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Exploitation of Missing Looked-after Children — [Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:09 pm on 23rd October 2019.

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Photo of Angela Crawley Angela Crawley Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Disabilities), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Pensions), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Youth affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Children and Families), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities) 3:09 pm, 23rd October 2019

Absolutely. I thank my hon. Friend for that point. While the number of children in care in England and Wales has grown since 2015 by 9% and 14% respectively, the number of children in care in Scotland has steadily declined by 4%. Last year, the Scottish Government introduced the care-experienced children and young people fund, which commits £33 million over the life of Scotland’s current Parliament to improve the attainment and wider outcomes of care-experienced young people. We have also introduced a care-experienced students’ bursary, which provides £8,100 a year to support young people going to college or university.

Scotland’s looked-after children policy is part of “Getting it right for every child”, the national framework for improving outcomes and supporting children and young people. That approach puts the best interests of children at the heart of decision making—something that is missing right now within the care system in England and Wales. It disempowers children to remove them from the support networks and communities that they know. In fact, in the unfortunate cases that prompted the “No Place at Home” report, it is clear how a bad situation can turn vulnerable children into victims of crime and, in some instances, into criminals later in life. We want to prevent that from the off.

I ask the Minister to say honestly how much money is being spent externally on organisations that provide unregulated care, how much of it is then focused on outcomes and attainments, and how that is measured, with respect to supporting a looked-after child. We all have a responsibility to do more to support young people. As Mohammad Yasin outlined, we—the state—are their parents. I have never been a parent, but I take my responsibility as an MP seriously. There is more that we can, should and must do to support young people like the young lady who I supported and often think about. I want to do more for young people in England and Wales, in particular, where the system is different.