HUGE RISE IN TROUBLED KIDS' CASES; Growing number out of control.
THE number of youngsters referred to the Children's Reporter has more than doubled in the last 10 years, figures showed yesterday.
And more kids go before Children's Hearings for lack of parental control than for committing offences.
Last year, a total of 53,883 children were referred. It was the highest annual figure ever and represents about six per cent of all Scots kids.
Ten years ago, the figure was just 26,682.
But the most worrying trend was the increase in referrals for lack of parental control - 17,801 kids compared with 17,624 who had allegedly committed offences.
The numbers of pre-school children referred on care and protection grounds has also soared.
In 1996-97, there were 2995 - 11 per cent of cases. Last year's figure was 11,975 youngsters - 22 per cent of all referrals.
Scottish Children's Reporters Administration (SCRA) chairman Douglas Bulloch said yesterday: "These figures need to concern us all.
"While they demonstrate there is greater awareness of children's needs in relation to parental drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence, it suggests it has yet to convert into appropriate early intervention and support.
"The needs of children and their families and communities must be addressed much earlier and ideally without a need to make a referral to the Children's Reporter."
The number of kids referred as victims of offences has more than trebled in the last decade to 17,331 - the vast majority are the victims in cruelty cases.
The figures in the SCRA annual report also show a rise in the number of persistent young offenders.
The SCRA admit that instead of meeting the Executive target of cutting the number by 10 per cent, they have seen it rise by the same amount.
A hard core of 1388 were responsible for 32.5 per cent of all offences committed by young people in Scotland.
SNP Holyrood leader Nicola Sturgeon attacked Jack McConnell over the failure to cut the numbers of persistent offenders.
The First Minister said the figures reflected the growing number being identified as troublemakers and dealt with rather than being ignored.
Sturgeon replied: "So, in the First Minister's language, a broken pledge actually means they are doing better. What a load of utter rubbish."