Labour: seize children of addicts
THE children of drug addict parents who shoot up at home should be considered for immediate removal into care, the Scottish Labour leader has declared.
Iain Gray says it is "unacceptable" for the State to sit back and allow parents to neglect their children without examining whether foster care, adoption or a care home would be better for them.
His intervention comes with an independent inquiry report into the death of 23-month-old Brandon Muir, to be published this week, expected to place fresh scrutiny on the protection being afforded children in broken and chaotic families across Scotland.
Brandon was allowed to stay with his mother and her boyfriend, Robert Cunningham, despite concerns being raised with social workers about his behaviour.
Brandon died in March last year of a ruptured intestine, hours after being assaulted by Cunningham.
Gray said that the Brandon Muir case – and the death of three-year-old Peter Connolly in London – had shone a light on the issue, but that the authorities now needed to consider a total overhaul of policy so that such children were removed from families before they fell into harm's way.
"I'm not saying that every child in a family of drug users should be removed. That would be foolish. But if a child is living in circumstances where they are fending for themselves to survive, and people around them are having sex and taking drugs in front of them, I think that is not an acceptable way for the child to be living.
"At the heart of the existing system is an orthodoxy and a presumption for social workers that it is better for the children to be with their birth mother and their birth family. That is wrong."
Gray's call for reform was backed by Barnardo's Scotland last night which said that social work departments had got the balance wrong.
Barnardo's Scotland director Martin Crewe said: "We would all agree that the best interests of children are served in a stable and loving environment. But if there is little hope of them receiving this from their birth family and if support measures have failed, we have to consider the option of removing the child."
However, family rights campaigners last night warned that removing a child from a family should only happen in cases where it was necessary "to safeguard a child from significant harm".
Family Education Trust director Norman Wells said: "A culture of suspicion that regards all parents as potential abusers until proven innocent is not a healthy climate in which to bring up children."
The Justice4Brandon group, formed in the wake of the child's death, wants social work departments to set up "safe zones" for children who may be in danger. .
A Scottish Government spokesman insisted last night that the current system was functioning well.
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