Children in care treated like ‘second class citizens’

Scotland still “long way” from respecting wishes of young people in care, charity warns

Friday 14th June 2019

People who have experience of growing up in care will today deliver a letter to Nicola Sturgeon urging her to act as a report warns Scotland risks a ‘forgotten generation’ if more is not done to protect the rights of children in care.

Who Cares? Scotland says children in care are too often treated like ‘second class citizens’ who have to fight for basic rights like seeing their brothers and sisters, and having their voices heard in legal processes about them.

Duncan Dunlop, the chief executive, says the country is still “a long way” from children’s views being heard.

Who Cares? Scotland is calling for a rapid increase in access to independent advocacy to ensure children and young people’s rights are respected.

The charity, which provides independent advocacy for young people in care, states ‘too many decisions are being made on the basis of red tape and available resources, rather than what is best for young people’.

While today’s report welcomes a ‘growing commitment’ to improving circumstances for care-experienced young people, it says too much power is still in the hands of the organisations delivering care.

Who Cares? Scotland argues it’s vital those supporting children to have a say are truly independent and aren’t connected to the services that look after them.

Statistics show just 7% of those in care have been able to access independent advocacy from the charity.

Common issues include seeing siblings, spending time with parents and navigating formal processes.

The charity says the number of recorded issues in these areas is on the rise.

Mr Dunlop said: “The number of issues our advocates partner with children and young people on has shown that the most common issues have more than doubled in recorded number since 2014. We would love to be in a situation where independent advocacy was not needed, because children’s views and desires are respected. This data shows we are a long way from that.

“We have welcomed, at every turn, the commitment and determination of those responsible for young people in care to make things better. These statistics tell us that there is now a need to speed up and deepen those efforts. It would be completely unacceptable for Who Cares? Scotland to release a report in ten years that identified the same issues. If we do, it will be evident that society has forgotten a generation of Care Experienced people. We cannot miss this opportunity for change.”

Caroline Richardson, advocacy & participation manager at Who Cares? Scotland, added: “I have been providing independent advocacy to children and young people since I left care over twenty years ago. Independent advocacy empowers children and young people who need a stronger voice by enabling them to express their own needs and make their own decision. It’s about supporting people to gain access to information, explore and understand their options, and to make their views and wishes known.

“It will be surprising to people that there is a demand for children to attend so many meetings, with so many adults. It will also be surprising to people that in some instances, the organisation that provides the care a young person receives is also the same organisation that provides their advocacy. That isn’t independent advocacy.

“We would love for a situation where there is no need for independent advocacy, because those providing care get it right all of the time. These statistics show that this is not the case. We’re calling on the independence of advocacy to be respected and for the number of young people who have access to independent advocacy to increase rapidly.”