Looked after children

Note: We have based these facts on the latest available data. Some of the statistics (for example, marriages) are likely to change dramatically in 2020/21 because of the impact of Covid-19.

Number of looked after children in Scotland

At 31 July 2019, there were an estimated 14,015 looked after children – a decrease of 723 (5%) from 2018. This is the seventh consecutive year the numbers have decreased following a peak of 16,248 in 2012. The number of children ceasing to be looked after each year has been consistently more than the numbers becoming looked after.

Scottish Government. March 2020. Children's Social Work Statistics Scotland, 2018-2019. [Accessed January 2021].

Foster carers

Increasing proportions of children are being looked after away from home in community settings, in particular with foster carers (34% of the total in 2019 compared with 29% in 2009). Foster care and kinship care (29% of 2019 placements) were the most common settings for looked after children in 2019. Children looked after in residential care settings remain static at around 10% of the overall total.

Scottish Government. March 2020. Children's Social Work Statistics Scotland, 2018-2019. [Accessed January 2021].

Kinship care

In 2019, 29% of looked after children were in kinship care. This is more than the number looked after at home.

Scottish Government. March 2020. Children's Social Work Statistics Scotland, 2018-2019. [Accessed January 2021].

Children no longer looked after

7% of those ceasing to be looked after in 2019 were adopted, and 14% were in kinship care. More than half (59%) went home to their biological parents.

Scottish Government. March 2020. Children's Social Work Statistics Scotland, 2018-2019. [Accessed January 2021].

Child protection register

The number of children on the child protection register decreased from 2,688 in 2018 to 2,599 in 2019 (a 3% decrease).

The number of children on the child protection register fluctuated regularly, and there was a general upward trend until 2014. However, the number of children on the register reduced in four out of the five years up to 2019.

In 2019, half of children on the child protection register were under five and half were over five. Since 2008 there have been more children aged under five than over five on the register. This gap has been narrowing. In 2019 there were an estimated 1,273 children aged under five and 1,326 aged five and over on the register. 51% were boys, 46% were girls and the remaining 4% were unborn.

Scottish Government. March 2020. Children's Social Work Statistics Scotland, 2018-2019. [Accessed January 2021].

Secure care accommodation

An average of 79 young people were in secure care accommodation between 1 August 2018 and 31 July 2019, a slight decrease from an average of 80 in the previous year.

The number of young people admitted to secure care in that period was 217. This was an increase of 3% over the previous year.

Scottish Government. March 2020. Children's Social Work Statistics Scotland, 2018-2019. [Accessed January 2021].