Care kids crisis hits Glasgow

15th October 1999 at 01:00
MINISTERS' social inclusion ambitions face their stiffest challenge yet after figures released this week show a sharp rise in the number of Glasgow children removed from their homes.

Cuts in community services and rising levels of drug addiction are blamed by Glasgow for the

20 per cent increase in the number of children in foster care and residential units and schools.

Romy Langeland, head of children and family services, said: "The dramatic increase in 'looked-after' children away from home has been apparent for the last year. It is a challenge."

The figure now stands at more than 1,000. A further 1,400 children are looked after in the community, with their own families or relatives, and 250 receive regular respite care, taking the Glasgow total for looked-after children to more than 2,500, accounting for

2 per cent of under-16s.

The vast majority come from families facing multiple disadvantage and poverty. Not surprisingly, their educational attainment is well below the city average, itself below the Scottish average. Improving attendance and attainment is a key aim over the next three years.

Prospects are further damaged because Glasgow cannot afford the transport costs involved in keeping children at the same school. "This is a major factor in impeding the educational progress of children whose lives are already severely disrupted," the city states.

One in four of those who are sent to children's units do not have an educational placement and many of those who leave care in their mid-teens quickly run into problems associated with homelessness, mental illness, drugs, alcohol, crime and exploitation.

Violence in residential units, against staff and other young people, is on the increase, while there are growing concerns about the mental health of children in residential units and schools. More than half of the 350 children in residential care have "significant health needs which are not being fully met".

The city accepts that it "has not reached the standards required by regulations or national guidance" and admits that young people's views are often disregarded.

In line with other parts of Scotland, the number of children in residential units and schools has fallen over the past two years from around 400 to 350. Foster care is the more popular option, a trend which is placing extra pressure on the system. Some 330 carers are looking after 700 children.

Half of those fostered are placed outwith the city boundaries, a situation Glasgow is keen to rectify.

Meanwhile 170 children with emotional, behavioural and educational problems remain in residential schools. "In most cases, there is little prospect of a successful return to mainstream educational provision," Glasgow states.

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