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Independent Care Review slams care system as 'fractured and unfeeling'

Charities have called the next step “a matter of life and death” after the review laid bare the economic and wellbeing costs of the Scottish system’s failures

Care Review Scottish Government

Scotland’s care system is “fractured, bureaucratic and unfeeling” for children and families, according to the Independent Care Review that is leading the call for a radical overhaul.

The large-scale report, which listened to more than 5,500 people’s experiences of the care system, calculated that the services that deliver and surround the system cost £1.2bn annually.

But the review also worked out that the economic costs of the care system letting down children and families stood at £1.6bn, taken from £732m in lost income tax and national insurance as well as £875m in meeting the needs of care experienced people.

Homelessness is one of the factors included in the latter figure, with the review finding that care leavers are more than twice as likely to experience homelessness.

Economist Dr Katherine Trebeck made the financial argument for fixing the care system in the review. She said that “a lack of planning around transitions can mean young people risk homelessness” and stressed that preventing homelessness and other factors can “bring down costs down the road”.

But the Care Review is not just about the numbers, and called for changes to make the care system more caring.

That included a greater effort to listen to children and young people as the basis of all decisions made about their lives as well as building and maintaining life-long relationships,

Scotland must parent, not process, children to ensure there is no difference between children in care and their peers, giving children the childhood that all young people deserve.

Families must also be kept together where it is safe to do so, the review concludes.

“I have heard countless stories of when the care system gets it wrong; separation, trauma, stigma and pain,” said Fiona Duncan, the review’s chair and Corra Foundation CEO. “Too many childhoods have been lost to a system that serves its own convenience rather than those within it.

“The Care Review has listened to what care experienced people have said needs to change and those voices have driven its work and underpins its conclusions.

“This is a radical blueprint for a country that loves, nurtures and cherishes its children. This is Scotland’s chance to care for its children, the way all good parents should.”

The review was first announced in October 2016 after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with children and young people in care. She has now completed her pledge to meet 1,000 care experienced young people.

Sturgeon said: “I have had the privilege of meeting many young people with experience of care who are doing extremely well, I have also been given the chance to see the dedication, commitment and passion of those who work in the care sector.

“But I’ve also heard some extremely difficult stories which portray the care sector as bureaucratic and even unfeeling.

“It is clear that despite the efforts of those within the system, the actual experience of too many people in care is not what we want it to be.

“We will keep listening to and working with care experienced people because the case for transformational change is now unarguable and their voice must shape that change. We will work with them and with local authorities, care providers and others to deliver that change as quickly and as safely as possible.”

The findings have been welcomed by Duncan Dunlop, chief executive of the Who Cares? Scotland – the leading Scottish organisation for people who have grown up in care. But now he is urging the Scottish Government to build on the review’s findings as a next step.

“The evidence shows that what the Scottish Government chooses to do next is literally a matter of life and death,” said Dunlop. “We expect to see urgent action, in the next few weeks, that makes a tangible difference to young people’s lives. Any further delay would be unacceptable.”

Councillor Stephen McCabe, children and young people’s spokesperson for local authority group COSLA, added: “We look forward to working with all partners, including the Scottish Government, to drive this work forward. It will require change across the whole system to ensure that children and young people are put first, furthermore support must be informed by their needs, properly resourced and supported by an experienced valued workforce.”

Image: Scottish Government

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