People brought up in care should be considered for legal protection – Lib Dems

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The Scottish Liberal Democrats have called for a review of whether equality laws should be extended to include young people with experience of the care system.

The 2010 Equality Act includes a number of so-called protected characteristics such age, disability, race and sexual orientation, aimed a preventing unlawful discrimination.

The party said it was now time to consider whether care experience should be added to the list.

Looked after children and young people leave school with fewer qualifications than their peers, and are less likely to go into positive destinations, especially higher education.

Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “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.”

Protected characteristics are reserved to the UK Government, however the Lib Dems argue that Scottish ministers have scope within the application of equality legislation to adopt similar measures for other particular groups, such as those with care experience.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Parliament has limited powers in relation to the Equality Act 2010, which significantly restricts the ability of the Scottish Government to create and enforce a new protected characteristic.

“We have already taken decisive action to ensure care-experienced young people get the support they need.”

This includes an automatic entitlement to learning support and university bursaries, the spokeswoman said.

“Evidence shows that outcomes are improving.

“The attainment gap is narrowing for looked after leavers, the number of those achieving one or more qualification at level 5 or better has more than doubled, from 15% to 40%, since 2009/10 and 71% of looked after children were in positive follow-up destinations compared to 40% in 2009/10.”

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