Sharp rise in referrals to reporters in Scotland

A record number of children were referred to children’s reporter in Scotland over the last year.

The figures are revealed in the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration’s (SCRA) annual report which said that 50,529 children were referred in 2004-5 – a rise of 10% on the previous year.

Children are referred to children’s reporters when there are concerns about their welfare, or because they are involved in offending. The SCRA is particularly concerned about the 12% increase in the number of children being referred because of concerns about their welfare, although there was also a 6% rise in the number of children referred because of concerns about offending.

SCRA chair Douglas Bulloch said the figures indicated “a widening opportunity gap” and said there was a concern that “many of our most vulnerable children and young people are losing out.”

He highlighted the disrupted family lives and high levels of poverty that many of the children referred to the agency face, and stressed the problems needed to be tackled with a multi-agency approach.

Margaret Cox, the agency’s principal reporter, said the increase in children requiring intervention was a “particular concern”. She attributed the rise in offending rates to the Scottish Executive’s crackdown on youth crime and the introduction of antisocial behaviour orders.

NCH Scotland said the figures highlighted the need for a better system of preventive services in the country. A spokesperson said: “Such a system would help professionals spot problems early and would make it easier for parents to seek help. Early action can help prevent problems becoming entrenched and difficult to resolve.

“The conclusion of the children’s hearing review will point the way forward to improved approaches throughout the children’s hearings system, most notably the need for appropriate interventions. The changes will take time to implement and must be very carefully managed to ensure that children continue to be protected throughout the period of transition to the new arrangements.”

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