Drugs and Alcohol Misuse

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 6th March 2003.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat 2:30 pm, 6th March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive what action it is taking to help children living with parents who misuse drugs and alcohol. (S1O-6566)

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

The Scottish Executive issued "Getting our Priorities Right: Good Practice Guidelines for working with Children and Families affected by Substance Misuse" on 26 February 2003, which makes it clear that all relevant agencies have a responsibility to protect vulnerable children.

Photo of Donald Gorrie Donald Gorrie Liberal Democrat

Will the minister and her colleagues try to ensure that all the agencies involved work together better? People who look after children, people who deal with drugs and alcohol problems and people who try to help adults and families sometimes fail to work together as well as they could. Can she improve that situation?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I hope to improve the situation. The report entitled "For Scotland's children: Better integrated children's services" identified the case of a five-year-old in a drug- misusing household who had not attended school for almost a year. That case was a result of the failure of agencies to work together. Because of such tragic circumstances, I have made it a priority to ensure that the relevant agencies join up to consider the needs of such children and young people.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

Does the minister agree that children whose parents suffer from such addictions would benefit from the provision of local detoxification, rehabilitation and throughcare facilities? Will she and her colleagues consider the development of a national strategy to provide such facilities?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

The member will be aware of a number of pieces of work to consider the provision of treatment facilities for people who require to come off drugs. We must also ensure that the needs of children and young people in those circumstances are addressed because, for too long, the focus has been only on the adult and not on the needs of the child. Children need support in dealing with parental drugs and alcohol misuse.

Photo of Elaine Thomson Elaine Thomson Labour

I have been approached by several constituents who look after their grandchildren on a temporary or permanent basis because the parents have chaotic lifestyles as a result of drug misuse. Sadly, in some cases, the parents have died. What further measures will be considered to assist those often unhappy children to settle with their grandparents?

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

A number of initiatives provide support to such families; some support the parents with chaotic lifestyles to ensure that they look after their children, and others support the grandparents. A number of representations have been made to me on the question of how local authorities might be able to provide better support through the fostering arrangements for relatives who look after children. I intend to pursue that issue.

Photo of Lyndsay McIntosh Lyndsay McIntosh Conservative

As Mr Adam pointed out, there is a dreadful shortage of facilities for such people. Does the minister agree that it is better for children to see their parents make progress? Perhaps we should make better use of the facilities in places such as Castle Craig hospital—which has 14 available places at the moment—to help parents and to allow their children to see them make progress.

Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour

I want children to see their parents make progress, but I also want to ensure that we get the services right for the children and young people involved. That must be part of the overall approach to the issue. It is simply not good enough that children have fallen through the net and—as has been pointed out—have, on occasions, died because the various agencies did not get their act together and take account of the needs of the children. That is not good enough. The message that we want to send out loud and clear to all agencies is that they have a responsibility to consider the needs of the children.