The Scottish Executive has consistently pledged its commitment to working in partnership with local authorities, health boards, voluntary organisations and all other relevant individuals and agencies who have a contribution to make to improving outcomes for all looked after children; both those who are looked after at home and those who are looked after and accommodated.
The problems are deep rooted and difficult, but not impossible to deal with. The Executive's commitment to crack the challenges is greater than ever. We have already shown commitment in real terms by making available additional targeted resources of £16 million to support work in this area. This has yet to show results. Much more needs to be done to ensure that all looked after children and young people can access the same opportunities as their peers and are supported to develop to their full potential. Scotland needs all of its young people to succeed and we need to be ambitious and aspirational for each and every one of them.
This report indicates our desire to see a step change in outcomes for looked after children and sets out the actions which need to be taken to ensure that this happens. The status quo for these young people is simply not acceptable.
In taking this work forward we recognised the importance of seeking views from stakeholders - those actually providing and delivering support on a daily basis as well as those in receipt of that support. We wanted to hear about real experiences, to establish where we are getting things right and where the strengths of the system are, as well as where there are gaps in provision and more needs to be done.
That is why we set up a working group to consider the educational outcomes for looked after children and young people. It had a diverse membership drawn from the voluntary and public sectors, and included a foster carer and a care leaver. The group met on five occasions between November 2005 and June 2006, during which there was wide-ranging discussion.
As a result of these discussions it became clear that whilst the group was focused on educational outcomes it needed to look at areas beyond the traditional sphere of education that impact upon the lives of looked after children and young people and can, in turn, impact on their educational outcomes. This realisation led to the identification of 5 key themes:
- Working together
- Becoming effective life long learners
- Developing into successful and responsible adults
- Being emotionally, mentally and physically healthy
- Feeling safe and nurtured in a home setting.
These themes fit with Scottish Ministers' vision that all Scotland's children and young people should be safe, nurtured, healthy, achieving, active, respected, responsible, and included.
This report signals our intention to re-double our efforts to improve outcomes for looked after children and young people, a priority group in More Choices, More Chances: A Strategy to Reduce the Proportion of Young People not in Education, Employment or Training in Scotland, and a key priority under our Closing the Opportunity Gap approach to tackling poverty and disadvantage in Scotland.
By setting out the strategic way forward, resourcing the right initiatives and through improved working by local authorities in their role as corporate parents, we aim to enable our most vulnerable children and young people to achieve their potential and to develop their capacities as more successful learners, confident and resilient individuals, responsible citizens and effective contributors.
This report raises many important issues: however the action points within it cannot be considered to be final achievements. Rather, we will continue to press onwards with further improvements and actively consider new approaches. We will: look at ideas that develop; continue to listen to stakeholders; and, consider lessons learned from the current educational pilot programmes.
Finally, we wish to thank each and every member of the group for giving so generously of their time in taking this work forward. We believe that it pays to work together; together we can make a difference.