THE number of Scottish children in care is at its highest in two decades and youngsters are being pushed on to the streets at just 16, leaving them vulnerable to addiction, violence and homelessness a new report from Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People .
The report highlights the gulf between children brought up with their families – who are increasingly staying at home until well into their twenties – and those who are in care.Although Scottish Government policy dictates that children should leave at 18, six times as many are leaving at 16, often coerced by social services.The report found that children with "challenging behaviour" are those under most pressure to leave. More than one in 10 reported episodes of homelessness. Some were sent to bed-and-breakfasts - at least one youngster had to share accommodation with a convicted murderer. Senior social work sources said 16-year-olds were being squeezed out to make way for an army of needy children
Author of the report ,Ms Marshall, said: "In many cases children and young people in care are seen as a troublesome burden rather than a vulnerable person to be nurtured. At 16 - the time they need help to cope - many are all but completely abandoned with little, if any aftercare."
The report states that the level of 15- to 18-year-olds who are homeless "represents a shocking failure in corporate parenting".It claims authorities are either failing to keep under-18s within the care system, or not supporting them afterwards in accordance with the legal duty that extends to the age of 19. Although the laws and the policy in place supported the children and prioritised their interests, there was a gulf between that and practice.
Tam Baillie, the assistant director of Policy and Influencing at Barnardo's Scotland, said: "Nowadays, most young people stay at home well into their twenties, yet most looked-after young people leave care aged 16 or 17. We need to ask ourselves why our most vulnerable young people are expected to be fully independent at such a young age, often in very difficult circumstances..."
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