THE 11,000 young people being looked after at any one time by local authorities as "corporate mums and dads" were promised a new deal this week when Sam Galbraith, Children and Education Minister, unwrapped a package of measures in Parliament on Wednesday.
"The harsh reality is that many, but not all, children and young people in looked-after settings are simply not achieving their potential or getting the quality of care, protection and support that they need to develop like other children," Mr Galbraith told MSPs. "They may be looked after, but they can be badly looked after."
He has sanctioned a pound;3.3 million increase in the amount going into council development funds for children's services, bringing the total to pound;12.5 million. This will be used to extend foster care, provide IT support for care planning and improve after care. There is to be more money for advocacy services to ensure the voice of those in care is listened to.
Mr Galbraith also annunced the setting up of an advisory group which is charged with injecting more coherence into the use of secure accommodation for young people and its alternatives.
Ministers are concerned that, although looked-after children constitute fewer than than 1 per cent of the population, they are disproportionately at risk of social exclusion. Up to 75 per cent of them leave school with no qualifications, compared with 7 per cent of all leavers.
Fewer than 1 per cent go to university and up to 80 per cent are unemployed between the ages of 16 and 25. There is now a new social justice target that all care leavers will have at least a Standard grade in maths and English by 2003, acknowledged by Mr Galbraith as "tough".
During the debate, Mr Galbraith also announced a major pound;80,000 research study into the quality and effectiveness of the supervision regimes for youngsters being looked after at home, who represent a half of all looked after children.