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Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 14:37 GMT
Services 'failing' vulnerable children
Child models
The report says some children are 'invisible'
Social services in Scotland are failing to protect some vulnerable children from violence, sex abuse and neglect according to an official government report.

The findings came in a report by a team, which was commissioned by the Scottish Executive, to probe the delivery of children's' services north of the border.

The group's report lists serious deficiencies and said that some vulnerable young people are "effectively invisible" to care agencies.

Ministers have now pledged to implement many of the report's recommendations and announced immediate action to ensure that "no child falls through gaps of service providers".

The report was compiled by an action team from the local government, health and voluntary sectors which has met for most of the past year.

Its key findings were that:

  • services and assessment of need can be poorly co-ordinated and often exclude vulnerable children;

  • some children are effectively 'invisible' to services;

  • there continues to be problems in sharing information; and

  • providers do not use their knowledge on the ground to act soon enough or predict the need for interventions.

The report also said that the Scottish Executive's policy towards social services was "perceived to be insufficiently integrated".

And funding was often directed into "marginal project development rather than improving mainstream services".

As the findings of the report were made public, Education Minister Jack McConnell said: "We need to do better in the delivery of children's services to ensure the most vulnerable children get the best start in life.

'Sustainable solutions'

"Every child in Scotland, regardless of their background, should be able to achieve their potential.

"We need to close the gap between those children who succeed in life and those who fall behind.

"That means providing a positive start in the very early years and ensuring that universal services really do reach out to all of our children - especially the most vulnerable and deprived."

Mr McConnell said "a number of immediate steps" would be taken to improve the delivery of services."

Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell: "Need to do better"
Mr McConnell said a ministerial task force would be set up to take the lead in integrating services.

He said: "This will ensure a top-level, cross-cutting response to the findings and recommendations in the report.

"We are today publishing guidance which makes clear that the Changing Children's Services Fund should be used to deliver better outcomes for vulnerable and deprived children by supporting sustainable solutions."

The minister said that this would mean improving the effectiveness and integration of mainstream services delivery.

He added: "We are also issuing guidance on taking a more integrated approach to planning children's services.

"It proposes key outcomes and aims that we want to see for all children and provides advice on tackling an integrated planning process."

'Independent voice'

The action team's report was welcomed by leading children's charities north of the Border.

Kay Tisdall from Children in Scotland said the report should be followed by the appointment of an independent children's commissioner.

She said: "We don't yet have this independent voice for children that has statutory powers and statutory responsibilities.

Kay Tisdall
Kay Tisdall: "Statutory powers"
"A children's commissioner, as has been shown in other countries, can make such a difference in terms of always raising - are we being child centred, are we being child friendly?"

The Scottish National Party commended the action team for highlighting "the current, unacceptable situation of too many of Scotland's children".

The party's spokeswoman on children's issues, Irene McGugan, said that "integrated services" were needed to "help to deliver better services to vulnerable children and their families".

"It should not be forgotten that there has been a move towards joint working for some time - the challenge for the Scottish Executive, is for the policies to be implemented - in full and uniformly across the country," she said.

"This will require adequate resources in order to be workable and effective.

"This includes staff. If the current difficulties of recruitment and retention in the social work profession are not addressed, then cases will continue to be unallocated, and services - integrated or otherwise - will still not get to the children most in need."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Isabel Fraser
"Before an expert audience, the report made grim reading"
See also:

16 Feb 00 | Scotland
My life in Scotland's care
22 Feb 00 | Scotland
New approach to care system
02 Mar 01 | Scotland
Committee critical of care bill
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