5. To ask the First Minister whether the Scottish Government will make it mandatory for local authorities to adopt care and risk management practices, in light of reports that some councils are not monitoring children and young people who display harmful behaviour. (S5F-03222)
Care and risk management—CARM—is a multi-agency framework designed to assist with the early identification, assessment and management of children aged 12 to 18 who display harmful behaviours, while ensuring that their needs are met and links are made to child protection procedures.
The Scottish Government produced the framework in partnership with a wide range of expert practitioners. It is considered to be best practice and should be undertaken by local authorities. Ultimately, the decision to adopt CARM is for each local authority, but we recommend that they do so.
The Sunday Times reported last week that the Scottish Government’s policy to help social workers and police protect the public from those displaying harmful behaviour is not being followed in Argyll and Bute, where Alesha MacPhail was horrifically murdered. Apparently, 15 other councils are not monitoring children at risk of causing harm.
I asked whether the First Minister would make it mandatory to follow the policy, but I am not sure that I heard an answer. In order to be sure, I will ask again. Will the First Minister commit to mandating that councils follow the policy? In the meantime, will the First Minister name which local authorities do not follow the policy? Will she write to those councils and urge them to adopt it?
First, I take the opportunity to express my sincere condolences and, I am sure, those of everybody across the chamber, to the family of Alesha MacPhail. None of us can even begin to imagine what her family is going through. My thoughts, and, I am sure those of everybody else, are with them at what is a difficult time and what, I am sure, will continue to be a horrendously difficult time for them.
This is an important issue, so I will take a few moments to set out the position. It is important to point out that it is not quite correct to say that councils are not monitoring children and young people who are displaying harmful behaviour—in fact, that is not correct at all.
Although many councils use the specific CARM guidance, others use individual protocols to achieve the same objectives. For example, Argyll and Bute Council has confirmed that, although it does not specifically use the CARM guidance, it uses protocols that are similar to it. Those protocols apply the same approach and reflect child protection guidance.
Obviously, Argyll and Bute Council has undertaken an initial case review into that tragic incident, and it is considering whether a significant case review is required. If and when that is carried out, there may well be lessons to learn. If one of those is around the CARM guidance, we will reflect on that.
Standards for youth justice are being developed between the Scottish Government and key partners for publication in June. The standards will outline the minimum expectations for all services delivering youth justice, and will include a standard on care and risk management. As part of the work, consideration is being given to updating the CARM guidance.
There is on-going work in this area, but the key point that I urge all members to take away with them is that councils that are not using the CARM guidance will be using similar protocols. It is important that that assurance is given to the chamber and the wider public.