Guidance to help care leavers published

Two guidance documents aimed at improving the lives of Scotland's care leavers have been published.

Staying Put Scotland and Housing Options Protocol for Care Leavers have been written in partnership by the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS) - based at the University of Strathclyde - and the Looked After Children's Strategic Implementation Group Throughcare and Aftercare Hub, part of the Scottish Government.

The documents outline an integrated approach to ensuring that care leavers have a meaningful and realistic transition from care. The average age for young people leaving home in Scotland is around 25 years of age, while for those leaving care in Scotland it is currently between 16 and 18 years.

There is widespread recognition, based on evidence and research that society needs to ensure looked after young people do not leave care too early, at a time when they are least prepared and least equipped to cope with this difficult transition from child to adult and from care to independence.

CELCIS Director Jennifer Davidson said:

There is a real frustration among managers and practitioners around the age that young people leave care. In many cases it is simply too young and too sudden, and the expectations we place on care leavers is unrealistic and unfair.

"Leaving care too early leads to poorer outcomes. Ensuring that the choice of post-care accommodation options for care leavers provides stability and security, and more importantly takes place in a staged approach when the young person is ready - up to and beyond the age of 19 as a base minimum - are fundamental to ensuring their health and mental wellbeing, and to supporting them into and sustaining education, training or employment.

"Both of these guidance documents are hugely important to ensure that leaving care is a process, not an administrative and bureaucratic event and it is apt that Scottish Government should publish these during National Care Leavers' Week."

Staying Put Scotland offers a set of underpinning principles which corporate parents should embrace and demonstrate. The guidance draws on examples of policy initiatives from across the UK and connects with the context of Scottish policies We Can and Must Do Better and These Are Our Bairns. There is a commitment to working in partnership to overcome some of the practical, structural and professional obstacles that may prevent this radical culture change.

The Housing Options Protocol for Care Leavers guidance builds on Staying Put Scotland and aims to ensure that local authority protocols include key principles such as managers in housing services having designated staff fully-trained to understand the needs of care leavers, and social work services staff have an understanding of the housing options and accommodation required for care leavers.

These documents will underpin the approach to providing care leavers with a range of housing and support options to support their transition from care to independent living, and a shared philosophy of care.