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Last Updated: Monday, 6 June, 2005, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Youth strategy criticised by MSPs
Young troublemakers are let down, the report found
A report by a committee of MSPs has expressed concern at the way the Scottish justice system deals with young offenders.

Holyrood's justice committee found that too many local councils pass responsibility on to social workers.

The MSPs want councils put under a stronger legal duty to take responsibility for young offenders.

Other council departments, like education and housing, should be more involved in addressing problems.

Funding for support services for young offenders should also be put on a stronger footing, the MSPs said.

Clearer guidance

They voiced "profound concerns" about this, saying the organisations involved need more financial certainty and stability.

"There is too much short-term, initiative-based funding, and single projects are funded from a confusing variety of sources, each with different timescales and reporting arrangements," said the committee.

The findings came in a report published on Monday following an inquiry by the committee into Scotland's youth justice system.

Our committee... was concerned to find gaps apparent in crucial services
Annabel Goldie
Committee convener

MSPs took evidence from a wide range of organisations and carried out visits across Scotland during the study.

They looked for more than a year at how offenders aged between eight to 18 were dealt with.

Their report found those involved in educating young offenders did not fully understand their role, were "struggling" to exchange information and were worried about legal restraints in sharing information.

There were also several gaps in services for young offenders, the report said.

'Strong support'

Schemes to divert youngsters away from a life of crime were "patchy and not well developed", and ministers should give clearer guidance on what should be available everywhere.

Half of young offenders had a drink or drugs problem, but there was a wide variation in the programmes available to them.

The MSPs also had "serious doubts" about the adequacy of mental health services for youngsters.

And they called for a national strategy covering residential and secure placements, to ensure that secure placements were not used inappropriately.

Tory MSP and committee convener Annabel Goldie said: "Our committee took evidence from a wide range of organisations and individuals and also undertook site visits across Scotland, and was concerned to find gaps apparent in crucial services.

"The Scottish Executive needs to address these urgently.

"However the committee was unanimous in wishing to put on record its strong support for the principles of the children's hearing system.

"It is important we acknowledge the unique value of the system."

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