Scotland’s care watchdog, the Care Inspectorate, today published a report looking at the deaths of children looked after by local authorities. Any time a looked after child dies, local authorities must inform the Care Inspectorate, which is charged with reviewing the circumstances of the death. 

 There are approximately 16,000 looked after children living in Scotland. Today’s report shows that 30 looked after children in Scotland died between 2009 – 2011, of whom half were older teenagers. 

Of those who died, 21 were boys and 9 were girls. The causes of death fell into seven categories. Half of the children involved had either life-limiting conditions or had died from complex health issues. 

Suicides and accidents each accounted for five deaths, including as the result of accidents on the road or railway. Three young people died from substance misuse, linked either to chaotic lifestyles or not fully realising the risks involved. 

In the case of children with life limiting conditions, the Care Inspectorate praised hospices for “exemplary” end of life planning and care, but the Care Inspectorate warned that high quality care and planning for these children was only evident in around half of cases reviewed. 

The Care Inspectorate also makes specific recommendations to ensure looked after children can access substance misuse treatment and local psychological services as necessary. The Care Inspectorate also recommends that all staff involved in the care of looked after children be confident in recognising and managing suicide risk factors. 

Annette Bruton, Chief Executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: 

“The death of any child is a traumatic experience for families, carers, friends and relatives. It causes great pain and suffering for everyone involved so in order to learn lessons, we must understand the circumstances in which looked after children die.

“Our inspectors saw examples of good practice in the care of these 30 looked after children who died, but there are lessons to be learned. It is particularly important that people supporting looked after children work in a joined-up way. In some cases, lack of co-ordination means things are at risk of slipping through the net and looked after children find it harder to access the services they need.”


Notes to editors.

1. The report can be downloaded here:  Download report

2. Looked after children include those placed into care as a result of neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Others require complex care because of health issues or disabilities or simply because their parents lack sufficient parenting skills. While children may live in foster care, residential care homes, residential schools, respite units or secure accommodation, many remain at home.