Drug tests call for parents in Scotland

Parents of children at risk of significant harm should have to take drug tests to inform care decisions, Scotland’s social work directors have proposed.

Bernadette Docherty, chair of the Association of Directors of Social Work’s children and family care committee, said stringent measures were needed to help authorities decide whether to take children into or remove them from care.

She said: “Our suggestion is to use drug testing to allow the parent to demonstrate they are free [of drugs], or allow social workers to demonstrate that parents are not drug-free, despite their protestations.”

The Scottish executive has placed a high priority on safeguarding the children of drug misusers after high-profile cases, including one in Edinburgh where a toddler survived for up to six weeks after the death of his mother from an overdose.

Docherty said Scotland’s children’s hearings, which decide on the supervision requirements for at-risk children, could be given the power to request parents take a drug test.

“You would still need the parent’s consent,” she added. “But refusal almost becomes evidence in itself.”

Ruth Stark, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers Scotland, said children’s hearings already took account of drug test evidence when deciding on the care of children. But Docherty said this did not happen routinely.

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