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Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 includes a number of provisions related to looked after children and young people which came into effect on 1 April 2015. As well as extending the age up to which formerly looked after children and young people may request access to aftercare assistance from 21 to 26, the Act also establishes 'continuing care', allowing looked after young people to stay in their placement beyond the age of 16 up to the age of 21.
Other provisions in the Act include establishing a list of public bodies to become 'Corporate Parents', a duty on local authorities to provide services to families with children at risk of becoming looked after, new support for kinship carers and placing Scotland‘s National Adoption Register on a statutory footing.
The Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) is publishing a series of briefings on specific parts of the Act.
- The first briefing focuses on the changes related to ‘Aftercare’ and ‘Continuing Care’.
- The second briefing looks at Part 12 of the Act, entitled ‘Services in relation to children at risk of becoming looked after.
- The third briefing looks at Part 9 of the Act, entitled 'Corporate Parenting'.
The Scottish Government has published Statutory Guidance for Part 9 (Corporate Parenting) of the Act.
The implementation of the Kinship Care Order, which will enhance support and legal entitlements for kinship carers, is to be delayed until April 2016, the Scottish Government has confirmed. Writing to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee, Acting Children and Young People Minister Fiona McLeod said implementation of Part 13 of the Act had been delayed to more closely match the timescale for implementation of GIRFEC provisions, also introduced through the Act.
Guidance has been published by the Scottish Government on Part 10 (Aftercare) for managers and practitioners, working with looked after children and care leavers, and Part 11 (Continuing Care) outlining the new provision of continuing care.
Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc Bill
A Bill designed to improve the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) process has been introduced to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government’s proposed Inquiries into Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths etc. (Scotland) Bill aims to implement the remaining recommendations of Lord Cullen in the 2009 Review of FAI Legislation. Provisions in the Bill include providing flexibility on the location and accommodation for FAIs; permitting FAIs to be re-opened if new evidence arises or if the evidence is so substantial to permit a completely new inquiry; and placing a requirement on those who receive recommendations from the Sheriff to report back on steps taken.
The Justice Committee was allocated the Bill and published a Stage 1 report that supported the general principles of the Bill but asked the Scottish Government to reflect upon evidence received on issues such as the scope for mandatory FAIs.
As MSPs agreed to the general principles of the Bill at Stage 1, the Scottish Government confirmed that the Bill will extend the mandatory category of FAIs to deaths of children in secure accommodation, but it will not extend this to all looked after children. The Scottish Government says it will establish a working group to consider the position of looked after children and notes that a steering group set up to develop a Child Death Review System is to report this autumn.
The Bill was passed by MSPs in December 2015.
Inquiry into decision on making on whether to take a child into care
In June 2012, the Scottish Parliament's Education and Culture Committee launched an inquiry to look at:
- the decision-making processes involved in determining whether a child should be removed from the family home and taken into care;
- whether these decision-making processes are delivering the best outcomes for children and their families.
Having held a series of meetings, taken oral evidence and considered written submissions, the Committee published an interim report in March 2013, exploring a number of issues, including the complexity of decision-making processes, the cost of childcare and the balance between parents' and children's rights.
Continuing its inquiry, the Committee took further evidence focusing on improving the process of decision-making and its outcomes. In September 2013, the Committee published its final report, concluding that "current decision-making processes are not always delivering the best outcomes for children and their families".
The Committee made a number of recommendations, including:
- The Scottish Government should state whether early interventions will lead to fewer children becoming looked after. If so, it should explain what the implications would be for service providers.
- The complementary skills of staff in universal services and in social work must be used more effectively.
- The Scottish Government should provide detailed information on the impact of the local government settlement on social workers’ post-qualification training and career development, and their ability to support children and families.
- The Scottish Government and local government must take all necessary measures to improve staff retention in children’s social work.
- Further research is needed on claims that parents with learning disabilities are discriminated against.
- Work on establishing a "better, more rounded picture of a looked-after child’s wellbeing" should be progressed as a matter of priority.
- The Scottish Government should provide assurances that current alcohol and drugs policy takes children’s rights fully into account.
The Scottish Government responded to the Committee's final report in December 2013 and has since provided an update on action taken to implement the Committee's recommendations. Acting Children's Minister Fiona McLeod confirmed plans for a Looked After Children Strategy and a forthcoming announcement on extending financial support to kinship carers.
