Care experienced people are never just a number to us

We understand that statistics are important.  They can help understand trends and changes both over time and at points in time.  These statistics, whilst useful, refer to real lives; real experiences; real people.

We encourage you to look beyond and behind the numbers.

That’s why we believe in the power of voice.

Care in Scotland

(Scottish Government, 2018)

  • 14,897 children were looked after in 2017, a decrease of 3% from 2015-16, and the fifth consecutive year of decline.
  • 2% of children in Scotland were being looked after by local authorities or on the child protection register on July 31st 2017.
  • Over the last 10 years children have started to be looked after at younger ages. In 2007, 30% of children starting to be looked after were under five years of age. By 2017 this had risen to 39%, although this is a decline from a peak of 41% in 2014.
  • Foster care remains the most common accommodation for looked after children. 
    • 36% – Foster care
    • 28% – Kinship care
    • 25% – looked after at home
    • 10% – residential care
    • 1% – with prospective adopters
  • The number of adoptions of looked after children has generally increased since 2005, and 9% of children (367) leaving care were adopted in 2016-17, which is the highest recorded level.
  • Permanence Orders have increased every year since 2012, and now stand at 2,064 a 4% increase on 2016.
  • 80 young people were in secure care at the end of July 2017. The average number of young people residing in secure care during 2016-17 was 76, a decrease of 11% from 85 residents in the previous year. There are now only 84 secure places available in total in Scotland. Emergency bed usage has increased by 56%, and is well above the long-term average.

Leaving care destinations

(Scottish Government, 2017)

  • 53% – Home with biological parents
  • 21% – With kinship carers
  • 9% – Adoption
  • 7% – Supported accommodation /own tenancy
  • 7% – Other (includes residential care, homeless, in custody among other destinations)
  • 3% – Former foster carers
  • 0% – Unknown (a total of 13 care leavers, compared to 75 in 2016)


  • 35% of care experienced young people leave school with one or more qualification at SCQF Level 5 or above, compared to 84% of the general population (Scottish Government, 2016).
  • Care experienced children are automatically deemed to have additional support needs, unless otherwise assessed. Despite this, around half of care experienced children have not been assessed for a coordinated support plan, even though they are entitled in law (Govan Law Centre, 2015).
  • 4% of care experienced pupils go straight from high school to university, compared to 39% of the general population (Scottish Government, 2016). Care experienced pupils are 7 times more likely to be excluded from school (Scottish Government, 2014).


  • 9 months after leaving school, 30% of care experienced young people are classed as unemployed, compared to 8% of their peers (Scottish Government, 2016).


  • A third of young offenders, and almost a third of the adult prison population, self-identify as being care experienced (SPS, 2016). Due to the need for prisoners to identify themselves as care experienced, these statistics fail to represent reality. Some practitioners  estimate that around 50% of the adult prison population may have care experience.


  • Amongst looked after young people aged 5–17 years, 45% have been assessed as having mental health issues (Office for National Statistics, 2004).
  • It is estimated that one of the highest rates of youth smoking exists for care leavers at 67% (ScotPho, 2009).

The Future

  • 27% of young people leave care without a formal ‘pathway’ plan for what happens next (Scottish Government, 2017)
  • Formal statistics suggest that at least 21% of care leavers become homeless within five years of leaving care (Scottish Government, 2016), however this relies on self-declaration of care experience. Practitioners estimate the figure could be between 30-50%.
  • It has been estimated that care experienced people are 20 times more likely to be dead at the age of 25 than anyone else.
With thanks to Scottish Local Authorities and funding partners, who make our work possible
Who Cares? Scotland Funding Partners