Shocking new figures from Highland Council reveal that 18% of its children in care go to children’s homes – and 30% are turned away from the area altogether.
In the Highlands, 466 children are cared for, which represents 1.2% of young people. This corresponds to the national figures.
However, 85 children are currently in institutions. This equates to 18%, compared to a national average of less than 10%.
In addition, each year, between 25 and 30 children are placed in so-called non-authority custody.
This means that almost a third of the region’s most vulnerable young people are driven out of the region. This may be due to a lack of foster care, specialist support or for their own safety.
The figures have prompted health bosses and advisers to call for more support for families, at an earlier stage.
The report to Highland Councilors identified several challenges for residential children’s services in the region.
Children who have experienced trauma need more specialized support to deal with the anger and upset they feel. The report also suggests there needs to be more help for young people with disabilities and that the council needs to improve its emergency admissions system.
Crucially, the report also confirms that the council faces serious challenges regarding young people who are targeted in the community for exploitation by drug dealers and other criminal activities.
Last November, health chair Linda Munro said she was “deeply disturbed” to have received a list of allegations of child exploitation and drug trafficking.
She said she would turn these allegations over to the police.
At the time, health chief Fiona Duncan promised a review to understand whether the council’s services were adequately protecting the children in his care.
The report is the first in a series to unravel the challenges ahead.
Ms Duncan suggests intensive, multi-agency work could prevent vulnerable children from being placed in residential care.
She also talked about the role of local communities, to provide support, services and even assets such as buildings.
At the heart of it all
Early intervention is needed to help struggling families.
Councilor Munro highlighted some positives, saying, “We are changing the language to talk about supporting families rather than how we deal with problem children. »
However, Cllr Munro and several other advisers say those words need to be translated into action.
Ms. Duncan offered to reassure.
“There’s a speed and an immediacy to it all because every day is a day in a child’s life that they won’t come back again,” she said.
Out-of-authority placements aren’t just emotionally damaging to children, they’re also hitting board coffers.
Each child in the care of another local authority costs Highland Council at least £230,000 a year.
Health bosses are working to bring these children home and reinvest the money in local services, the committee heard.