Care experienced children mortality rates five times higher

This research is about Scotland but we expect the situation in the rest of the UK would be similarly shocking. The “corporate parent” is a danger to children in its “care”.

By Caroline Wilson Senior Reporter The Herald

DEATH rates among care experienced children are five times higher than for those in the general population, according to the first study of its kind in Scotland.

Research led by the University of Glasgow found children and young people looked after by the state were also more likely to be sent to hospital for injuries or drug poisoning.

They had a higher rate of prescriptions for depression, psychiatric outpatient clinic attendances and inpatient admissions for mental and behavioural disorders.

The study looked at health outcomes for 663,602 school-aged children between 2009 and 2016 and found there were “substantial” differences between care experienced children and those in the general population. 

Children who were fostered, adopted or in residential care were said to have had “frequent contact” with NHS services for problems related to mental, sexual and reproductive health. 

Although rare, mortality among care experienced children and young people was five times higher compared with children in the general population.

The study authors said, crucially, differences in health outcomes were seen even after deprivation was accounted for.

The findings come from the Children’s Health in Care in Scotland (CHiCS) study, which was set up to provide, for the first time, population-wide evidence on the health outcomes of care experienced children in the UK. 

Previous research has found rates of epilepsy, cystic fibrosis and cerebral palsy are higher among those children and higher rates of pregnancy.

Dr Mirjam Allik, research fellow at the University of Glasgow’s MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, said: “We already know that care experienced children have, on average, lower socio-economic status at birth and they live in areas of higher deprivation compared with children in the general population, but this is the first time differences in health between care experienced and other children have been expressed in numbers at population level.

“Health inequalities between children and young people with and without care experience are not inevitable. 

“This can and should change.

“We hope that over the next year the study will provide the first robust nationwide evidence to help inform policy in relation to care experienced children; and that it assists with the prioritisation of services by identifying precise areas of heightened needs. 

“Going forward, our research will focus on understanding differences in hospitalisations, prescriptions and mortality, and will look at how these are affected by the number and type of care placements, socioeconomic background and pre-existing health conditions.”

The study included children who were on Scottish Government Looked After Children statistics from 2009/2010 and the 2009 pupil census. It does not take into account the 4 per cent of pupils who were not in school or in independent establishments.

The Scottish Government announced yesterday that an extra £10 million will be made available till the end of the year to improve access to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

The paper, “Cohort profile: The Children’s Health in Care in Scotland (CHiCS) study – a longitudinal dataset to compare health outcomes for care experienced children and general population children” is published in BMJ Open.