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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-08602: Alex Cole-Hamilton (Edinburgh Western)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 3 April 2017

To ask the Scottish Government how it ensures that professionals working with looked-after children and young people can deal with issues arising from trauma and attachment.

Answered by: Mark McDonald 21 April 2017

This government recognises the complexities of caring for looked after children and young people, and the level of skill and dedication required. We aim to ensure that the workforce is capable and fully equipped to undertake what is often a demanding role.

All Social Workers and Social Care Workers must register annually with the Scottish Social Services Council, which is the professional regulator for the social services workforce in Scotland. Regulation and registration of the workforce is a key strand of Scottish Government policy to improve the quality of social services by up-skilling the workforce and to protect service users, and is a condition of employment.

A requirement of registration is that workers must have, or attain, the relevant accredited qualification set by the SSSC for the role they undertake. In accordance with the SSSC Codes of Practice, employers are responsible for ensuring that their staff have the skills and knowledge to carry out their role in order to maintain the high quality of social services and to protect service users, and that they continuously update their skills to reflect changes in practice and policy.

In addition to this, the Scottish Government funds the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS), which delivers a range of learning, development and consultancy work on trauma and attachment. All of the learning, support and development provided by CELCIS to corporate parents is underpinned by evidence around attachment, trauma and loss, and a wide range of material and briefing can be found on their website:

We are clear that professionals working with children should have the skills, confidence and knowledge required to best meet the needs of the child and support and promote their emotional, as well as physical, wellbeing. We are committed to ensuring that every professional working with children is trained on equality, to enable them to address prejudice-based bullying, attachment, child development and child protection.

The Scottish Government’s Mental Health Strategy 2017-2027 identifies that it is important to respond appropriately to the emotional distress linked to both the circumstances that led to a child becoming looked after and the experience of being looked after in any setting. Professionals working with looked after children and young people should have the necessary knowledge and skills around issues such as trauma and attachment. The strategy recognises the importance of including mental and emotional health and wellbeing in developing care pathways for children who are, or at risk of being, looked after.

In 2016-17 through the Children, Young People and Families Early Intervention and ALEC Fund the Scottish Government will provide almost £1.6 million in core funding to third sector organisations directly supporting looked after children, and a further £1.7 million approximately to organisations whose work contributes to preventing children becoming looked after. In addition to this, eight bespoke projects are being funded directly in the area of looked after children, or which contribute to preventing children becoming looked after, equating to additional spend of £299,412 in 2017-18. One of these projects (delivered by the Kibble Education and Care Centre) is specifically about the creation of a strategic plan for work with trauma-experienced young people, with a focus on the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT). NMT is a trauma-informed approach to youth care developed in the USA.

And, through the Centre for Youth and Criminal Justice (CYCJ) and the Interventions for Vulnerable Youth Project (IVY), which are funded by the Scottish Government, support is provided to professionals through research, practice development and professional learning opportunities. This includes a strong focus on the need to take a developmental approach when working with young people who display high risk behaviours and specific work on trauma and attachment issues. The IVY project is a specialist psychological and social work service which reflects a multi-disciplinary tiered approach to risk assessment, formulation and management for high risk young people aged 12 to 18 years who present with complex psychological needs and high risk behaviour in terms of their violent conduct.