MSPs pressed to improve care system

Youngsters who have been in care are calling on MSPs to grant their Christmas wishes and make a number of key promises to those leaving the care system.

They want politicians to promise that all those leaving care will be in control of their lives, but will be able to get support when it is needed.

They also want MSPs to ensure no care leavers become homeless, and that those who have been in care are listened to.

These are all included in a Christmas wish list that young care leavers are presenting to Holyrood. The charity Who Cares? Scotland, which helps youngsters in care, and other youth organisations will be lobbying the Scottish Parliament on the issue as MSPs begin their detailed scrutiny of the Children and Young People Bill.

There are some 16,000 children in care in Scotland, with 1,3000 youngsters leaving the system every year.

But those who have been in care as a child are more likely to suffer mental health problems, homelessness and unemployment.

Duncan Dunlop (pictured), chief executive of Who Cares? Scotland, said the young care leavers lobbying Holyrood were “excellent examples of success”, adding that many of them had dedicated their careers and free time to “helping create a brighter future for other generations of care leavers, as well as showing amazing resilience to overcome a range of issues in their young lives”.

He said: ” We are asking MSPs to help grant their Christmas wish this year and every year – by delivering on their promise and the commitment they have shown to date, and help to make Scotland the best place to grow up for all children and young people. And we want to see that for all of our looked after young people in Scotland too.

“These wishes are important to care leavers for many reasons. Given a chance, these young people can achieve their dreams and live a life full of success. What care leavers really want this Christmas is for the ordinary Scot to play a more active part in helping and supporting young care leavers to live successfully in communities up and down Scotland.”

Ashley Cameron, a 23-year-old care leaver from Stirling, said: “At this time of year it’s hard being away from your family. When you are in care at Christmas it can be really emotional, especially if you know your friends are going to have a Christmas at home with their families. It makes you think about all the problems in your life and can leave you feeling like there is no hope. All we want at Christmas is to know that people really do care.”

Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, backed their plea and said: “Young people leaving care are like any other young people – full of hopes and dreams. Yet they leave care at a much younger age than those leaving home and they do not have the option of returning if things do not work out.

“We need to provide them with care for longer so that their transition into adulthood allows them to have the same life chances of other young people – and that they too can realise their aspirations of a safe, secure and healthy lifestyle that they have a right to expect. We should take the opportunity through the Children and Young People Bill to make progress in this endeavour.”

Aileen Campbell, the minister for children and young people, said: “Christmas should be a time for families to come together and be reminded of the importance of close, loving relationships, but we can all too easily take our families for granted. Too many young people leaving care do so without the security of a loving family and a place to call home.

“As a nation, it is everyone’s job to be a family to those who don’t have one – and I will do my bit to support care leavers through the Children and Young People Bill.”