Named person is better for carers

Sadgirl

Calum Munro says children and young people with additional support needs are too important to be a topic for political point scoring

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7th June 2016 by TFN Guest 10 Comments

This week sees a debate in Holyrood on the named person. Politicians will debate and dissect the concept and it will get emotive with, no doubt, individuals linking the concept to the recent tragic death of Liam Fee in Fife.

I wonder how many of our politicians have sat with families of children and young people with additional support needs and heard their tales of fighting through a morass to get to services as their situation worsens and their energy is sapped?

The plight of families in this situation is too important to be a political point scoring issue. We need all our politicians to rediscover the shared commitment to our children and young people that has existed in parliament before.

Calum Munro

Calum Munro

I have taken testimony from folk who were driven to the edge of a mental health crisis and beyond by chasing support and having to constantly repeat their tale

The named person concept was asked for by families who struggled to get information from services when they had concerns about their children and young people. Under the old systems they were often passed from pillar to post. Having a named person means that when they seek help they go to one person, tell their story once and the named person has the duty to seek the most appropriate support to address their queries or needs.

I have taken testimony from folk who were driven to the edge of a mental health crisis and beyond by chasing support and having to constantly repeat their tale. The named person is a point of contact to be approached by families or young people. It is not an intrusive moral guardian. Linking the named person to the Liam Fee case is wrong. Liam Fee’s carers did not seek help, rathey they appear to have tried to hide from services. The case review will have to determine how child protection services failed Liam.

But the named person system is not in itself about child protection. There are thousands of families across Scotland who have concerns about their children and young people who are worried that they may have additional support needs and as caring carers they need a simple single point of contact system that reduces the risk of their wasting precious time and energy that should be spent on their child or young person or on their own needs.

Scotland has an opportunity to address this wrong with a simple system. Once the concept is in place politicians have to put adequate funding into all aspects of education, social work and child health. But without the simple single point of contact carers will be prey to a return to the old ways and of being passed around from service to service.

Calum Munro was formerly policy lead to Highland Children’s Forum 

7th June 2016 by Catriona Macleod

Dear Calum, My child with additional support needs was ostracised and bullied by the adults who should have protected her in Highland Council and Health services. The named person met with others, shared sensitive information and made detrimental decisions which have excluded her from education and made her ill. Consent to this was never sought and complaints have not been answered. Am more than happy to discuss this with you. Ironically it took other SW and education staff to help us get out of this mess! What a waste of time and resources and a lot of damage to a child's life.

7th June 2016 by Josie

What if the Named Person is the Headteacher and that Headteacher doesn't have the budget to get it right for that child? What if that child is failed by the Headteacher, the Named Person? It is happening NOW. Today all over Scotland. Children with SEN and medical needs are being horribly, horribly failed. The Named Person is putting parents under unimaginable stress by failing their children. Home education is becoming the only option for many of us. Children with SEN being educated by their parent because the system parents are paying into, an education that our children have a right to is not adequate and not safe. Teachers, head teachers, the council are closing rank, sweeping failings under the carpet. Mental Health workers, speech therapists, paediatricians, specialists nurses are silenced. The whole system does not ensure safety. It is inward looking and corrupt.

7th June 2016 by Karen

I don't think it can ever be as simple as a named person. We have this already in Highland, and I still end up stressed out of my head with the pressure heaped on me to attend this meeting, or an appointment, or several in a row.The named person does nothing except - allegedly - put all the information in one place. I can tell you this doesn't work, as I have recently been told two completely different things as a result of one meeting regarding my autistic son:If there was more time and effort spent in meeting the most urgent needs of those children who so desperately need it, and in Highland I can personally name SO many who are being systematically failed, rather than time wasting on political point-scoring by the insistence that this scheme will benefit all children, some kids, like mine, might not be in a limbo land of not coping in his (admittedly wonderfully supportive) mainstream school and abandoned to a life of home ed by default as there is no provision anywhere for him.

8th June 2016 by Mark

Objections to the NP service are not based on whether families who want one or need one are going to get one. They are based on the fact that every child is going to get one, whether wanted or needed. A legal aid system which can provide a criminal defence lawyer when wanted or needed is a good system (yeah, yeah, I know); but appointing a criminal defence lawyer for everyone just in case? That would be bureaucratic, pointless, and a waste. The same goes for NPs.

