Scotland’s most vulnerable children and young people will be able to stay in care to 21 years old and get the support they need for longer.
After extensive lobbying by charities like Who Cares? Scotland led by young care leavers the Scottish Government announced changes this week that will help transform lives of future generations of youngsters looked after by their local authority.
Right now, young people can stay in care up to 19 but most leave the system at 16 or 18 and face grim futures with a lack of consistent and appropriate ‘aftercare’ support they have access too. This means many of them face young lives dogged with homelessness, unemployment, mental health issues, a lack of education options, time in prison and living on the outside of society.
This additional help provided by the new changes in the Children and Young People Bill will be a lifeline to Scotland’s looked after young people. Between 1,300 and 2,400 young people leaving care each year will have better rights and be able to continue the stable relationships formed in care, with professionals or foster families.
Under the new changes, as well as being able to stay in their care placement to 21 years old as part of ‘continuing care’ they will also have better ‘aftercare’ support up to age 26. This includes rights to suitable accommodation which should prevent any young person who was cared for by the state relying on homelessness laws to be housed.
There is also a commitment from the Government to allow young people from care to return to a care placement between 16 and 21 years old after they leave, and find that they hit problems or issues which they can’t cope with. This right will give many care leavers the chance they need to get back on track and prevent them going down an all too familiar path of poor outcomes and life chances.
Ashley Cameron, Care leaver from Stirling said, “For over a year, a group of care leavers have laid their personal experiences and the emotional impact of that on the line in front of people who had the power in Scotland to change things for the better for kids from care. It has been a rollercoaster of a ride; but I know I speak on behalf of all young people involved when I say it has been worth it. We were listened to by politicians and the government and we felt respected by them too.
“It is magnificent that the Minister and the government have decided that the Bill can and should change the future for Scotland’s kids in care. Just before Christmas a group of us presented our Christmas wish list to MSPs – and now we really feel like they have all come true!’’
Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive of Who Cares Scotland said, “These amendments will transform and save the lives of many young care leavers. There are not many other countries in the world that have made these necessary commitments to their most vulnerable young population.
“This legislation sets out the way forward and can make a significant impact on the lives of young people in care. Young people from care were at the forefront of that hard work. This is their success and they truly deserve it. The Government has listened to their voice and acted. It is now up to those in the sector and ordinary Scots to also recognise and embrace our care experienced children as our own and determine how we must make change real.”
To make sure the changes in law make a real difference to the lives of youngsters in care the charity Who Cares? Scotland is asking Scots to visit their website and support the Pledge2listen campaign here.