The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 gives local authorities responsibilities to prepare young people for leaving care (throughcare) and to provide services after they have left (aftercare).
It found significant variations in arrangements for young people leaving care (throughcare) and in the provision of services after they have left (aftercare).
Although most authorities (77%) offered a throughcare programme, less than half (39%) of the young people surveyed had received one. Many authorities lacked appropriate procedures, and difficulties were found with systems for monitoring and evaluation of young people. However, the study found that many authorities were extending and improving services, and noted a strong commitment to taking account of the views of young people.
Almost two thirds of the young people surveyed had left care with no standard grade qualifications. Nearly three quarters had left care at an early age - 15 or 16.
Minister for education and young people Cathy Jamieson said:
'Looked after young people are among the most vulnerable in our society. To give them a fair chance in life it is vital that they are properly prepared for leaving care and that the support they need is available as they make the transition to independent, adult living.
'We all know how difficult this can be, even with the full support of our own family, and it is the duty of local authorities to provide similar support to the young people for whom they have responsibility.
'This report shows that the level of service currently provided by local authorities is patchy and that our young people are not all receiving the support that they should. This is very disappointing.
'As a result of this research my working group on throughcare and aftercare is now concentrating on improving current services. I plan to publish a report from the working group in the next few weeks. I will also bring together representatives of all local authorities to discuss how best to take this forward.
'Moving to independent, adult life is a crucial stage in all our lives and we all need help to do it successfully. Looked after children need extra help and I am determined that they will have the support they need to take this big step.'
The Executive commissioned researchers at the University of York to carry out a two-year study of how local authorities discharge their duties and powers under the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 to promote throughcare and aftercare for looked after young people. Previous research has pointed to connections between the many problems faced by young people after leaving care, such as homelessness, lack of education, poor health and unemployment, and the importance of the support they receive to prepare them for independent living.
The researchers surveyed the arrangements of local authorities and other service providers, then carried out a survey of 107 young people who had left care in three local authorities, with a follow up study of 61 of them.
The throughcare and aftercare working group brings together local authorities, front line workers, and voluntary and advocacy groups working with looked after children. It is advising the Executive on implementing new arrangements for the support of young people leaving care.