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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