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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 October 2006, 17:25 GMT 18:25 UK
Young people 'top of the agenda'
TV advert depicting youth problems
There were calls for more support for parents
The Scottish Executive and Green MSPs have clashed over government policy on young people.

Ministers had come under fire for relying too heavily on the justice system to tackle problem youths.

Deputy Children's Minister Robert Brown said children and young people were top of the executive's agenda.

Following the debate, MSPs backed a motion supporting the executive's record on children and young people by 67 votes to 29 with 24 abstentions.

A Conservative amendment calling on ministers to provide opportunities for young people and families was defeated.

During the debate, Green Party co-convener Robin Harper said local councils were best placed to decide how to respond to problems like youth disorder.

A Green Party motion also criticised the idea of "forcing" councils to use specific anti-social measures and called on the executive to develop a comprehensive strategy for supporting families and young people.

We do not just talk about young people. We talk to them, involve them, and most importantly we listen to them
Robert Brown
Deputy Children's Minister

Mr Harper said the public debate on young people was increasingly dominated by "stereotypes".

"We regard the justice-led approach to problem behaviour as the defeatist one - when all else has failed, all we can do is make an order, threaten punishment," Mr Harper told MSPs during a Green-led debate at Holyrood.

"But relationships are not easily amenable to court order, and too often we reach for this option before all else has failed."

Mr Brown said he had listened with "incredulity" to Mr Harper's depiction of executive policy.

"This government has put children and young people at the top of our agenda and this is a timely opportunity to identify what we have achieved and where the ongoing challenges lie," he said.

He highlighted improvements in education and a strategy to support young people, as well as investment on youth projects such as skate parks and youth cafes.

Robin Harper
Robin Harper said young people are often stereotyped

"This is a massive programme of action," the minister said.

"But we do not just talk about young people. We talk to them, involve them, and most importantly we listen to them."

He claimed that Mr Harper's arguments amounted to "a policy-free zone".

Conservative MSP Derek Brownlee said: "Very often it's families, individuals and voluntary groups which can make much more of a contribution to the development of all society, not just young people."

The Scottish National Party's Fiona Hyslop said there must be more focus on early intervention.

"We know from the statistics that we've produced from the Glasgow Reporters that 40% of persistent young offenders at aged 15 had first been referred at age eight for care and protection," she said.

"Why this is a sense of urgency and alarm is because we see 55,000 young people referred to the Children's Reporter this year."

Support stigma

Labour's Mary Mulligan backed calls for a national parenting and family support strategy made by Children in Scotland.

"The problem is that there's a stigma associated with looking for support," she said. "It's not the normal thing to do."

A cross-party children's group in parliament recently backed the idea that services should be available from birth.

The Scottish Socialist Party's Frances Curran said a recent report by Children's Commissioner Kathleen Marshall had identified "things to do" as the most important issue for young people.

"But there's absolutely no political will attached to that demand by 16,000 young people," she said.

She claimed the minister's speech was straight out of a "Disney movie" and bore no reality to the situation on the ground.




SEE ALSO
Warning over paedophobic society
25 Oct 06 |  Glasgow and West
Locals hailed for reducing crime
25 Oct 06 |  Scotland
Moray teenagers given Asbo bans
24 Oct 06 |  North East/N Isles
Asbo tour 'prompts 800 reports'
11 Aug 06 |  Scotland

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