Confusing landscape for children in care


The systems designed to help Scotland’s most vulnerable children need to work better together in order to help the very people they are trying to protect according to a report issued today (28 March) by the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee.

In an unusual step, the report has been published part of the way through the Committee’s inquiry into decision making on whether to take children into care. The report’s purpose is to stimulate action on a range of issues on which the Committee has received evidence while the Committee continues with the next stage of its inquiry.

Committee Convener Stewart Maxwell MSP said:

“This inquiry has at its heart the protection of some of the most vulnerable members of our society. We have already heard from a number of people right at the heart of the systems intended to protect them. This evidence has been deeply personal and often distressing.

“There are many systems to support vulnerable children but these systems can often present a confusing picture to the very people they are trying to protect. We have decided to publish this report part of the way through our inquiry to ask the Scottish Government to inform us of the actions being taken to address these problems. Children’s lives can be complex but there must be more coherence between the systems intended to protect them.”

The report also makes it clear that lack of resources should never prevent children being taken into care and invites Audit Scotland to consider examining the resource and capacity issues for all types of placements of looked after children.

The Committee report also invites the Scottish Government to:

  • Examine how preventative measures are being used to break the inter-generational cycle of children being looked after and having poor outcomes.
  • Looks at what specific action has been taken to ensure the provision of greater social work support for looked after children at home.
  • Confirm whether it considers the balance between the rights of the child and the rights of the parents in the Childrens’ Hearings system is correct.


The Committee launched their report into decision making on whether to take children into care in June 2012 with a view to understanding:

  • 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

During the course of the inquiry, the Committee has already considered written evidence. It also undertook a number of visits and meetings with:

  • Chairs of Child Protection Committees in Scotland;
  • Parents with learning disabilities;
  • Young people with experience of being in care;
  • The New Orleans Intervention Model being piloted by NSPCC Scotland and Glasgow City Council; and
  • Professionals with different agencies in Perth and Kinross.

Written summaries of these visits can be found here:

During the oral evidence sessions the Committee will be pursuing difficult issues such as:

  • Are too many children left too long with parents who neglect or emotionally abuse them?
  • Does the State need to do more for children living in households where alcohol or drugs are routinely misused or where domestic violence is prevalent?
  • Does it take too long before vulnerable children reach a settled permanent destination where they feel at home? and
  • Are vulnerable individuals, be they children or adults, properly listened to by decision makers?

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