Social workers in Scotland are taking an “unacceptably long” time to submit reports to the children’s reporter, a report yesterday on youth offending services by the country’s value-for-money regulator has found.
The Audit Scotland study found less than half of social work reports were submitted within 20 days to reporters, who decide whether young people should be referred to a children’s hearing on offending or welfare grounds. This compared to a target of 75% being submitted within 20 days, with reports taking an average of 38 days to be submitted.
More than 550 extra social workers had been recruited in children’s services generally from 2000-06, but there have been challenges in supporting them, it found. The report said there has been only limited progress in improving assessment and case management within children and families social work services, with 21% of assessments deemed inadequate and 8% unsatisfactory or weak. It also found two-thirds of cases had not been scrutinised by a line manager.
Audit Scotland also said that the introduction of antisocial behaviour orders for 12 to 15-year-olds in 2004 had created tensions over how to deal with young offenders. within councils. Most authorities had found it difficult to overcome the differences between the child-centred focus of the children’s hearings system and the community-focused function of antisocial behaviour legislation.
Alastair MacNish, chair of the Accounts Commission, on whose behalf Audit Scotland inspects, said: “Local authorities have a key role in youth justice but they have to balance a child-centred approach with looking after their community’s concerns about offending by young people.”
The report concluded that despite a rise in funding and a stronger focus on youth justice services it was impossible to gauge whether resources are being used effectively.
Dealing with Young People’s Offending
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