It is not fair or realistic to expect people looking after children in care to love and nurture them when many of the adults involved feel unsafe, unloved and unsupported, experts have claimed.

A lack of resources and support is leaving some social workers, residential care staff and foster carers feeling unable to do their best for the young people in their care, an event in Edinburgh heard.

Sue Brookes, of the Workforce group, part of the Independent Care Review, said an emerging theme was the need to do more to nurture the workforce in the care system. The root-and-branch review ordered by the Scottish Government is looking closely at the needs of all those involved in children’s lives, she said.

Speaking at the Scotland Policy Conferences seminar on improving provision for children in care, at the Royal Society of Edinburgh, she said: “A focus on nurture for the workforce is likely to be a key issue for us.

“The workforce encompasses kinship carers, foster carers, adoptive parents, right through to workers in residential schools, secure units or prisons in some circumstances. It is impossible for them to nurture children and young people in the we wish them to do, unless they are adequately nurtured themselves. “

The Care Review is understood to have heard concerns that frontline social workers are sometimes unable to do what they think best for young people in care because resources are limited.

Meanwhile foster carers often feel shut out of the key decisions about children in their care and excluded from the teams around them.

In some cases foster families are not even informed of meetings to plan a child’s future or decisions to move them until they have been made – unless a children’s hearing has decided that they should be involved.

Similar concerns were echoed by Sally Ann Kelly, Chief Executive of the Aberlour Childcare Trust, who said relationships between children and those providing their care were crucial. “How do we expect our workforce to nurture children if that workforce doesn’t feel nurtured and doesn’t feel safe,” she said. “Sometimes they feel they are operating in cultures that do not support them and that they don’t have any agency in the decisions that get made. “

She argued some social work departments had become too remote from the communities they serve with social workers becoming divorced form the poverty and inequality faced by many families and children in the care system, while offices were centralised away from where families actually live. However such shifts were now being reversed, she said.

The director of the Fostering Network in Scotland, Sara Lurie said foster carers who are not automatically involved in decisions about the children they look after can end up feeling isolated and unsupported.

“They probably can’t talk to friends or neighbours if things are going badly – because that would breach the child’s confidentiality,” she said.

“We are expecting foster carers in their own homes, 24 hours a day, to provide warmth and love to children who have often experienced extreme pain. Even residential workers can go home at the end of the day. Foster carers need to feel supported.”

If a fostered child is invited to a party such as an outing to Laserquest, foster carers can feel they might be reprimanded for allowing it, Lurie said. Scottish Government guidance on how carers should make such decisions has still not been issued despite existing in draft form for three years, she added.

“Foster carers who are working in isolation, who don’t feel valued, will struggle because they don’t feel supported.”

The minister for children and young people Maree Todd MSP said the government was in talks with local authorities body Cosla about improving the consistency of allowances for foster carers around the country.

She added: “Every child and young person in care must grow up feeling loved, respected and supported to achieve their full potential.”

The event also heard a call for all parents to be given training in theories about child development such as attachment and the impact of trauma. Sue Brookes said “As a parent of three I wish I had known a lot more about adolescent development and nurture.”

Meanwhile Sally Ann Kelly called for all children in care to be given a basic income. “If we want to be really ambitions why don’t we say we’ll support you until you are 25 or 26 – you won’t have to worry about your rent, food or going out with friends?” she said.