Current trends in the use of residential child care in Scotland

Milligan, I.M. and Hunter, L. and Kendrick, A. (2006) Current trends in the use of residential child care in Scotland. Preprint / Working Paper. Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care.

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The survey was planned to examine how local authority residential care units were currently being used and to provide data relating to current issues in the use of residential child care. These issues were identified by Scottish Institute for Residential Child Care (SIRCC) staff as they provided training and development work with agencies across Scotland, and others have been part of wider professional and political concerns. They include matters such as the increasing numbers of children being admitted to care because of parental drug misuse. There is also anecdotal evidence about increasing numbers of seriously disturbed younger children having to be admitted to residential care because their difficulties preclude them being cared for in a foster home placement, or who had experienced a number of foster placement breakdowns. SIRCC provides a ‘Placement Information Service’ and over the past few years there has been a steady stream of enquiries from social workers looking for a ‘therapeutic placement’ for a younger child. There were also reports of sibling groups still being regularly split up on admission due to lack of places and a general reporting of a shortage of places. Noteworthy also has been the continued high level of emergency placements. As there has been a gradual reduction in residential places over the past 10 to15 years and as residential care is perceived to be an expensive resource it is important to understand what kinds of admissions are putting such pressure on existing resources. The survey therefore requested information about a wide range of topics related to admission to residential care including: age at admission length of stay; previous placement; whether placement was planned or not;whether siblings groups were kept together or not; whether the child was in full-time education or not; the reasons for admission including parental drug misuse; whether the placement was the placement of choice of the social worker or residential services manager. The survey also asked respondents to give a broad measure of the effectiveness of the placement. It was hoped that the data might supplement the Looked After Children (LAC) statistics that are published annually by the Scottish Executive (SE), based on returns from local authorities.