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For the 14,897 young people in care on 31 July 2017, the average number of care placements was 2.3. Just under half the young people in care on 31 July 2017 were in their first placement.
Last week’s attainment statistics told us that 48 per cent of care-experienced school leavers who had had just one placement achieved a level 5 qualification or better, but the figure fell to just 19 per cent for those who had been moved three times or more in their childhood.
The evidence is clear. We do not need to wait for the independent care review to report. What urgent action does the minister intend to take to reduce the number of times that care-experienced young people are moved throughout their childhood?
Tackling inequality is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s agenda. As part of that, we are committed to improving all aspects of the lives of looked-after children, so that they can reach their full potential during education and beyond.
As Kezia Dugdale highlighted, the proportion of looked-after school leavers with one or more qualifications at Scottish credit and qualifications framework level 5 or better has continued to increase. Since 2009-10, it has more than doubled, from 15 per cent to 44 per cent.
Multiple placements occur in a myriad of different circumstances. As Kezia Dugdale said, the relationship between the number of placements and adverse outcomes for young people is very well established. Through the permanence and care excellence programme, we are beginning to see a reduction in drift and delay in the system, as more children achieve permanence.
Kezia Dugdale mentioned the independent care review, which is now in its journey phase. I am absolutely sure that it will look at the impact of the journey between placements, and I look forward to welcoming its findings.
Given the announcements that were made yesterday, in which it was acknowledged that looked-after young people are disproportionately more likely to become homeless, what actions is the Government taking to ensure that young care leavers are ready for independent life and to reduce their chances of becoming homeless?
As Michelle Ballantyne knows, we have a number of measures in place to support the implementation of continuing care. Since 2015-16, we have paid £4.2 million annually to local authorities for the implementation of continuing care, and that will rise to £9.3 million by 2019-20. In addition, we are working with local authorities, through staff and the continuing care focus group, to gather information on the use of continuing care and to resolve any issues.
We are working very hard in this area. I am more than happy to meet Michelle Ballantyne, along with my colleague the Minister for Local Government and Housing, who has done a great deal of work on preventing homelessness, to fully apprise her of all the measures that we are taking in our work in this extremely challenging area.