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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 February 2006, 12:57 GMT
McConnell call over heroin girl
First Minister Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell said the carers should face an investigation
Scotland's first minister has called for the carers involved in the case of an 11-year-old girl who collapsed after taking heroin to be "held accountable".

The girl slumped at her desk during lessons at a school in Glasgow last month.

Jack McConnell said different agencies had let the pupil down badly and he called for an investigation.

Glasgow city councillor Gaille McCann said it was unfair of Mr McConnell to try and apportion blame in the case.

The girl was under the care of the city council's social work and education department at the time of the incident at a school in the east end of the city.

She has since been taken into care and received treatment for the overdose.

Different agencies have let this girl down and people should be held accountable for this
Jack McConnell
First Minister

Following the girl's case, Mr McConnell revealed plans for a review of how social services deal with the problem of children living with drug addicts.

Speaking in the Holyrood magazine, he said: "I think that different agencies have let this girl down and let her down badly. People should be held accountable for this, absolutely.

"I don't think you need a public inquiry to determine that because I think it will be blatantly obvious that that has been the case and the management and services responsible for that should, in my view, be investigated right now."

Referring in general terms to examples of poor care, he added: "I am stunned at the level of incompetence and potential lack of caring that some of the professional adults involved have displayed."

'Unfair blame'

The first minister said more children of drug addicts needed to be placed on the child protection register.

"I am determined to take a lead on this and put my neck on the line," he said.

"For every year that different services don't talk to each other and don't make progress, that is another year that kids are not getting the service that they need and every year that kids lose is a year that they can't afford to lose."

However, Cllr McCann accused Mr McConnell of a knee-jerk reaction over the case of the girl.

She said: "I think it's unfortunate that we're still at the stage of trying to apportion blame for this case.

"It's unhelpful and unfair for Jack McConnell to blame the social work department. We should move on and find an answer and not a rushed one that might be to the detriment of children."

Drugs graphic
The girl slumped at her desk after taking heroin

Cllr McCann said social work services in Glasgow were under-resourced and many staff had left to work for other local authorities offering more attractive pay.

"Jack McConnell was saying we need to take all the children taking drugs into care, well that's impossible - we simply don't have the resources for that," she added.

The Scottish National Party accused the first minister of slashing funding for drug education services.

SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon said the public had been "horrified" by the girl's case, adding that it was not an isolated incident.

Ms Sturgeon said council carers were working under increasing pressure and that the buck stopped with Mr McConnell.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Jack McConnell believes the girl was let down



SEE ALSO:
Heroin girl sparks review of care
02 Feb 06 |  Scotland
Heroin girl remains in hospital
30 Jan 06 |  Scotland
Girl, 11, treated for heroin use
29 Jan 06 |  Scotland


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