As many as four in five social workers were absent due to sickness last year in one Scottish local authority, new figures show.

Some 83% of social workers at one council had days off - nearly 20 percentage points higher than two years ago - according to data obtained by the charity Who Cares? Scotland.

Today marks four years since the publication of The Promise, a flagship report commissioned to spearhead a "root and branch" review of Scotland's care system.

It was a hallmark of Nicola Sturgeon's tenure as First Minister yet many of the first phase of recommendations of The Promise, which should have been delivered in 2021 to 24, are delayed or watered down.

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Louise Hunter, Chief Executive at Who Cares? Scotland said: “This is a critical time for the Care Experienced community.

"It has been seven years since Nicola Sturgeon announced a ‘root and branch review’ of the care system in Scotland.

"And we’re now four years down the line since the publication of The Promise, it’s clear there is still lots to do.

"We want to make sure that Scotland is aware of the progress, highlight concerns from the Care Experienced community and motivate everyone to work together to uphold the commitments set out in The Promise.

"Together, we can make sure Care Experienced people have a lifetime of equality, respect and love."

A new report from Who Cares? Scotland, which uses data obtained under Freedom of Information legislation, highlights concerns about the lack of progress, data gaps, and dilution in aims.

The Promise was the end result of a three-year review - the Independent Care Review - of the care system and received cross-party support.

Its recommendations are to be implemented by the organisation The Promise Scotland, however The Promise Oversight Board, the watchdog organisation overseeing the work, stated in June 2023 that it was not on track and Plan 21-24 would not be successful.

Who Cares? Scotland's report - Is Scotland Keeping the Promise? - highlights concerns on the lack of progress in education, restraint and the monetisation of care.

Not every local authority responded to FOI requests and the report does not name individual local authorities, nor give a breakdown of figures relating to each council.

A spokeswoman for Who Cares? Scotland said the report was not intended as a criticism of any one council but is a report card of progress Scotland-wide.

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Some 26 councils responded to a request asking for the amount of money spent on providing residential children's care to profitmaking companies.

Of those, 15 councils have spent £218,383,947 on outsourcing care to private firms and 14 stated they had no plans to stop using profit making companies to deliver care services.

This counters a stated aim of The Promise, which is that "Scotland must avoid the monetisation of the care of children and prevent the marketisation of care".

Angus, Dundee, Moray and Shetland councils have all stopped the use of profit-making companies.

The report also shows 2023 had the highest level of sickness absence among social workers with the rates rising steadily from 65.2% in 2021 in the council area with the highest number to 77.9% in 2022 and 83.3% last year.

These numbers represent different local authority areas and Who Cares? Scotland would not reveal which council returned the figure of 83.3%.

The report reads: "Social work staff are at the forefront of the lives of the children and young people who are in or around Scotland’s care system.

"That supporting workforce needs to be supported in itself.

"However, our research reveals that across Scotland social workers have a challengingly high level of sickness absence.

"This level of absence could have an impact on the quality of service that Care Experienced people receive.

"It might lead to difficulties maintaining a consistent relationship with them and being moved around different workers."

The report also condemns education sectors for using reduced timetables to "exclude" Care Experienced pupils from school with 20 local authorities using reduced timetables and 18 saying there is no date to end this practice.

Reduced timetables can be used by schools to support school refusers to attend some, rather than no, classes but Who Cares? Scotland said the practice is a way of informally excluding Care Experienced pupils from education.

Who Cares? Scotland said it had heard "anecdotally" that the reduction in 2020 to 2022 of nearly 2000 children being received into the care system had been hailed as a positive indicator of the success of The Promise, which aims to keep children and young people out of the care system where possible.

The report adds: "More work needs to be done to understand if this statistic can be claimed as a success or if it’s a worrying failure.

"This is especially critical given the restricted access that social workers and other council services had to families during this time due the pandemic restrictions and high absence rates."