A new ScotCen Panel attitudes survey has revealed that, while attitudes in Scotland to care experienced young people are generally very positive, some people still hold discriminatory attitudes.
The survey, commissioned by the Life Changes Trust and carried out by the Scottish Centre for Social Research (ScotCen), reports positively that the majority of people in Scotland feel that being in care ‘makes no difference’ to whether children behave well or badly (72%), or whether they are a good or bad influence on others (88%).
A majority also feel that being in care ‘makes no difference’ to whether a young person is more or less likely to get into trouble with the police (64%), or whether they make a good parent or not (83%).
However, over a third (35%) of people in Scotland do believe that children in care are more likely to get into trouble with the police and around a quarter (24%) believe that children in care are worse behaved than other children.
And while most people believe that ending up in care is not the fault of the child, a significant minority - 4 in 10 (42%) - think it is likely children are in care ‘because the parents can’t cope with their child’s behaviour’.
Heather Coady, Director of the Life Changes Trust Care Experienced Young People programme said: “When it comes to care experienced young people, there is a significant gap between public understanding and reality.
“We know that children and young people become involved with the care system when their parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection. Poverty, social exclusion, chronic unemployment, poor housing, and lack of community resources make it more likely that a family will come into contact with the care system. That’s the reality. But people often believe that children become involved in the care system because they are bad, or because of something they did. In fact, 88% of looked-after young people in Scotland entered the care system on care and protection grounds.
“It’s important that we recognise these gaps, because what the public thinks and feels about the care system and the young people who experience it matters hugely. Changes to policy and practice need public support to deliver lasting transformation.”
This research is the first in Scotland to explore public attitudes to care experienced young people and it raises questions about the balance between people’s knowledge of the challenges that face care experienced young people and discriminatory attitudes and behaviours.