More than six children are taken into care every week in Edinburgh, shocking new figures have shown.
Children at risk of abuse or neglect, deemed beyond parental control or considered abandoned were among the 341 taken from their homes across the Capital last year – up from 332 in 2016.
More than a third of the youngsters taken into care were under the age of four and 12 were removed at their own request.
Duncan Dunlop, chief executive of Who Cares? Scotland, a member of the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, said more needs to be done to address the “appalling statistics”.
He said: “Young people are taken into care for reasons that are complex. What’s important to understand from these figures is that when a young person is taken into care, they become one of Edinburgh’s children. The city, we, become their parent. Every child should be able to enjoy a safe, fulfilling and loving childhood. Yet for far too many young people in care, and through absolutely no fault of their own, that’s simply not the case.
“For example, only four percent go to university, nearly half will suffer mental health challenges, almost one third will become homeless - and a young person who has been in care is more likely to be dead by the age of 21.
“These statistics have been the same for decades. These are Edinburgh’s children and we can do more to address these appalling statistics.
“The Scottish Government has pledged a root and branch review of the care system. I want care experienced people from across Edinburgh and beyond to ensure that their voice creates the change that is sorely needed.”
Ben Farrugia, of the Centre of Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS), said the care system reflects the challenges of a society. “The number of children coming into care fluctuates year on year, reflecting changes in the availability of support for families in a local area, as well as wider, national factors,” he said.
“In Edinburgh, a tighter focus on the needs of children at risk of abuse and neglect appears to be showing positive results, with fewer needing to become ‘looked after’. But at the same time the city has had to find carers for an increasing number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, refugees relocated by the UK government from war zones. The care system reflects the challenges we as a society face – poverty, drug and alcohol misuse, insufficient mental health support. Edinburgh’s numbers suggest that, while we’re getting help to some families, there are many more that are still struggling to cope.”
In 2016, Edinburgh had 1368 children in care which vice convener for Education, Children and Families Alison Dickie said the council were committed to reducing. “In 2013, the Council launched a transformation programme for looked after children which aims to shift the balance of care towards more preventative services that safely reduce the need for children to be taken into care.
“Since 2013 the overall number of looked after children has fallen. We have less children in foster care and secure care and have increased use of kinship carers.”