National Confidential Forum
The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 establishes a National Confidential Forum (NCF) to offer adults placed in institutional care as children acknowledgement of their experience, including abuse and neglect. The NCF, based on the pilot forum 'Time to be Heard', will be set up as part of the Mental Welfare Commission.
Speaking during a final debate on the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill, which was passed in December 2013, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill confirmed that guidance for care providers on the NCF would be made available, eligibility criteria had been extended to include 16 and 17-year-olds and progress was being made in relation to the eligibility of children who were in foster care.
The Scottish Government has announced that Ms Anne Currie will be the first Head of the NCF.
National Inquiry into Historical Child Abuse
The Chair and remit of the National Statutory Inquiry into Historical Child Abuse in Care has been announced by the Scottish Government. In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Education Secretary Angela Constance announced that Susan O’Brien QC will chair the Inquiry, which will be established by 1 October 2015, to investigate the nature and extent of abuse of children while in care in Scotland and to consider the extent to which institutions and bodies with legal responsibility for the care of children failed in their duty to protect children in care in Scotland from abuse.
In addition to children formally placed 'in care' in institutions, the Inquiry will have an extended remit to include allegations of abuse in foster care, in long-term hospital care and in boarding schools. The full text of the Inquiry Terms of Reference and information on the next steps can be found here.
National Foster Care Review
In December 2012, the Scottish Government commissioned the National Foster Care Review, to be carried out by the Looked After Children Strategic Implementation Group (LACSIG) Foster Care Hub. Chaired by Sandra Paterson, the review was designed to assess the viability and effectiveness of certain reform options, and to provide Scottish Government and local authorities with a set of clear recommendations for change.
A final report was published in December 2013. Recommendations in the review include:
- The establishment of a set of clear descriptors for the different types of foster care placements available, to be “set out in national guidance, and embedded into practice via the Care Inspectorate's Annual Return for Fostering Agencies and appropriate national statistics”.
- The introduction of a maximum placement limit through a new National Care Standard for Foster Care and Family Placement Services.
- The development of a National Learning and Development Framework for Foster Care, underwritten by new National Care Standards.
The Scottish Government responded to the findings of the Review, indicating its agreement with the review's recommendation to limit the number of children in a fostering household to three, with some exceptions. The response also agreed with the recommendation for better descriptions of foster care placements, with a working group set up on how to build the new descriptors into national statistics. It was announced that a national foster care database will not be taken forward, but the response stated that commissioning data may be collected via annual returns by the Care Inspectorate.
The Scottish Government has published its latest update on the progress of implementing the recommendations of the Review. Work on recommendations 1 to 3 (relating to Placement Descriptors, Databse Alternatives and Placement Limits) has now been completed and the Scottish Government is monitoring their implementation. Work during 2015-16 will focus on the implementation of a Learning and Development Framework for foster carers and developing a scheme of allowances for children living in foster and kinship care.
Preventing homelessness among young people
In September 2012 the Scottish Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee published a report 'Having and Keeping a Home: steps to preventing homelessness among young people'. The Committee would like to find out how things have changed since the report’s publication and launched a call for evidence which includes the following questions:
- Is there more support available, for instance mediation, counselling, supported accommodation or funding?
- How have things changed for young people experiencing homelessness since 2012?
- Are there additional issues for young people who are leaving care?
- What new approaches have been introduced, and how effective have they been?
- How well is the Housing Options approach working towards reducing instances of youth homelessness?
- Has the number of young people presenting as homeless changed?
- Has there been any changes to funding for voluntary organisations?
- How might the implementation of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill help to tackle youth homelessness?
- Is the Getting it Right for Every Child helping schools and local authorities to tackle youth homelessness?
The Committee has published written submissions received and a summary of the evidence. The Committee hopes to take further evidence from the Scottish Government in February 2015.
Care Review in Scotland
Fiona Duncan, Chief Executive of Lloyds TSB Foundations for Scotland, has been appointed as Chair to the forthcoming independent Care Review in Scotland. The review will examine underpinning legislation, practices, culture and ethos of the care system. The Review will be driven and shaped by the evidence of care experienced young people and propose changes to the care system that will improve outcomes and quality of life for young people.
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