8th June 2016 by Katarzyna Sinclair

Dear Mr Munro, I am a mother of a child with special needs. I am also a clinical psychologist and my husband is a primary school teacher. I would like to address a few points raised by you in your writing. You said that you wonder how many politicians sat with with families of children and young people with additional support needs and heard their tales of fighting through a morass to get to services. I wonder that too but the simple fact is THERE IS NO EARLY INTERVENTION in this country. What children with special needs are offered instead is a professional following their development. My child had a speech delay/ disorder and I had to FIGHT for services and was told that we were lucky to get one 45 min a week session. He also has sensory integration problems but sensory integration therapy isn't offered by NHS Lothian.You had testimonies "from people who were driven to the edge of a mental health crisis by chasing support and having to constantly repeat their tale." I had the opposite problem- I asked for my son's "medical" files- hospital, the SLT and OT. What I discovered there was not our story- there were errors, personal opinions, judgments and comments which have no place in professional MEDICAL files! Just as one example of many- I requested files from my son's hospital stay and was shocked to discover that on the very front there was a discharge letter sent to my child's school, GP, pediatrician, SLT, but not us. The letter was full of serious errors- like: "the parents decided to switch J to gluten free diet after watching youtube videos" or " the parents buy him supplements online" . I have no idea why this information was there since we met the dietician at the last day of my son's week long hospital stay, she did not have time to visit us during the whole time, and we informed her that he was under the care of a private dietician who supplied all natural supplements. Or another comment form my son's SLT notes: J needs to have social interaction outside the therapy sessions (as though he is out of the cupboard for the sessions and returns straight there afterwards?). So after those nice experiences I WANT to be able to tell my OWN story to everyone I meet, but under the legislation I would not be given that choice- the professionals would already have read my child's and my files; files I wasn't shown and I didn't approve.Another point by which the Government is trying to sell the legislation to the parents is telling them that "the named person concept was asked for by families" to have a single point of contact and coordination in getting services- what services, may I ask? The OT, physiotherapy, SLT are stretched to the maximum. I know of a few children with special needs in an area where the Named Person has been already in place for some time. An autistic child who trips over her own feet when she walks, her dyspraxia is so severe and her 1 hour MONTHLY physiotherapy does absolutely nothing to address the issue. I also know a boy with Downs Syndrome, who had swallowing problems and his mother, who tried get an OT to assess and address the issue; she was labeled as a difficult parent. The family was pushed so far that they left the country. Where they are now, the child attends an integrated nursery where he is on a special diet, has a SLT 3 times a week, physio 2 times a week and a psychologist on site. All of this WITHOUT a single appointed point of contact! The parents are finally listened to and thrilled to have proper support. Having a named person in a system where early intervention services do not exist but "cost effectiveness" is the measure for approving services would not only change nothing, it would make it worse as the named point of contact for the services would become a "named point of contact for stopping services".You state that Linking the named person to the Liam Fee case is wrong. Why, I ask, why? Liam Fee lived in area where the Named Person project was piloted. Why can we not link his tragic death to the Named Person while for example the government can (and does) link home education with abuse, radicalisation and hiding children? Are we now only allowed to ask questions in line with the government policies and agendas?Lastly you state that "Liam Fee’s carers did not seek help, rather they they appear to have tried to hide from services." I no longer seek help from NHS services- I learned my lesson- the very people who were supposed to help my son and my family caused us more grief and problems and significantly increased our stress levels without providing a high standard of care, tailored to our needs. Does this make me a person who could be a suspected abuser? I would certainly score more points on the Risk Assessment questionnaire, but in reality I am a well educated person, who knows what services my son needs, who knows the NHS services are poor and luckily is able to seek and afford higher quality private care. And I am not the only one...

8th June 2016 by John Allman

To whom does one turn, if one's child may be in danger, but one's named person isn't willing to assist one act in order to protect the child, and isn't willing to do anything himself or herself either?I imagine that that was the position in which Liam's father found himself, when he was the person best equipped of all to have saved his son, but was rendered powerless to do so, by the authorities. It is the position that #GaggedDad is in, and also, coincidentally, the position in which I find myself.A good social worker can do good. A bad one will typically do more harm than good.

