Named Person scheme: conform or else?

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Lesley Scott believes compulsion to conform is at the heart of the controversial state guardian scheme

13th June 2016 by TFN 6 Comments

Calum Munro, former policy lead for Highland Children’s Forum, defended the Named Person scheme in a TFN article (‘Named Person is better for carers’) stating it was “asked for” by families because of difficulties communicating with services.

He also said that the Named Person is “simply a point of contact to be approached by families or young people.”

No-one would take issue with the Named Person if it was indeed “simply” a way to expedite access to the services children with additional support issues needed. But, increasingly, what is being defended is not what is in the legislation.

John Swinney has now admitted that “A number of authorities have been making progress towards some form of Named Person scheme but the type of capacity and capability of the named person as envisioned in our legislation is not in place.”

Yet it was these same Named Person trials that were championed in parliament, held up as successful examples of the scheme and subsequently used as positive evidence to push the bill through parliament.

There is no doubt that families of children with additional support needs very often require help to access services. But one of the main themes of Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) is that all children will have a child’s plan which means targeted state intervention in to every family.

Over 90% of calls to The Young ME Sufferers advice line report issues over education provision; inappropriate and unsustainable education provision often leading to a deterioration in the child's health. There is no cure for ME. Parents frequently find themselves at odds with professional opinion on how best to manage it.

But worryingly part of the GIRFEC wellbeing assessment, alerts practitioners to the requirement that the child/young person along with the parent/carer is “compliant with treatment for any illnesses, diseases, chronic conditions and impairments.”

This reveals the compulsion at the heart of the state guardian scheme, which, rather than seeking to assist in accessing services, imposes state directed actions to meet state mandated outcomes. Furthermore, parents having a different perception of the problem, not accepting all the concerns raised by the professionals or not engaging with the process are logged as “risks” to their child’s wellbeing.

Alongside over 33,000 Scottish citizens, organisations and public bodies are voicing concern and opposition to this illiberal and authoritarian policy.

Unison, the public service union, carried out a survey of Health Visitors who will be named persons for the under 5s. Over half did not think the Named Person would be a good thing, they worry about ‘added responsibility’, increased workload’, ‘lack of qualified staff to ensure safe and effective delivery of service’ and even that they would have to ‘take responsibility “that should be parental.”’ 

Organisations and public bodies are voicing concern and opposition to this illiberal and authoritarian policy

Last week delegates at a conference of the EIS, the largest teaching union in Scotland, voted in favour of a motion calling on its council “to investigate and report on the workload, contractual and legal implications arising from the role of the Named Person and how the role can be achieved within a 35 hour working week and a 195-day working year”.

One of those supporting the motion described the Named Person scheme as “misguided, stupid and nonsensical” saying it only passed through the Scottish Parliament because MSPs did not understand its implications.

Calum Munro was right when he stated that this is not about child protection. But he defends a scheme that even John Swinney has stated bears no resemblance to that in legislation.

And he appears blind to the dangers of a universal scheme based on compulsory early intervention over anything from ‘mental health to a wider vision of happiness.’

Lesley Scott, Young ME Sufferers (Tymes) Trust, Scottish Officer

13th June 2016 by Fiona Jones

A scheme that is not fit for purpose, secretly pushed though unrealistic and biased piloting trials, imposed on practitioners who are already fully employed, and forced on an unwilling electorate by a government that is not fit for purpose. The only people who will gain from this imbecility are the would-be controllers of personal information. We are still part of the UK. Shouldn't Westminster stop laughing at us and do something to halt this?

13th June 2016 by A parent

Well said!As the son of two teachers (one of them a guidance teacher) I would like to think that the NP role will be filled with people possessing wisdom and common sense, at least applying the badly-defined legislation with discerning judgement.However, as the father of a child with additional support needs, I fear these qualities are not in abundance, and will be frustrated not enhanced by this legislation.Our son has recently been diagnosed with Aspergers. This makes his behaviour challenging at times, making it all the more necessary for parents and school to work in partnership.However, his first headteacher (identified prematurely as his Named Person on one of the GIRFEC forms) ascribed his difficulties to “lack of parental consequences” (I fail to see how not punishing a child sufficiently could lead to them having fixations and literal thinking…) and placed an added strain on our relationship with our son as we dealt with not only his behaviour, but the ignorant condemnation arising from it. Her attitude was ignorant, judgemental, patronising, smug and self-righteous..And this was the person who would be responsible for our son’s “wellbeing”… I note the school was recently participating in “Autism Awareness Week” – I hope the head teacher learned something.Another participant in the “Staged Intervention” meetings (beautifully described by one comment I’ve seen as “Six people telling you how rotten your kid is, but they’re there to help”) was the Educational Psychologist. I’m not sure if she had children herself, or had ever actually met any real children… at one point when there seemed like the vague hope of her actually getting involved, she said, “That would be an interesting wee research project for me!”. I’m glad she found our family’s mental health such fertile ground…This is the reality of "early intervention"I should say, that amongst the “professionals” we’ve 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]” which is a tremendous reassurance that the person you are dealing with will have some insight and wisdom.Regarding the whole “GrrrFeck!” (as we have come to think of it) and SHANARRI models of early intervention: I find it extremely offensive that there is one process which is used for intervention regardless of whether it is for protection concerns, or because your child has, for example, a neuro-biological condition.But, back to the named person scheme.In contrast to our relationship with our son’s first Head Teacher, the one we had with his Health Visitor was extremely helpful. She was (and is) someone we could trust and rely upon for advice and referrals (e.g. to CAMHS – Oh, the waiting list is 6 months already - if there is to be a huge increase arising from the NP scheme because of all the early intervention)However, the NP scheme will undermine this sort of relationship with a trusted professional, requiring them to conduct multiple hour-long interrogations on such matters as family finance! That isn’t Daily Mail hyperbole, it’s in the plan here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0048/00487884.pdf

