level and consistency of provision of Continuing Care and aftercare support.
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