Report calls for investigation into care-leaver deaths ‘shame’

Children with experience of being placed in are more likely to die and their lives ‘don’t count’ in public policy terms, a report released today has concluded.

The year-long research project found that over the last decade at least 84 care-experienced young people in ‘secure care’ have died prematurely – but also that figures are not available for those in foster or residential care.

The most common reasons for the premature death of a care-experienced young person are suicide, overdose, accidents and complex health issues.

For looked-after children, the authorities don’t record either their lives or death, meaning public policy cannot attempt to solve the issue.

Report researcher Ashley Cameron, who herself grew up in care, said: “The lives of care-experienced people and their subsequent premature deaths should always be considered a matter of public interest.

“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.”

The 40-page report – Falling through the cracks –sets out ten recommendations for the Scottish Government, including:

• Fatal Accident Inquiries should include all looked-after young people who die suddenly or as the result of an accident up to the age of 25.

• The Scottish Government should ensure the recording of information relating to the specific causes of deaths in care-experienced young people is a statutory reportable requirement.

• The Scottish Government should ensure that the funding allocated to local authorities for young adults continuing in care is ring-fenced, ensuring protection from budget cuts.

Commenting on the findings, Scottish Labour MSP, Kezia Dugdale, said that it was “a scandal that we don’t know exactly how many care-experienced young people die before their 25th birthday – but we do know it’s far too many.

“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. “

Around 15,000 children are currently in care according to the Scottish government, with nearly 30 per cent of those leaving School while in care find themselves unemployed and 45 per cent having some form of mental health issues.

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