Anticipated pressures on the children’s hearing system in Scotland
as a result of proposals in the Scottish Antisocial Behaviour Bill
have been partly resolved by the announcement of an extra £35m
for the youth justice system.
Children’s charities have opposed the bill’s tough line on youth
offending which, it is feared, would add to the system’s financial
Alan Miller, principal reporter from the Scottish Children’s
Reporter Administration welcomed the Scottish executive money.
He said: “Timescales [for hearings] are being improved and this is
evidence of how the system can be made to work better with focused
resources and planning.”
The additional funds are part of the £65m of new money to
support the bill over two years. Justice minister Cathy Jamieson
said the money would ensure that every children’s hearing could
achieve fast-track performance by 2006.
But early findings from the fast-track hearings pilot reveal an
over-representation of young people in care and have led to calls
for the system to be modified.
An interim evaluation published last week finds that some young
people who have not offended before going into care end up
qualifying as fast-track cases due to a series of minor incidents
in residential units. Young offenders qualify for fast tracking if
they have had five or more offence referrals in six months.
The research, commissioned by the Scottish executive, shows that
children in residential care account for 28 per cent of persistent
offenders on the scheme, despite making up just 3 per cent of
normal referrals to reporters on offence grounds.
Interviews with officials, including reporters and social work
representatives, found that most wanted the fast-track system’s
criteria changed to consider the seriousness of offences so young
people with several minor offences would not qualify.
Reporters suggested that offending by young people in care could be
compounded by cramped living conditions or staff difficulties in
managing young people with various needs. They highlighted a
“serious need” for staff training.
The fast-track hearings pilots began last February in six local
– Interim evaluation from