Saturday, July 15, 2006

'Mixed' report card for children

About 10% of young people in Scotland suffer from mental health problems, a children's charity has warned.

Launching its factfile for 2006-07, NCH Scotland said one in three girls aged between 11 and 15 had been involved in at least one fight in the past year.

The charity's report card said 240,000 children were living in poverty, down 100,000 on the previous year.

NCH Scotland's Andrew Girvan said the findings illustrated a gap between youngsters from different backgrounds.

The factfile suggested that fewer children were smoking but highlighted more cases of obesity and an increase in underage drinking.

More school leavers were going to university or college but exclusions from school increased by 8%.

Only France and Slovakia have higher rates of youth unemployment, according to the charity's findings.

Rising alcohol and drug misuse were blamed for an upsurge of violence among young women.

The charity's research showed that 1,122 youngsters under the age of 18 were admitted to hospital because of alcohol abuse and 509 received treatment, counselling or support for alcohol dependence.

'Poverty of opportunity'

The factfile said 125,000 young people in Scotland had mental problems which affected their daily lives.
The charity said a record increase in the number of referrals to the children's hearings system illustrated the fact that enough was not being done to offer early support to vulnerable individuals and families.

Mr Girvan said the findings demonstrated a gap between young Scots from different backgrounds.

"There is a Scotland of opportunity based on educational attainment that is providing a bright future for many of our young people," he said.

"But there is also another Scotland where social difficulties have created a poverty of opportunity that is robbing individuals and communities of any sense of optimism.

Positive progress

"Our report clearly shows that Scotland faces a formidable challenge in meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children in our society.

"However, we are encouraged by the commitment being shown by the Scottish Executive in driving forward improvements in services which are having a positive impact. The role of factfile is to focus attention on these issues."

The executive welcomed NCH Scotland's report and said it was good to see positive progress on a range of issues.
A spokesperson said the executive was not complacent and was addressing the areas of concern raised in the report.

Scottish National Party social justice spokeswoman Christine Grahame described the opportunity gap highlighted by the report as "a disgrace".

She said: "It shows that many children are being robbed of the chance to develop and to contribute to our society because Liberal and Labour ministers have failed to work hard enough to end the economic and social divide in Scotland.

"In an energy-rich country like Scotland it is a disgrace that such a gap exists at all and that child poverty remains so prevalent."

Source: BBC

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