The number of children placed under compulsory care in Scotland has risen to record levels, figures published today show.
Last year 13,219 children were given supervision requirements, which include supervision at home or secure accommodation, compared with 12,644 in 2006-7, according to the annual report of the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration.
The number of children’s hearings, where decisions are made about children’s care, also rose from 41,891 in 2006-7 to 42,302 in 2007-8, the highest since the system began, the SCRA said
This was despite the first fall in referrals in seven years to the Children’s Reporter, the first point of contact for children who may have been abused or neglected, or have committed an offence.
Lack of parental care
The SCRA’s report showed a 10% reduction in referrals, the first drop since 2000-1, from 56,199 children in 2006-7 to 50,314 in 2007-8.
Most children were referred for their own care and protection; the second most common reason was lack of parental care.
Douglas Bulloch, SCRA’s chair, was “concerned” that an increasing proportion of Scotland’s children were being put under compulsory care.
“This is an area which requires further research to explore the roots of such difficulties and to identify the most effective measures to help children earlier in life. Ideally, this is before a need arises to make a referral to the reporter,” he said.
Bulloch added that the decrease in referrals to the reporter was due to the “hard work” of partner agencies to prevent children being inappropriately referred by screening them first.
Ensure good practice
But he warned that the decline was not even across Scotland. In some areas as many as one in 10 children were being referred.
Bulloch said: “We need to continue to work with partner agencies to ensure good practice is implemented across Scotland to enable the most vulnerable children get the help they need when they need it.”
Netta Maciver, SCRA’s principal reporter and chief executive, said she hoped forthcoming changes to the system would improve the life chances of children.
Scottish minister for children and early years Adam Ingram said: “Improving the life chances of Scotland’s young people is a key priority for this government so it’s encouraging that the number referred to children’s hearings on offence grounds has dropped to a five-year low.”