More than 150 children are being referred each day to the Scottish Children’s Reporter, which hears child protection and youth justice cases, according to the body’s annual report.
A record total of 56,199 children were referred during 2006-7 on care and protection grounds including cases where children were alleged to be victims of cruelty, sexual offences, domestic abuse and neglect.
But the number of children referred to the reporter for allegedly committing offences fell by 7% from 2005-6 to 16,490 in 2006-7.
The annual report from the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration said that almost a quarter of all children referred on care and protection grounds in 2006-7 were under four years old – a 12% increase on the previous year.
Douglas Bulloch, chair of the SCRA, said the figures concerning, adding: “They clearly indicate that the needs of children and their families have to be addressed much earlier.”
There has also been a rise in the number of children looked after by local authorities in Scotland, according to seperate Scottish Executive figures.
There were 14,060 children in the case of local authorities at 31 March this year, an 8% increase since 2006 and an increase of a quarter since 1999, the executive’s Children Looked After Statistics 2006-7 showed.
Scotland’s Children and Early Years Minister Adam Ingram said too many looked-after children were being “let down by the system” and called for improvement.