Time to consider "care experience" as a protected characteristic


Scottish Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has marked the start of the Scottish Year of Young People 2018 by calling for a review of whether protected characteristics, such as race and gender, should be extended to include those with experience of the care system, highlighting their life outcomes which are "demonstrably the worst of nearly any demographic in the country".

The Scottish Government's most recent report on Education Outcomes for Looked After Children shows:

  • Educational outcomes for care leavers are significantly worse than for the population as a whole.
  • More than six times as many care leavers exit education with no qualifications at SCQF level 3 or better (13% compared to 2% for all school leavers).
  • Looked after school leavers are less likely to go in to positive destinations, especially higher education.
  • A lower proportion of looked after children achieve the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) level relevant to their stage compared to all children.                                                               

Mr Cole-Hamilton, who is Deputy Convenor of the Scottish Parliament's Equalities and Human Rights Committee, commented:

"Scotland’s Year of Young People is a fantastic opportunity to highlight the enormous contributions made by young people. But we must also seize the opportunity to address the serious challenges that children and young people still face as we strive to make Scotland the best place in the world for them to grow up. From child trafficking to the plight of young carers, there is still much work that needs to be done.

"One of the areas where I would like to see radical change is in our approach to the treatment of care experienced young people. The life outcomes of the 15,000 children and young people who find themselves in the care system each year, are demonstrably the worst of nearly any demographic in our society.

"We need to do more to ensure that those professionals who interact with them have a full understanding of how trauma, attachment disorder, loss and other adverse childhood experiences can affect their lives and in turn their life chances.

"We could send a clear message about our commitment to care-experienced young people by treating them in the same way we treat other protected characteristics in an equalities context. I believe that a review could embed this, improve the protection of vulnerable young people and help ensure they have the best possible chance to get on in life."


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