Four children a week into care

By Andrew Picken
June 26, 2009 / newsscotsman.com
FOUR children a week are being taken into care by council officials, new figures have revealed.
The youngsters are being taken into care because parents have approached the local authority for help, or where the parents have been persuaded to give consent as an alternative to the council taking out a formal court order to take control of vulnerable children.
The total number of children taken into care rose from 195 in 2007 to 202 in 2008, though around a third of those taken into council care each year are for short-term respite, rather than permanent placement.

Drug and alcohol abuse by parents are understood to be recurring themes in the care cases being reported in the city, while officials have had an emphasis on earlier intervention in cases of at-risk children since the death of 11-week-old Caleb Ness in 2001.

Earlier this year the Evening News revealed that eight youngsters a day are being reported to the Children's Reporter over fears they are being neglected by their parents.

Opposition politicians today described the figures as concerning, but city leaders insisted that taking children into care was always the last resort.

The Conservative's education spokesman Jeremy Balfour said: "The slight increase in the figures is of concern but the social workers who are dealing with these cases face an incredibly difficult task.

"We have recently seen nationally a number of cases where intervention came too late, so a balance has to be struck.

"But I am confident that we are not in a situation where our social workers are too quick to take children into care.

"They are carefully weighing up all the factors before an informed decision is taken."

Figures released in March show a total of 2917 referrals were made to the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration in one year over allegations that Edinburgh children "suffer unnecessarily" or their health is "seriously impaired" due to their parent's behaviour.

Another 390 youngsters in the city were referred during the same period after they were allegedly victims of physical or sexual abuse.

The city's children and families leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren said: "Taking children into care is always a last resort but when it is done, we do it for the right reasons.

"We always look at alternatives, including placement with people already known to the children such as relatives or friends.

"The council's social work staff use their expertise to ensure that young people are properly cared for – it's not a task that should be underestimated.

"For most, the responsibility would be too much, but social workers get it right on the vast majority of occasions to the benefit of vulnerable young people in Edinburgh."

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