13th June 2016 by A parent

Sorry about long post without formatting! Paragraphs seem to have been automatically removed!

15th July 2016 by Calum Munro

The desire for a single point of contact for families with children and young people with additional needs, known as the Named Person, came from families who had experienced the “pass the parcel” of trying to access services and being sent from professional to professional as each suggested that the family’s request didn’t quite fit their service’s criteria.The need to codify the ability of the single point of contact to seek and share information came directly from the experience of families who had to explain their story time and time again and to complete multiple forms that requested the same information in formats that simply suited the official body but took no account of the needs of the families.It has always been recognised that the scheme will only work if it is operated by staff with the correct attitudes, attributes and training and supported by adequate resources.If these two simple elements of the concept are not being adhered to then the responsible organisations have to retrain their staff. If the resources are not there to meet real need - and there is strong anecdotal evidence that budgets are not growing sufficiently to meet identified need – then the whole sector should be campaigning to hold politicians to account.If we lose sight of why the concept was needed we will condemn families with concerns about additional support needs to a continuance of the organisational behaviours that caused such distress to the families who called for change.All partners to the debate need to focus on why families called for this in the first place and to ensure that the vital and true purpose of the concept is protected and that politicians are held to their promises to create the best possible services for children and young people.

22nd July 2016 by Mrs I MacIver

Having been An Additional Support Needs Teacher in Highland, I cannot imagine where Calum Munro found parents who had " difficulty communicating with services". Which particular services would these be that were difficult to access? Before children start their Nursery education if they have additional needs these are generally ones quite quickly identified by the Health Services and the children would arrive at school with a medical diagnoses already. At Nursery other additional needs may be flagged up by the Nursery staff or it may be issues the parents are already concerned about and have voiced to the Nursery staff. These are NEVER treated lightly by the Nursery staff. Processes would immediately be set in place to deal with these issues. At one point in Highland this was by the use of Form 1 and a simple briefing from the Nursery staff to the Head Teacher or Additional Support teacher. (Form 1 stated all the concerns and would be given to the Head Teacher or Additional Suppert team leader to decide how best to proceed and to monitor the child's behaviour and or development.) What followed would be a meeting with parents/carers to obtain a fuller picture of the situation. This meeting might also include the Nursery /Classroom teacher. In my experience the parents/carers were always pleased to come to these meetings. The outcome of this meeting might result in referrals to outside agencies eg Social Services, Health or to agencies within Education eg Speech Therapist, Education Psychologist, Occupational Therapists. On the other hand the matter may be dealt with within school by the Additional Support Needs Teacher spending time monitoring the child over two or three times at Nursery/classroom. As a result strategies would be proposed to help the child and these would be drawn up in consultation with the prime carer who was usually the mother along with the Nursery/class teacher. This plan would identify a target to be met within a given time frame and Nursery Staff would have a copy of it so that they could encourage the child towards achieving it. At the end of the specified time it would be reviewed and assessed by the Additional Support teacher with the possibility of adding new targets or breaking down the initial ones into smaller progress steps. At this stage it may even require referral to experts. Should referral to experts be necessary the Additional Support Teacher would do this with the authority of the prime carer and Head Teacher. This often resulted in multidisciplinary meetings at school with the prime carer present and if it was thought to be of benefit the child was there too. Mr Munro, endless forms were filled in by teaching staff - not parents! If parents were trying to access services privately it is possible they might have found they were for ever repeating their concerns, but I think such parents would be so highly motivated they would not mind repeatedly going over their concerns for their child. But that is not who the Named Person has in mind.

22nd July 2016 by Mrs I MacIver

To add to my comments, I would like to say that what the Scottish Government are putting forward as having been rolled out and tried in Highland does not fit in with my experience as being what happened. In Highland children with additional support needs were the ones who had a named person allocated to them. In my experience this was the Head Teacher. He, as with all aspects of school life, was ultimately responsible for all that would happen in the school. The responsibilities given to Named Persons under this new legislation appears to add an extra burden to the work of the Head Teachers in that they will have to personally evaluate what they can do and are doing, to further every child's progress (in every area) as they progress through school. This far exceeds what happened in Highland and is unnecessary.