Children of addicts to be taken into care under new proposed legislation

By Lunar Loops · May 1, 2006 ·
  1. Lunar Loops
    The following article appeared in today's Scotsman:

    More children may be taken from drug-addicted parents

    DRUG-addicted parents face having their children taken into care under tough protection rules to be unveiled by ministers later this month.
    Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, yesterday confirmed that social workers would be told to take more vulnerable youngsters into care following several recent tragic cases.

    The Scottish Executive said it would publish details of child protection reforms "within the next three weeks".
    Ms Jamieson, a former social worker, described the Hidden Harm plan as a "sea change" in policy.
    But opposition politicians last night accused ministers of a "knee-jerk" reaction to high-profile cases.
    In January, a Glasgow addict's 11-year-old daughter collapsed in class after taking heroin.
    A few weeks later it emerged that toddler Derek Alexander Doran had died after drinking the heroin substitute methadone at his home in East Lothian.
    Ms Jamieson said social workers had long assumed home was the best place for vulnerable children.
    "We will be telling them that assumption is no longer correct," she said. "We will be saying, 'Never mind the rights of parents. It's the rights of the children that matter most.'
    "If that means taking children out of chaotic households, then that is what should happen."
    It was reported yesterday that the "hardline" measures would be unveiled by Jack McConnell, the First Minister, and Ms Jamieson after they won backing from Liberal Democrat coalition colleagues.
    Mr McConnell said: "If there is chaotic drug use in a household, then social workers must do what is best for the child, not the parents."
    The Hidden Harm document will outline new rules for social workers, doctors, teachers and police about how to deal with the children of drug addicts.
    It is understood it will tell social workers they must intervene much quicker in future, to protect the welfare of any child living with drug-addicted parents.
    It will also order them to communicate better if they discover a child is living with addicts.
    The Hidden Harm plan is the "next stage" in a longer-term strategy to improve child care and drug rehabilitation.
    Tackling Scotland's chronic shortage of foster carers will be among the issues the Executive plans to address.
    Experts estimate that 60,000 children in Scotland are living with drug-addicts - almost one in 15 of all under-16s. The number of babies born to drug-addicted mothers has risen by more than 30 per cent in less than a decade and the number of children referred to the child protection register has risen 9 per cent in the past year.
    But the SNP's spokeswoman on children and young people, Fiona Hyslop, accused the Executive of being too slow to address the problem. "They have come late to this issue. Concerns about children living with drug-abusing families were flagged up by a parliamentary committee as long ago as 2001," she said.
    "The sheer volume of cases cannot be underestimated. While not all children living with drug-addicted parents are at immediate risk, there is a serious issue with the huge shortage of foster places. There are also fewer residential places than before."
    She said child protection was Scotland's "cinderella" service, with the Executive failing to provide enough money to meet the demands on local councils.
    "I think the Executive's response is more of a knee jerk than something that has been thoroughly thought through," she added.

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