The kids aren't all right
SCOTTISH CHILDREN fare relatively well in education, but are near the bottom of the league when it comes to 15 to 19-year-olds finding jobs or training, according to a report ranking the well-being of children in the developed world.
The findings, which placed Scotland next to last out of 24 western countries, have prompted a leading children's charity to demand that Alex Salmond, First Minister, give priority to children's services in the next comprehensive spending review.
The report represents the first time Scotland has been given its own league table position, rather than being ranked along with the UK. It shows that children north of the border do particularly badly in terms of poverty, economic participation and teen pregnancy, and poorly in terms of suicide rates, low birth weight and dental health.
This latest report confirms the findings of a UNICEF report published in February, but that only compared the UK as a whole with 21 industrialised countries.
Written by John McLaren, economic consultant and adviser to former First Ministers Donald Dewar and Henry McLeish, the Index of Wellbeing for Children in Scotland compared Scottish children with those in other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Nicola Sturgeon, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, said she was making "early years" intervention a priority in recognition of the widening inequalities facing young people. She would be inviting ministers from other countries to come to Edinburgh in the New Year for a summit to share ideas.
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo's Scotland, said: "We need long term investment in children's futures, particularly in the development of preventative services. We need to learn the lessons from the relatively good performance in education and use that to improve outcomes for children in other areas."
The author of the report, Mr McLaren, who is an honorary research fellow in the department of urban studies at Glasgow University, said it was too early to tell if recent Scottish Executive policies had made any difference. However, he added: "It is clear that policies relating to children and young people in Scotland prior to 2000 have not served them well when we consider the overall poor performance and low index ranking of Scotland."
*overall: Scotland ranked 22nd equal with Portugal out of 24 OECD countries. The top three countries were Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands.
*child poverty: Scotland was 23 out of 28 (the UK was at 24). Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden occupied the top four positions. The worst performers, along with Scotland, were the UK, USA, New Zealand, Turkey, and Mexico;
*economic participation of young people aged 15-19: Scotland was 24 out of 28 (UK was at 21), with Finland, Slovakia, Mexico and Turkey below it. The top five had little discernible difference separating them - Denmark, Luxembourg, Poland, Norway and France;
*education: Scotland ranked 8 out of 31 countries (UK was at 11), based on PISA results, which put Finland in top place, followed by Korea, Japan and Canada;
*suicide: Scotland comes two-thirds down the list, 20th out of 30; the best performers were the Mediterranean countries - Portugal, Greece, Italy and Spain, while the worst tended to be from Northerm climes - Iceland, Finland, Norway and Canada, although New Zealand was third from bottom;
*teenage pregnancies: Scotland is fourth from the bottom, above the USA, Turkey and Mexico, and just below the UK; the best performers were a mixture of Scandinavian countries - Denmark and Sweden - along with Japan and Korea;
*low birth weight: again, Scotland and the UK are bunched near the bottom (25 and 26 out of 31 respectively); Iceland, Finland and Korea are top;
*dental health: while the UK is 3rd out of 28 countries, Scotland is much lower down the table at 19th.