05 February 2020

Groundbreaking Independent Review of the Care of Children in Scotland calls for a radical overhaul of Scotland’s care system

Scotland’s Independent Care Review has today (5 February) published its findings and recommendations, making the case for a fundamental shift in the way children and young people in need of care and protection are supported.

The Review, announced by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in 2016, includes for the first time, an analysis of the human and economic cost of the current provision.

A set of five reports, and one for younger readers, covers the changes the Review recommends, plans for implementing changes and the investment in services that is required:

  • The Promise - which reflects what over 5,500 care experienced children and adults, families and the paid and unpaid workforce told the Review, and outlines what Scotland must do to make sure its most vulnerable children feel loved and have the childhood they deserve – and a Pinky Promise – a report for younger readers
  • The Plan – which explains how this change must happen
  • The Money and Follow the Money which explain how Scotland can invest better in its children and families; and
  • The Rules –  which demonstrates the current legislative framework and how it must change to achieve The Promise. 

In arriving at its conclusions, the Review has listened to over 5,000 people, met with over 500 organisations, and reviewed 943 sources of evidence, mapped and considered 44 pieces of legislation, 19 pieces of secondary legislation and three international conventions.

The plan for change outlines an approach to implementation plotted out over 10 years whilst demanding urgency is maintained in the pace of change, supported by five foundations:

  1. voice of the children must be heard at all stages
  2. what all families need to thrive
  3. care, that builds childhoods for children who Scotland has responsibility
  4. people, with a relentless focus on the importance of relationships
  5. scaffolding, so that the structure is there to support children and families when needed.

Announcing the Review’s findings and recommendations, the Chair of the Review Fiona Duncan said:

“I have heard countless stories of when the care system gets it wrong; separation, trauma, stigma and pain.  Too many childhoods have been lost to a system that serves its own convenience rather than those within it.

“The Care Review has listened to what care experienced people have said needs to change and those voices have driven its work and underpins its conclusions.

“It has sought to understand how the system feels to those who live and work in and around it. And it has produced the what, how, why and when of what needs to happen next.

“This is a radical blueprint for a country that loves, nurtures and cherishes its children. This is Scotland’s chance to care for its children, the way all good parents should.”

The conclusions have been submitted to the Scottish Government. First Minister Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

“I would like to extend my thanks to Fiona Duncan and the review members for the work they have put into their final report and supporting documents as well as the individuals who shared their often extremely personal stories with the team.

"In 2016 I accepted a challenge to listen to the experiences of 1,000 looked-after young people because I knew the care system needed a transformation and I wanted to hear first-hand what had to change. These early conversations inspired me to announce an independent root-and-branch review of the care system.

“So for the first time ever the voices of people with experience of the care sector have been, and will continue to be, at the heart of shaping care policy. Over 5,500 people, including care experienced individuals and their families, as well as paid and unpaid care workers, took the time to discuss their thoughts, feelings and experiences to highlight where things are going well and where we need to improve.

“I have had the privilege of meeting many young people with experience of care who are doing extremely well, I have also been given the chance to see the dedication, commitment and passion of those who work in the care sector.

“But I’ve also heard some extremely difficult stories which portray the care sector as bureaucratic and even unfeeling.

“It is clear that despite the efforts of those within the system, the actual experience of too many people in care is not what we want it to be.

“We will keep listening to and working with care experienced people because the case for transformational change is now unarguable and their voice must shape that change. We will work with them and with local authorities, care providers and others to deliver that change as quickly and as safely as possible.”

“Whatever it takes, we must see change”, said CELCIS’s Deputy Executive Director, Claire Burns. Welcoming the publication, she explained:

“Today is the most important day we have ever seen for the care and protection of children and young people in Scotland, giving us all the opportunity to bring about the vital changes we must see and are working to achieve.

“There is nothing more powerful than learning from experience. We are completely indebted to those who have contributed to the Review, sharing their experiences, dedicating their insight to the process and sacrificing their time, and, of course, to those who campaigned for and led the calls for a review.

“Our work with services shows that change is possible. Maintaining a status quo isn’t an option: we know that while there is some good practice, too many of our children and young people are not thriving under Scotland’s care.

“Putting the best interests of the child in all decision-making and service provision is not a choice, it is a duty and an obligation that we should all embrace at the core of everything we do: it is a privilege to do our best for all our children.

“With this Review’s significant assessment and recommendations we will all be more readily able to see where and how to address what simply isn’t working, and CELCIS will continue to welcome every opportunity to do what we know is possible and essential in order to improve the lives of infants, children, young people, and their families, by responding to their need for care and protection in ways that uphold their rights.”