Chris Marshall: Vulnerable Scots teens need help

Scottish teens with behavioural difficulties need help. Picture: TSPL

Scottish teens with behavioural difficulties need help. Picture: TSPL

Share this article
0
Have your say

TEENS with behavioural difficulties should be helped in Scotland, writes Chris Marshall

IT’S rare that a newspaper journalist receives much in the way of unsolicited communication in response to an article. Yes, we sometimes experience the wrath of those lurking on Twitter waiting to be offended, and I’ve received the odd phone call from readers desperate to point out a perceived inaccuracy or a misplaced comma in my copy.

CONNECT WITH THE SCOTSMAN

Subscribe to our daily newsletter (requires registration) and get the latest news, sport and business headlines delivered to your inbox every morning

• You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google +

But the response I received to an article which appeared last week on a shortage of places in secure accommodation for vulnerable young people was different.

Vulnerable Scottish children ‘will go to England’

In the piece, we revealed that teenagers with behavioural difficulties – who are a danger to themselves and others – risk being separated from their families and moved to facilities in England due to a lack of places in Scotland. On a number of occasions during the past week I have checked the website of the Secure Accommodation Network Scotland, which keeps an up-to-date tally of the number of places available in Scotland’s five secure units – the figure has fluctuated between one and zero.

Since the article was published, I have been contacted by members of the public and a number of charities.

The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition, representing charities working with young people, said the situation was “nothing short of a national disgrace”. In a letter signed by the heads of five children’s charities, it said: “We too are very concerned by this practice and it is nothing short of a national disgrace that young people in Scotland are being sent into secure accommodation, often far outwith their local area, or will potentially be sent to secure units in England due to a lack of capacity in the system.”

Others have reiterated the importance of young people remaining close to their families, even if they are to enter secure accommodation for a short time.

There are around 90 beds in secure accommodation in Scotland, although Edinburgh city council plans to reduce its provision from 12 to six. The typical stay can last for a number of months.

The Scottish Government says it is “monitoring capacity issues”, but given the response to our story, it’s clear the situation is already approaching crisis point. Should even one child be sent hundreds of miles away to a secure unit in England, then the system could accurately be described as failing.

Edinburgh city council has noted that a “disproportionate” number of those in its secure unit are girls under the age of 15.

Given the growing concerns over child sexual exploitation in the wake of the Rotherham scandal, it’s more important than ever for local authorities not to fail these young people.

SCOTSMAN TABLET AND IPHONE APPS

• Download your free 30-day trial for our iPad, Android and Kindle apps

Keep up to date with all aspects of Scottish life with The Scotsman iPhone app, completely free to download and use

Back to the top of the page