CHILDREN across Scotland are struggling to cope with problems of marriage breakdown, unemployment and domestic abuse, it has been warned.
A survey by the charity Action For Children found family problems are having a “catastrophic” effect on the emotional health of many young people, with nearly 60 per cent of frontline staff seeing an increase in the level of support needed.
The charity said many children are being “crushed” by family problems which are out of their control.
It cited issues such as illness, family breakdown, domestic abuse and parents losing their jobs.
The charity questioned its support staff for the report The Red Book 2013: Children Under Pressure. It found that 59 per cent of respondents were seeing children who needed more support with family issues at a time when services are being cut.
One in five reported seeing children who were using drugs or alcohol.
The report said staff had seen a deterioration in the mental health of children, with many being exposed to parental mental illness, parental substance abuse or unemployment problems.
Carol Iddon, director of children’s services at Action For Children Scotland, said: “Children are bearing the brunt of problems within families and this is having a catastrophic effect on their emotional health and wellbeing.
“They have to cope with problems at home that even the adults in the family are struggling to deal with, and this is crushing them.
“What’s even more worrying is that as children’s problems are deepening, the budget for vital early help they desperately need is disappearing.
“If we can’t help a child as soon as difficulties emerge, we run the risk of issues escalating out of control. This is why we urge policymakers to prioritise early intervention by investing in and incentivising long-term financial planning.”
Action For Children has now launched a Christmas appeal to raise funds for tackling what it calls the “emergency” situation facing many young people.
Its findings back up research done by Shelter Scotland, which has warned that almost 5,000 children in Scotland will be homeless this Christmas.
The charity said the figure will be more than 80,000 across the UK, as the number of families in emergency housing is at a ten-year high.
It said data from its helpline and advice services showed that the main causes of homelessness include relationship breakdowns and job losses leading to eviction or home repossession.
Aileen Campbell, Minister for Children and Young People, said: “We are working to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up, and that includes improving the support available to Scottish families.
“Early intervention is key and underpins our aims for the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill.
“We are investing heavily in more than 140 organisations who are improving the lives of Scotland’s children, young people, their families and communities.”