Number of children highlighted as cause for concern drops to record low
The number of youngsters referred to the children’s reporter is at its lowest level since records began, new figures have revealed.
Nearly 16,000 children and young people in Scotland were referred to the reporter last year, according to a report published by the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA).
It means the number of referrals, which has dropped for an eighth consecutive year, is now at its lowest level since recording of figures began in 1972.
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However, the number of children’s hearings held in Scotland rose for the first time in five years, up 1.9 per cent on 2013-14 to 36,904.
Children can be referred to the reporter either because of concerns about their safety or wellbeing or because they are alleged to have committed an offence.
The number of children referred to the reporter has fallen dramatically in the past decade.
More than 56,000 children were referred in 2006-07 as overall referrals – a child or young person can be referred more than once - topped 100,000.
Of the 15,858 children and young people referred to the reporter last year, a total of 14,141 were referred on non-offence grounds.
A lack of parental care accounted for just over 6,000 referrals, while 2,742 children and young people were referred as a result of their proximity to a person who has carried out domestic abuse.
Of all children and young people referred in 2014-15, 13.3 per cent were younger than two years old.
There were 2,891 children between the ages of eight and 17 referred to the reporter in 2014-15 on offence grounds, the most common types of alleged offences being threatening or abusive behaviour, assault and vandalism.
Just over two in five (42.5 per cent) of all children referred on offence grounds were alleged to have committed one offence, while almost one in ten (9.2 per cent) were referred for ten or more offences.
The number of youngsters subject to compulsory supervision orders dropped for a fifth straight year to 10,733, though child protection orders – granted in high-risk emergency situations – rose slightly.
A spokeswoman for SCRA said: “The number of referrals reached 100,000 in 2006-07, but many of the referrals were not appropriate i.e. the children and young people did not require compulsory measures of supervision.
“Since then partner agencies have been working together to implement new measures, such as pre-referral screening processes, early and effective intervention etc.”
As far as performance of the hearings system is concerned, a national target to make decisions about referrals within ten weeks is now being exceeded.
However, a commitment to schedule 90 per cent of hearings within four weeks of the reporter’s decision continues to be missed, with over 1,600 referrals falling outwith this timescale.