Increase in homelessness among young care leavers in the Western Isles

crisis homelessAn inspection of services for children and young people in the Western Isles has identified an increase in care leavers becoming homeless due to “limited collaboration” between the authorities.

Led by the Care Inspectorate, working in partnership with Education Scotland, Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary for Scotland, the inspection reviewed nine key indicators of performance in services provided to looked-after children by Western Isles Council (Comhairle nan Eilean Siar), NHS Western Isles, police and fire service.

Four were rated as “good” and three as “adequate” while two indicators, ‘planning and improving services’ and ‘leadership of improvement and change,’ were rated as “weak”.

A report following the inspection said restricted collaboration was “impacting on the life chances” of the youngsters.

In the report, the inspection team said: “Limited collaborative working had contributed to poorly developed corporate parenting which was impacting on the life chances of looked after children, young people and care leavers.

“This was evident in poorer education and health outcomes for looked after children and increased homelessness for care leavers.

“While recent developments in joint children’s services planning were promising, without a joint strategic assessment of needs, partners cannot be assured they have the right balance of services in place to meet current and emerging need.”

Areas of good performance were also identified in the report.

The report added: “Inspectors are confident that the lives of many children and young people growing up in the Western Isles were improving as a result of services delivered by the Community Planning Partnership.

“Nationally reported statistics showed positive trends in child health, educational attainment and positive destinations for school leavers. Children and young people were being well assisted to be safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included as a result of the help provided by committed and responsive staff across services.”

Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: “Protecting young people and ensuring that the services they and their families use are of the very highest standard is crucial.

“By working with our partners, joint inspections like this can ensure we build up an accurate picture of how services are performing and we can help to support improvement.

“We want to answer the key question ‘how well are these services improving the lives of children, young people and their families?’

“Overall, there are positives in this report but there are number of important areas for further development.

“Strong staff commitment, sound knowledge and understanding of children and young people and a willingness of many staff and managers to ‘go the extra mile’ was leading to a positive impact on the majority of children, young people and families.

“Importantly, inspectors were confident about the robustness of child protection processes and the strengthening of challenge through the appointment of an independent chair for the child protection committee.

“However, not all children and young people were benefiting from the same positive impact. Services were not taking sufficient action to make sure that outcomes for looked after children and care leavers are as good as for other children. Services need to plan together more effectively to ensure they can meet new challenges and meet the needs of all children and families in the community.”

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