ASYLUM seekers fail to ask for help from Scotland's child protection system because they fear their youngsters will be taken away from them because they are poor, experts warned.

There are long-standing concerns that some migrant and ethnic minority families do not report concerns about children thanks to taboos over issues like sex abuse or ignorance over how Scotland's safety net works.

However, a new report warns trust in the system has been eroded by widely circulated stories that destitute asylum seekers were being told their children would be taken in to care if they could not afford to look after them.

New research by the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration (SCRA), which is responsible for deciding whether to refer troubling or troubled youngsters to panels, has found that such parents' concerns were justified.

The SCRA was looking in to how ethnic minorities and migrants see Scotland's unique children's hearing system, which deals with both youngsters who offend and those who are in need.

Its paper, published this week, said: "This fear and distrust of services was explained to come from families’ experiences of state intervention in their countries of origin and also from stories circulating within minority communities in Scotland of children being removed from their parents.

"Both of these concerns have some basis, and are particularly real amongst those seeking asylum or of uncertain immigration status."

Earlier this summer the Scottish Parliament published a report on destitute asylum seekers, would-be refugees who have had all support withdrawn by the UK Government.

The parliamentary report found "inconsistencies" in the way councils across Scotland granted emergency hardship funding and support to children in such families.

Under Tory-era laws, councils are supposed to give such help regardless of the nationality of a child.

However, Parliament found some penniless families were being told their child would only get help if taken in to care.

Crucially, the parliament report added: "One concern was that children might be separated from their parents when there were no safeguarding or care reasons to justify the separation."

The SCRA report, meanwhile, contained a survey of those working in the system which suggested distrust was not the main reason ethnic minorities did not engage. Instead they highlighted problems with language barriers and general unfamiliarity with the system.

It added: "The perception that services are racist or culturally insensitive was the barrier rated lowest, although it was acknowledged to exist.

"The more significant barrier to services intervening to protect a child were difficulties in finding out when a child was at risk due to the insular nature of some communities."

That finding, however, came with a caveat. SCRA researchers, in a discussion section, warned that surveyed workers who were from universal services may have a different view from those who engaged more closely with minorities.

Researchers asked: "If this interpretation is correct, does it mean that universal services may in some cases underestimate the extent to which ethnic minority community members fear them?"

The report calls for SCRA and sister organisations to team up with bodies working with minority groups - including marginalised indigenous Scots - to raise awareness of what the hearing system does. It also recommends that anonymised case studies be shared on how the system has dealt with issues affecting minorities, such as child trafficking and female genital mutilation.

An SCRA spokeswoman said: "This piece of research highlights some of the real concerns and fears of families new to this country, as well as some of our marginalised communities in Scotland.

"We hope the report will lead to a better understanding among these families of the Children’s Hearings System, which is there to protect and safeguard vulnerable and at risk children.

"We will work with our partners to take the recommendations in the report forward."