10th June 2016 by John Wallace

Some simple observations:1. "The plight of families in this situation is too important to be a political point scoring issue. We need all our politicians to rediscover the shared commitment to our children and young people that has existed in parliament before."You are right. The plight of families is important. They also need to rediscover the shared commitment to the families and full-time carers, disability charities, rare disease charities who look after our children and young people. A few children's charities are not the panacea to saving our children. I believe that 11 supported it but notice that only 10 signed the letter to parliament yesterday. The briefing note submitted by Bernardo's Scotland and written by former Green MSP Mark Ballard. In it he states that Bernard's Scotland works with more than 26,500 children and young people - People in Scotland affected by rare disease is 300,000 (@ScotGov figures) - and our community was ignored. Maybe Mr Ballard and Mr Munro would like to comment on that.2. "The named person concept was asked for by families who struggled to get information from services when they had concerns about their children and young people."I would be more inclined to believe this information if I was shown the figures and empirical documentary evidence proving this. All we have is words. There is empirical evidence in the form of 647 academic papers dating back to the 1960s showing that parents of children with rare diseases are acknowledged by the professionals as being the experts in not only living with the diseases but also the diseases themselves. Why then are those children and their families forced to accept a named person.3. "Having a named person means that when they seek help they go to one person, tell their story once and the named person has the duty to seek the most appropriate support to address their queries or needs."There are people who will require a named person. The principle of a named person is a good one. It is the implementation that is a disaster as I am sure Mr Munro really knows. Named persons should be available for anyone who wants them - their availability should be well advertised and people encouraged to use one when they require. I am also quite sure that there are families who should be assigned a named person for a multitude of reasons. But to force every single child in the country including those of JK Rowling and Andy Murray is a total waste of resources.4. "I have taken testimony from folk who were driven to the edge of a mental health crisis and beyond by chasing support and having to constantly repeat their tale."All of us have heard dramatic stories like this. But those are a tiny, tiny fraction of the population. The reason that fraction is so tiny is because the vast, vast majority of people do not need a named person.4. "But the named person system is not in itself about child protection."No it's not. In the 8 pages of legislation it doesn't mention child protection at all.5. "There are thousands of families across Scotland who have concerns about their children and young people who are worried that they may have additional support needs and as caring carers they need a simple single point of contact system that reduces the risk of their wasting precious time and energy that should be spent on their child or young person or on their own needs."There are also many hundreds of thousands of families across Scotland who don't have such concerns. Further, the majority of full-time carers looking after disabled children know much better than a health visitor, teacher or head teacher what it is like to live with their disability. Carers and disability charities were not involved any consultation as far as I have been able to find. Nor were Carer's organisations.6. "Scotland has an opportunity to address this wrong with a simple system."If this was a "simple system" surely all the 'policy' leads and gurus would have been able to explain it to all us families in Scotland. The fact is, it is not a simple system as even the government which promoted it told Parliament this week. The fact is, it is an overly complicated mammoth system, tied up with bureaucracy and the real problem in the whole system I predict will become the information architecture and its security because of the complicated security access protocols that will have to be enacted because such a wide range of people and institutions that will access. I say this being not only an author in the subject but also a patent author in the subject.My comments are not exhaustive.

13th June 2016 by Fiona Jones

So, if the NP scheme fails children, it is the fault of the parents who failed to seek the NP's advice? Oops, never mind; I just reached the phrase "caring carers" and stopped reading. With language skills that bad, the writer is most unlikely to have any thinking skills.

13th June 2016 by Bob

Calum, Our son has additional support needs, and has recently been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. His first Head Teacher (prematurely identified as his Named Person on a GIRFEC Form, although we're not in a pilot area) however, told us that his problems were due to lack of parental consequences - I fail to see how not punishing a child enough could lead them to have fixations and literal thinking. Her attitude was judgemental, condescending, patronising and self-righteous. You will perhaps appreciate that it was this experience that caused us to become vehemently against the NP scheme when we first became aware of it. We have deliberately sought help from CAHMS through medical referral rather than via school as other interventions initiated via the "Team around the Child", such as Speech and Language Therapy were then reported to school, assessments made without our knowledge and the results mislaid - so much for the single point of contact. I would like to acknowledge that amongst the professionals we have met, there are those who will say "I've been there" or "My son gets a taxi to school" or "I know what it's like to get the phone calls [from school]" and this is a tremendous reassurance that the individual concerned will have some wisdom and insight, but this comes from their personal experience, not from following SHANARRI wheels, wellbeing checklists or My World Triangles.

14th June 2016 by John

The Children and Young People (Scotland) 2014 Act obliges the Named Person to monitor and intervene in family life on the basis of 'wellbeing' but nowhere defines what wellbeing is. That alone should give you pause for thought.That the guidance then takes SHANARRI, with its 300+ indicators, as its 'definition' of wellbeing is appalling. Many of the SHANARRI indicators are either trivial or highly subjective. You could use them to justify intervening in the life of any and every child in Scotland.Similar legislation in the Isle of Man led to a 500% increase in the number of children being referred to social services, until the law had to be scrapped. When Named Person was trialled in the Highland region, the number of kids with a Child's Plan rose from an average of 72 to 7,927.If the law is so benign and well-framed, why did Nicola Sturgeon say Named Person was optional when it clearly isn't? Why didn't she feel she could be upfront?It's not optional in any sense. You can't decide not to have a Named Person. You can't tell the Named Person not to record information about your child. You can't stop the Named Person from sharing information with other agencies or requesting information from them (including from your GP) .This law is badly framed. If it was just about giving families a single point of contact when they needed it, it would be fine. It isn't about that.