We have commissioned an evaluation of the implementation and impact of community warden schemes, which is expected to report by early 2007. The research will include interviews with young people to explore the impact the schemes have had on their behaviour, as well as surveys to assess the perceptions of residents. We are also funding diversionary activities for young people through the £5 million local action fund. That is being evaluated through the provision of twice-yearly monitoring reports.
I will be interested to hear the results of the evaluation. I know that the minister is aware of the success of the community warden scheme in north-west Dumfries, in my constituency, which was recently the subject of a brief television report. Not only has the scheme made people feel more secure in their homes, it has engaged with local young people and supported them in finding alternatives to antisocial behaviour, such as midnight football. How will the Executive ensure that other areas of Dumfries and Galloway and Scotland benefit from the introduction of community warden schemes? Other communities in my constituency are keen to get a piece of the action.
Elaine Murray is right to point to the success of the community warden scheme throughout Scotland. A number of people were sceptical about the deployment of community wardens. In my area, the sceptics are now clamouring for the schemes to be extended. Community wardens are well received by communities and work well in partnership with the local police. As well as helping to identify and report potential problems, wardens engage constructively with young people.
We provided a finite amount of money for schemes and asked local authorities to identify priority areas, because it is not for the Executive to dictate to local authorities on the matter. We tried to restrict the use of schemes to certain areas, so that wardens would be seen to have an impact. However, a number of people, including Elaine Murray, have made representations to me that a degree of flexibility might enable councils to respond to particular problems as they arise. As long as the core purpose of the wardens is not undermined and key areas are serviced, I am prepared to consider a degree of flexibility to allow a response in particular areas. However, other agencies must be signed up, so that it is not just a case of wardens working in an area for a limited period.