Janet Finch-Saunders, Shadow Welsh Minister for Social Care, Children, and Young People, has called for urgent action to support young people in care.
Her call follow the release of a study by Cardiff University which highlights the serious scale of substance misuse among adolescents in residential care.
The figures come from a survey of school students aged 11 to 16. It showed that young people in residential care:
• had the lowest mental wellbeing score
• more than half (56%) had been exposed to bullying recently
• nearly three quarters (74%) were involved in fighting in the past year
• more than a third (36%) had been drunk in the past 30 days (compared to just 9% of young people not in care)
• nearly a third (31%) of young people in residential care said they had used cannabis in the past month (4% of those not in care had done so)
• quarter (26%) of adolescents in residential placements said they smoke weekly in contrast to 3% of those who live at home.
Commenting on the findings, the Shadow Welsh Minister said:
“One of the goals of the Welsh Government’s Substance Misuse Delivery Plan is that outcomes for children on the edge or in care are improved.
“The plan rightly notes that good partnership working is critical if the best possible support is to be provided to individuals and communities.
“Wales has a long way to go.
“Nearly a third of young people in residential care have used cannabis in the past month, compared to 4 per cent of those not in care.
“It is heart-breaking that young people in residential care are at such a disadvantage.
“As Professor Simon Murphy has pointed out, young people who are classed as looked after in any form consistently experience worse outcomes in their lives.
“The Welsh Government needs to move urgently to help understand why young people in care are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol, and work with every individual to help reduce substance misuse”.