Parents in Scotland who misuse substances may be put off seeking support because of politicians calling for them to have their children removed, the conference heard.
Dave Liddell, director of Scottish Drugs Forum, said a “hysterical climate” created by media reports and the remarks of politicians including first minister Jack McConnell meant that “needy parents would be even less likely to come forward”.
Earlier this year, McConnell called for a review of protection procedures for children whose parents misused drugs, prompting concerns that more young people could be taken into care .
He said that officials had told him that social workers placed too much emphasis on keeping families together rather than safeguarding children.
And Labour MSP Duncan McNeil has called for drug misusers to be banned from having children, and for contraceptives to be put into methadone.
Liddell told the session on children living with parental substance misuse that the comments made by politicians soon filtered down to service users and he knew of women on methadone who were fearful of McNeil’s views.
He added that he believed parents who were addicted to drugs were treated more harshly than those addicted to alcohol.
Speaking at the same session, Romy Langeland (pictured), chief executive of Scottish children’s charity Aberlour Child Care Trust, agreed that politicians’ and the media’s view of the issue was “unhelpful”. Liddell said that the resources required to take large numbers of children into care were not available. Therefore, improving support for families had to be the main focus.
Elsewhere, Scottish director of British Association for Adoption and Fostering Barbara Hudson said society was over optimistic about the impact the care system could have on vulnerable people’s lives.
She added: “It’s tempting but it’s short-term. We can’t keep taking children away from people and screwing them up in the system and looking to other families to sort it out.”