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Mortality rates among children in care ‘hidden’, finds report

Ashley Cameron and Kezia Dugdale - Ashley Cameron, Who Cares? Scotland

Mortality rates among children in care ‘hidden’, finds report

Local authorities are not assessing the deaths of young people growing up in care in Scotland, a new report has found.

Despite the fact children in care are far more likely to experience poor physical and mental health and are more likely to commit suicide or take an overdose, authorities are not keeping a record of premature deaths in foster or residential care, it claims.

The ‘Falling through the cracks’ report, by care-experienced parliamentary researcher Ashley Cameron, calls for statutory reporting on the deaths so that public policy can improve the situation.

Sudden deaths among looked after young people should lead to a Fatal Accident Inquiry, which is currently only triggered by a death in a secure unit, it argues.

Cameron said: “Care-experienced young people who struggled with a lack of stability while in care go on to have poorer outcomes and poorer life chances.

“Issues around attachment and a lack of long-term stable relationships have a detrimental impact on social and emotional development, educational outcomes, and long-term mental health issues.

“We should never expect poor outcomes to remain static in the vicious cycle of homelessness, fragmented employment and poor mental and physical health.”

Cameron works for Scottish Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale. The former party leader said:

“This report has examined three keys aspects of their lives. Firstly, they are far more likely to die than their non-care experienced peers. Secondly, if they live, their lives will be poorer both in terms of their health and economic outlook.

“Finally, we have demonstrated beyond all doubt that their lives don’t count in public policy terms because we don’t count them. We don’t record either their lives or deaths properly, and the absence of data means the absence of public policy to improve their life chances.

“We hope that the Scottish Government and MSPs will be moved to act in response. Together we can stop care experienced young people falling through the cracks.”

The report also found that only six per cent of young people eligible for ‘continuing care’ after their 18th birthday have requested or been offered the option to remain in care. This is despite the 2014 Children and Young People Act placing a duty on councils to offer continued accommodation until the young person turns 21.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "We will study the findings of this new report with interest and will continue to monitor progress and work with local authorities to ensure continuing care is effectively delivered."

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