Raft of bills proposed in shake-up to adult protection and hearing system

    The Scottish executive has been urged to put the rights and
    views of vulnerable children and adults at the heart of its
    legislative programme for the next two years.

    First minister Jack McConnell told the Scottish parliament this
    week that the executive would introduce laws to protect vulnerable
    adults and reform the country’s children’s hearings system,
    proposals for which are under consultation.

    Ruth Stark, professional officer for the British Association of
    Social Workers in Scotland, said the executive must not ignore the
    views that young people had aired during the consultation.

    She said respondents wanted the executive to build on the
    child-centred principles of the system, which was introduced more
    than 30 years ago, rather than introduce wholesale changes.

    Eric Jackson, social work spokesperson for the Convention of
    Scottish Local Authorities, also welcomed McConnell’s proposals but
    said the executive must address the financial implications of
    legislation on the hearings system.

    McConnell pledged to reduce paperwork and streamline activity in
    children’s hearings. “We will require that agencies work together
    and parents face up to their responsibilities. By challenging
    offending behaviour and addressing the needs of each young person
    we help them to help themselves.”

    He also promised to “meet persistence with persistence” when
    tackling prolific young offenders.

    Stark said that the proposed law to protect vulnerable adults
    from abuse “should not disempower people” and urged flexibility
    over who should be protected by the legislation.

    For instance, she said the long-term effects of drug misuse on
    people’s mental capacity were unknown, raising problems over
    excluding substance misusers.

    McConnell also outlined plans to create a Scottish Human Rights
    Commission, introduce mandatory drug-testing for people arrested
    for drug-related crimes, and bring in measures to make it more
    difficult for sex offenders to get bail.

    The executive is shortly due to publish a report by Professor
    George Irving, of Glasgow Caledonian University, on the
    registration scheme for sex offenders. McConnell said this would
    outline the steps it would take to “manage sex offenders more
    effectively in the community”.

    The murder last month of schoolboy Rory Blackhall in Livingston
    has intensified the debate over the scrutiny of sex offenders in
    the community.

    A man found dead by police investigating the 11-year-old’s
    killing was facing sex offence charges but was granted bail in
    February when he appeared in court.

    McConnell also said that a tough new inspection system for child
    protection services would be introduced so that “no vulnerable
    child slips through the net”.

    BOXTEXT: forthcoming Bills
    <25CF> Adoption Bill
    <25CF>ÊChildren’s Hearings and Integrated Services
    <25CF>ÊSummary Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill
    <25CF> Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice (Scotland)
    <25CF> Health Promotion, Nutrition and Schools (Scotland)
    <25CF> Scottish Human Rights Commission Bill
    <25CF> Vulnerable Adults Bill

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