Fewer Borders youngsters in trouble

JUVENILE offences in the Borders have been steadily reducing over the past five years and the number of persistent offenders has declined significantly.

In the first report from the new Integrated Children’s Service (ICS) it shows that in 2009/10 the number of juvenile offenders reported was 575, down from 596 the previous year and down from 894 in 2005. Figures for April to September 2010 show 225 offences recorded, and councillors at last week’s Scottish Borders Council meeting were told that they suggest “the downward trend continues”.

Young people leaving care are often amongst the most vulnerable in society and the ICS’s 16+ team has had significant success in helping them into positive destinations, with a success rate of 71 per cent of young people under 19 in employment, training or education. They have also seen a reduction in homelessness amongst young people leaving care - down from 35 per cent in 2008-2009 to 10 per cent in 2009-2010.

The Children’s Reporter has also noticed an improvement in the number of referrals over the last six months. Non-attendance at school referrals fell from 24 to nine in the first six months of the ICS coming into being.

Even the number of children being excluded from school has gone down over the past year. In Berwickshire there were 70 pupils excluded (18 primary school pupils and 52 secondary) down from 103 the previous year and 145 in 2007-08.

What is not going down though is the number of children being referred to social work services. They are currently at their highest since February 2005 and there has been a 50 per cent increase for the period April to September 2010.

Scottish Borders Council is also seeing a signficant rise in the number of children and young people needing to be looked after away from home.

At September 2010 the number of children looked after away from home rose to 231 and placing them in foster care is the preferred option. However, there is a shortage of fosters carers in the Borders and all foster placements are at capacity, as is the five bed residential facility, which means that children are having to be cared for outside the region which is a significant cost to SBC,