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News: Evidence shows poor planning for care leavers

Posted 19 January, 2022 by Catherine Bromley

Against the backdrop of stark statistics from Public Health Scotland on significant waiting lists for treatment from specialist child and adolescent mental health services, Holyrood's Health, Social Care and Sport Committee heard evidence on the current health and wellbeing of care experienced young people.

At the meeting held yesterday (Tuesday 18 January), key points raised focused on the lack of support for young people transitioning from care – the critical moment when they might leave school and their foster families.

Gillian Martin, MSP and Convenor of the Committee took evidence from a panel including Jackie Brock, Chief Operations Officer (Interim), The Promise Scotland; Helen Happer, Chief Inspector, Care Inspectorate; Lucy Hughes, Policy Development Coordinator, Who Cares? Scotland; and Kate MacKinnon, Policy Associate, CELCIS.

Pathway planning out of date

Helen Harper of the Care Inspectorate said that the pathway planning process for care leavers was out of date (it hasn’t been reviewed since 2003).

“[The pathway planning ] isn’t linked to the GIRFEC approach that has proved to help staff work together across different services.” Helen Harper, Care Inspectorate

Jackie Brock of The Promise and Kate MacKinnon of CELCIS argued that while the legal rights and the policy framework were in place to support transitions, there was a real gap between the commitment and the delivery of support to care experienced young people leaving the scaffolding of school.

The opportunity of the National Care Service review

Panel members agreed that although disruptive, the current review of Scotland’s National Care Service presented an opportunity to rethink the pathway planning process, to develop links between child and adult services and ultimately achieve a more cohesive approach.

Calls for improved data and a proactive approach to mental health and wellbeing

Lucy Hughes of Who Cares? Scotland, in response to a question from Sue Webber, MSP on the health statistics and mortality rates of care experienced young people, said they have been recording data since 2014 of their own members to drive an acknowledgement of “an inequality in terms of the experience of health for looked after children, compared to the experience of health by Scotland’s wider population of children and young people”.

A call for improved data to support this experience of inequality came from Jackie Brock, who said: “We cannot achieve sustainable progress until we have reliable data to measure what’s important”.

To address capacity across services in the face of Scotland and the UK’s developing mental health crisis, all those giving evidence at yesterday’s hearing said that a proactive approach was needed to support the mental health and wellbeing of looked after children from an early age, rather than waiting until young people are leaving care or at crisis point.

Click here to watch the Committee meeting on Scottish Parliament TV