Scotland’s political parties have “ignored” looked-after children in their election manifestos and must pledge to improve their care, a group of Scottish children’s charities said today.
Ahead of the Scottish parliamentary and local elections next week, the group is calling on parties to commit to making looked-after children a priority.
Seven charities including Children 1st , Children in Scotland, Aberlour, Save the Children and Barnardo’s Scotland argue that more than 5,500 children in foster care, residential or secure settings have been failed by the state and are urging parties to campaign on improving residential care, foster placements and family support services.
Kelly Bayes, head of policy and communications for Aberlour, said: “These children are among the most vulnerable because of their experience of abuse and neglect. They have suffered from the impact of poverty and the effects of drug and alcohol use. Why have these children and young people been virtually ignored in the party manifestos?
“Despite often having their needs identified at an early stage, many of our most vulnerable children and young people do not get the help they need until there is a crisis.”
Last year, the charities published their own manifesto, No Time to Lose, calling for a national strategy for looked-after children.
Among its recommendations were enough quality placements for all children who needed them, a trained and supported accredited workforce, and proper investment in support for families to help reduce the number of children going into care.
Bayes said the charities would “strongly urge” all prospective members of the Scottish parliament to read and declare their full support for the manifesto.
Children 1st, one of Scotland’s biggest children’s charities, said it wanted the new executive to roll out across Scotland a scheme to ensure a child’s extended family has a say in their future before care orders are made. The charity runs such a scheme in 15 councils at the moment.
The proportion of children who are looked after in Scotland has been rising steadily since 2000 and last year reached 1.16% of the child population, the highest since 1982, according to the latest statistics from the Scottish Executive.
A draft Children’s Services Bill has been going through the current Labour-led executive. It includes plans to reform the children’s hearing system and to cut the number of children referred to welfare services.
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