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Overseen but often overlooked: Children and Young People ‘Looked After at Home’ in Scotland

Report 2: Identifying needs and outcomes

More than 5,000 children and young people are looked after at home in Scotland; this represents around a third of all looked after children. Children and young people looked after at home are subject to a compulsory supervision order, but without a requirement to be placed in a particular setting (such as kinship care, foster care, residential care, etc). This type of legal supervision order is unique to the Scottish system of child legislation, children who are supervised in this way are ‘looked after’ by a local authority whilst still living at home with a parent or relevant person. Home supervision has been used since the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, a period of more than forty years. Despite this long history and extensive use, little is known about home supervision or the experiences of the children who are subject to this intervention. This study seeks to begin to remedy this situation. The study covers considerable ground, and so, a decision was taken to report the findings in three separate reports:

- Report 1 in this series reports the findings of a literature review undertaken to identify what research has been conducted into the unique needs, outcomes and experiences of children and young people looked after at home.

- This document is Report 2; it focuses on what we learned about the needs and outcomes of children and young people on home supervision and compares this to what was found in the literature review. This report also provides the background to the study and describes the methods used in the primary research.

- Report 3 in the series explores what we learned about the current provision of services to this group of children and young people looked after at home and considers how these relate to findings in the previous two reports.

The literature review suggested that children and young people on home supervision and their families experience multiple, chronic problems such as domestic violence, drug and alcohol misuse, mental health problems and financial difficulties. It found that they are likely to face a range of poorer outcomes than their peers; however, the review found that to date, little evidence is available about the extent of these poor outcomes. One exception is in respect of education where there is strong evidence showing that this group of children have considerably poorer outcomes than the general population, and, importantly, that they collectively have poorer outcomes than children who are looked after away from home.

It should also be noted that children on home supervision are not a homogenous group and that existing research has typically failed to explore nuances, for example, between groups of children on the basis of age, referral grounds, location or whether measures are compulsory or voluntary.As awareness and concern about the poor outcomes of these children has grown, there have been urgent calls for a better understanding of the factors which influence their wellbeing and wider outcomes. In particular, national and local government are keen to identify effective ways of working with the children and young people concerned.