Named Person: nanny state or safety net?

 88637407 thinkstockphotos-466742377 cropped

TFN looks at the arguments for and against the Named Person policy.

Graham Martin's photo

7th April 2016 by Graham Martin 2 Comments

Under the Scottish Government’s named person policy, every child in Scotland will be assigned a state guardian from birth to the age of 18, usually in the form of a health worker or teacher, who will be tasked with looking after their wellbeing.

Supporters say the policy, which will give a child, young person, their parent or interested party a central point of contact to go to if they want information, advice or to make a report, will work as a safety net, particularly helping the most vulnerable.

However, critics in the No to the Named Persons (NO2NP) campaign group, say it undermines parents and permits the state unlimited access to pry into the privacy of families in their homes.

The Christian Institute, a member of NO2NP, commissioned ComRes to carry out a poll into the public’s attitude to the policy.

It says it found “widespread opposition” and Christian Institute director Colin Hart described the named person policy as “the most audacious power grab in the history of parenting”.

The named person policy is about supporting, not diminishing, the role of parents

Named person is due to come into force in August as part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, though pilot schemes are already operating.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon sought to calm fears the policy will have a significant impact on family life and said parents were not legally obliged to use it – describing it as an “entitlement, not an obligation” saying if parents don’t want to have anything to do with it they don’t have to.

She said: “The named person policy is about supporting, not diminishing, the role of parents – and has already been upheld by the highest court in Scotland, including a ruling which said the policy had no effect whatsoever on the legal, moral or social relationships within the family.”

Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, is a supporter of named person. She told TFN the charity appreciates concerns expressed, but thinks some of the criticism is down to a misunderstanding.

She said: “Children in Scotland strongly believes that many of the concerns about it flow from a basic misunderstanding of why it has been put forward and how it will be delivered on the ground.

“As we have consistently said, having a primary point of contact available to all children is the formalisation of practice that already exists across Scotland – and has done for years. It is vital to remember that fundamentally this legislation is about protecting children and young people before any significant risks to their wellbeing escalate, and serving their interests as well as we possibly can.

“We will continue to focus on providing practical support to organisations and individuals as they prepare for implementation of the named person service and other aspects of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act from August of this year.”

Here TFN presents both sides of the argument - and we are also running a poll on the subject.

The case for: Catriona Grant, social worker

I support the Named Person scheme. Critics are worried that it is a step too far, that it is the state interfering in family life and compromising the family. But the state is involved in our lives, the welfare state particularly, and we should welcome that. The NHS and education are universal provisions and should be there when we need them to help.

As a socialist I see vulnerable children and their families not as vulnerable but as oppressed: by poverty, lack of decent housing, violence and abuse, disability or poor health, and they are often further oppressed by professionals who don’t listen, blame them, don’t help, ignore them or see them as the problem - oppressed by those who want to deny them services.

This point is often missed by a section of those campaigning against the Named Person. Many No2NP campaigners are arguing a position similar to Victoria Gillick from the 1980s who believed her right as a mother was greater than her daughter’s or indeed any young woman’s rights over their bodies. It is a reactionary campaign.

Children are often dragged into intrusive formal investigations which have very little outcome, and I see the Named Person as key to preventing over social-working families and the unnecessary sharing of information; to bringing down the tariff rather than escalating problems.

The legislation empowers those already involved and helps parents know who to ask for help from, and it encourages people to talk to one another about children they are worried about. In September 2015, the Court of Session concluded that the creation of the Named Person "no more confuses or diminishes the legal role, duties and responsibilities of parents in relation to their children than the provision of social services or education generally". It should provide a more improved business-as-usual.

Systems need to be in place to support all children that need support. I think the Named Person is the best person in the first instance to offer support earlier on rather waiting for a crisis. The state has a role to play in children’s wellbeing and, for some children, their protection. The state’s intervention is to be welcomed, but that intervention needs to be resourced, measured, necessary and accountable.

The case against: Lesley Scott, Tymes Trust Scottish officer

The Scottish Government’s highly controversial Named Person scheme is due to come in with statutory force across Scotland on 31 August.

What this legislation means for every family in Scotland is that state employees will have the authority, power and duty – regardless of parental consent - to monitor every child’s ‘wellbeing’ (nothing to do with child welfare systems) against outcomes as dictated by government. The legislation includes no definition of wellbeing and ultimately decisions will be made on the Named Person’s subjective opinion.

For families across Scotland, how they live and raise their children is  now the business of Named Persons on behalf of the state, who can, according to the statutory guidance, use compulsion to enforce interventions in families where there is resistance. This could just be a difference of opinion.

This is a universal compulsory scheme with no opt out. If parents  are not “compliant” this could result in them being flagged up as showing ‘resistance’ or ‘limited engagement’, both of which are risk indicators in the wellbeing assessment process. But parents declining advice will not stop the Named Person carrying out their functions as stated in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, to gather and share personal even sensitive information on every child and all associated adults and to intervene.

The Young ME Sufferers (Tymes) Trust is the longest established UK service for children and young people with ME and their families. There is no cure for ME and it can easily be made worse – it is poorly understood by teachers, social workers, health workers and other professionals. Such misunderstanding has led to children being misdiagnosed with, for example, school phobia & anorexia nervosa and parents being accused of abuse and neglect.

It is therefore hugely concerning that within the wellbeing assessment process are 304 wellbeing signifiers including that: “the child/young person, along with parents/carers is compliant with treatment for any illnesses, diseases, chronic conditions or impairments”. This is one signifier of many that illustrates compulsion at the heart of this legislation.

Over 90% of calls to our advice line involve schools’ misunderstandings of the children’s illness. Yet teachers and health professional are now Named Persons which could have serious consequences for families.

Lowering the trigger for intervention to ‘wellbeing’ has the huge potential of entrapping innocent families in compulsory state intervention.

This is a threat to families’ right to self-governance.

 We must say ‘No’.  

Comments

Please enter the word you see in the image below:


10th April 2016 by Susan

My understanding is that named person legislation will benefit children because one person will be aware of all concerns and the overall impact of those may merit further help whereas the individual issues would not have merited interventions. I was a child at risk registered as so but fell through the cracks in the past. If we can be more aware and intervene in any way to help families and young people we should, while respecting families and individual circumstances

11th April 2016 by Max

Why don't they just put a CCTV camera in everyone's living room and be done with it! '1984' was not a work of fiction by Orwell, the self-confessed UK spy, rather it was an instruction manual on how to enslave entire populations. The Named Person act is just another chain in the enslavement process.