Together member: Who Cares? Scotland
UNCRC Article 20 (right to alternative care)
If a child cannot be looked after by their immediate family, the government must give them special protection and assistance. This includes making sure the child is provided with alternative care that is continuous and appropriate to the child’s needs.
“The Scottish Government should commit to making the experience of being in care a story of love, stability and care.”
Ryan McShane MSYP (SYP Rights Review, April 2018)
Care experienced young people over the age of 16 have the right to stay in their existing care placement until the age of 21. Although this is set out in law through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, the Who Cares? Scotland advocacy service reports that this right isn’t always realised in practice:
“A Care Experienced young person, below the age of 18, left care and moved into supported accommodation after living in residential childcare. Whilst the young person was eligible for Continuing Care, they left care before they turned 18. The young person didn’t know – and wasn’t informed – of their right to stay in care until they turned 21.
The young person was told that they needed to think about their future plans. At this time, the young person was still living in residential care and said that that they felt happy and settled. They had positive trusting relationships with the residential staff and felt safe living there. Before this, the young person had a series of unsettled placements and it was important to them to now have this secure base.
The young person was thriving in the residential placement. This was having a positive impact on other areas of their life and they were taking part in a training course and working hard to get full-time employment. They were working with an Advocacy Worker and said they didn’t feel ready to move on from their current placement. They worried about how they would cope financially and were concerned that being forced to move on would have a bad impact on their life.
The young person was encouraged to move into supported accommodation and is finding it difficult. They are struggling to keep up with costs of food, toiletries, gas and electricity. If given the chance, the young person has said that they would like to return to residential childcare. They say that they didn’t understand what supported accommodation would be like and still need the support of residential care.”
This young person’s story isn’t unique. Who Cares? Scotland advocacy workers have many other examples:
“A young person aged under 18 and living in residential care had been told that they needed to move on to supported accommodation. Their workers said the young person was ready to make this move as they showed they were capable of independent living – they were able to cook and wash their own clothes. The young person didn’t feel ready to leave care. They told their Advocacy Worker that they would struggle emotionally and financially to live independently and still needed the support of residential care.
With support of an Advocacy Worker, the young person explained how they felt to a social worker. However, due to lack of resources, the social worker explained that the only options were for the young person to move into supported accommodation or to apply for their own tenancy. The Advocacy Worker spoke to the young person about their right to Continuing Care under the 2014 Act. The young person decided that they needed support from a solicitor to remain living in their care placement until they turned 21.
At a subsequent Children’s Hearing, the young person’s social worker said they the young person was ready to leave care and that their Compulsory Supervision Order (CSO) should be ended. With the support of the solicitor, the young person asserted their right to Continuing Care to the panel. As a result, the panel decided that the young person should stay in their existing residential care placement and subject to a CSO. The young person was happy with this outcome but felt deeply affected by how hard it had been to assert their rights. The young person continues to have concerns that they will need to leave care before they feel ready.”
Both of these case studies show how vulnerable Care Experienced children and young people are to violations of their rights. Of particular concern in these cases are their rights to have their best interests taken into account in decisions that affect them (Article 3) and the right to have their views heard and taken into account (Article 12) and the right to an adequate standard of living (Article 27).
Examples of good practice in corporate parenting exist across Scotland. Common factors include aversion to a ‘one size fits all’ approach, looking beyond the age of the young person and focusing instead on their capability and confidence, and staggered transition processes including supported living. These good practice examples would be strengthened and made more widespread through incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law. Incorporation would encourage the use of child rights-based budgeting, ensuring local authorities prioritise the needs of care-experienced young people when allocating funds. It would also ensure young people are made aware of their right to continuing care and that corporate parents genuinely involve and listen them when making decisions about their future.