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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Growing concern for homeless kids

May 05 2010
Gaps in services could leave children at risk of abuse

There are new fears over the safety of children struggling with homelessness. Following the release of recent figures, which show that 60 children a day have to move out of their homes in Scotland, concerns have been raised for children who might slip the net of state protection.

Children's Commissioner Tam Baillie has admitted that gaps in homeless services could leave children at risk of abuse, with links identified between homelessness and cases of young people being hurt by the adults who are supposed to be responsible for them.

Mr Baillie pointed to the uncertainty and insecurity caused by homelessness as being a dominant factor in examples of abuse. "One of the indicators for where children have died at the hands of their parents or carers is a high level of movement," he said.

"We know one of the greatest risk factors for children who are at the most serious risk is the frequency of movement for families.

"That brings an added imperative to look closely at what's happening within homeless families; particularly those in which we identify very high rates of movement."

Mr Baillie stressed that the numbers of abuse cases were small and that homeless families must be regarded as "victims of circumstances", but he pointed to research by Edinburgh University child protection researcher Dr Sharon Vincent as evidence of the connection.

"Housing problems may be one of a number of significant stress factors for families," Dr Vincent confirmed. "Families moving frequently and agencies not being able to contact them may be an indicator that something is wrong and it is important that agencies are able to maintain contact with families when they move and ensure that disruptions to service provision following moves is minimised," she added.

The Scottish Government is now working on new guidelines for tackling childhood homelessness, with a report due to be released later this year.