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Police make most pupil referrals

Schools and education authorities must take more responsibility for referring vulnerable pupils to the children's reporter, says the chairman of the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration.

There has been progress in making the children's hearings system work better for those most needing care and protection, but education and health sectors have been told to do better.

For years, SCRA voiced concern about a rising tide of referrals for relatively petty incidents, which allowed reporters less time to deal with the most serious cases. Police were believed to be prone to this tendency, but SCRA's 2008-09 annual report shows they have reduced referrals by 7.5 per cent this year, having got better at dealing with less serious incidents without the reporter's involvement.

SCRA chairman Douglas Bulloch, however, pinpoints "continuing issues in referrals being made by agencies other than the police".

There had been an expectation that "early identification and collaborative agency approaches would lead to more children being referred earlier by mainstream agencies, particularly the universal services of health and education".

Yet referrals from education fell 11 per cent this year to 3,257 - only 3.9 per cent of all referrals - against 88 per cent from the police.

It was "surprising" that police referrals remained such a high proportion (83.3 per cent) of care and protection cases, while education and other "mainstream agencies" made relatively few.

"Much remains to be done within mainstream settings in the early identification of children in need of compulsory measures," he said.

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