The Care Inspectorate has released a report with a series of recommendations to improve the lives of children experiencing care in distance placements. 

Distance placements refer to any child placed in a care setting outwith their home community, but the report gives emphasis to issues faced by children placed in Scotland from other parts of the UK.

Edith MacIntosh, Interim Chief Executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: “This vital report shows much more must be done to protect children with the greatest needs in our society.

“We acknowledge lack of placements means difficult and pragmatic decisions must be taken. However, these should be made with awareness that placing children far from home may not only have a negative impact on outcomes but may also constitute a breach of duties under statutory regulations and children’s rights under The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“While work has already begun to address concerns this report highlights, we hope the recommendations will be implemented as a matter of urgency. We are fully committed to The Promise and recognise our responsibility to all looked after children in Scotland – regardless of their origins.”

The report found that a combination of inadequate planning, poor practice, and limited resources is resulting in some children facing further trauma and negative outcomes. Concerns about placements to inappropriate settings, away from family, friends and familiar support networks are highlighted in the report. 

The potential discriminatory impact on children living in Scotland and not included in the Scottish care system, is also discussed.

The report found that children often arrived in placements with no clear idea of their rights or anyone to advocate for them. Children were reportedly transported at night, with no familiar adults and no indication of their destination, and host authorities were at times unaware young people had been placed in their area until serious issues arose.

In response to the findings, the Care Inspectorate has issued recommendations for use within the organisation, to care providers and to the Scottish Government.

A new notification system requires Scottish care providers to notify the regulator when a young person from different legal jurisdiction moves in and out of placement.

Also, before accepting a distance or cross-border placement, providers should ensure children have a named independent advocate, and their rights to direct contact with parents, carers, brothers, sisters, and friends can be adhered to.

The report recommends the transportation of children to and from care placements be child-centred, trauma-sensitive and adheres to human rights and UNCRC legislation.

The report also reminds placing authorities of their legal duties, following evidence that some are not adhering to statutory guidance on the placement of children.

The regulator plans to undertake a consultation study with children in distance placements in Scotland.

The full report can be read here.