Adults 'too afraid' of youth work
BBC UK, 2007/10/16
Adults are often too scared to work with young people for fear of being branded a paedophile, according to a new report.
A survey by Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People revealed that the fear of being accused of harming young people was the main deterrent.
Kathleen Marshall's study found a shortage of adults prepared to take work roles and volunteering posts.
More than 1,100 people took part in the detailed survey.
Some 48% of adults surveyed said fear of being falsely accused of causing harm was a barrier to contact with children and young people.
This same fear also made adults much less likely to help when they saw a young person in danger or distress.
The report also revealed that adults who work with young people in structured environments tend to have positive attitudes towards them, and enjoy seeing children and young people develop through their involvement. However, people reported much more negative attitudes to meeting young people in informal groups, especially in large groups on the street.
According to the report, fear was largely fuelled by media reporting rather than people's personal knowledge of young people.
Other concerns included fear of young people themselves, and concerns about bureaucracy and the culture of litigation.
Women are almost twice as likely to have formal contact with children and young people, either as a volunteer or through work, the survey showed.
Men in particular reported being afraid of being falsely accused of being a paedophile which they described as "the worst thing imaginable".
Men are also disproportionately less likely to approach a lost child and try to help.
George Thomson, chief executive of Volunteer Development Scotland, said that potential volunteers needed greater support.
John Loughton, chair of Scottish Youth Parliament, said that both adults and young people should feel safe, without "wrapping either of them in cotton wool".
He said a new system would be in place in 2009.