Scottish first minister Jack McConnell has called for a review of protection procedures for children whose parents misuse drugs, prompting concerns more young people could be taken into care.
Speaking in a Holyrood debate on children and drug misuse, McConnell said the way social services and other agencies protect children of parents who misuse drugs had become “a fundamental issue” for his government.
The debate was prompted by the recent case of an 11-year-old Glasgow girl who was hospitalised after taking heroin.
McConnell said: “The needs of the children must come first and be considered when they are at a very young age. There should be a review of how our social services and others respond to ensure that youngsters have the best possible chance in life.”
McConnell said that officials have indicated that social workers place too much emphasis on keeping families together rather than safeguarding children, prompting fears that the threshold for taking children into care will be lowered.
“We know that youngsters who are in the homes of drug-addicted parents are more likely to get involved in drugs,” he added.
Bernadette Doherty, chair of the Association of Directors of Social Work’s children and families committee, said protecting children was of paramount importance to social workers but they had to assess all the evidence when judging whether a child should be taken into care.
“You can’t take a tick box approach – there will be instances where parents and children have good attachments,” she said.
Doherty added Scotland did not have the public care placements nor the resources to remove all children of drug misusing parents.
Tom Wood, chair of the Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said the development of more robust case management systems was the best way of protecting vulnerable children.