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Date: 23 August 2007

Youth offending report raises key questions - UNISON

UNISON, Scotland's social care union, today (Thursday) said that today's Audit Scotland report into youth offending raised a number of questions on how this important job should be carried out and monitored.

The union, which represents social work staff working with young people, criminal justice social workers, and staff in the Children's Reporter' s Administration, said that UNISON had been flagging up some of the points made by Audit Scotland (AS) for some time.

Particularly the questions about the tensions between ASBO's and child-centred approaches, and the need for early intervention. The union also pointed to the difficulty in monitoring this function.

Stephen Smellie, Chair of UNISONScotland's Social Work Issues Group said: "We welcome the questions raised by Audit Scotland about the tension between the focus on the child, rightly adopted by the Childrens' Panel, and the 'Bash the ned' focus from some politicians and media. Particularly as social workers on the ground are not the determiners of the approach, they are often pulled in opposing ways."

"We are pleased that AS have come down firmly in favour of early intervention, something that UNISON has advocated for some time. However, for this to be successful we need to continue to address resources and staffing levels. Despite increase, children and families work is still carrying an unacceptable level of vacancies."

UNISON says that what is required is long term funding that resources the required early intervention, rather than short-term funding initiatives, and pressure to 'firefight' the problems. Treating the symptoms rather than the disease.

The union also pointed to the difficulty of properly monitoring services like youth offending, arguing that a range of criteria must be measured - not simply crime statistics and/or costs.

"The problem with simple statistics is that they don't tell the whole story." Said Stephen Smellie, "For example, we could dramatically reduce youth offending by not letting young people out of their houses or schools, but no-one would seriously advocate that as a successful way of dealing with the problem. We need also to look at what is happening to our young people, and what options are available to them."


For Further Information Please Contact: Stephen Smellie (Chair Social Work Issues Group) 07740 096 864 (m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer) 0845 355 0845(w) 0771 558 3729(m)






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