TFN looks at the arguments for and against the Named Person policy.
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 31August.
What this legislation means for every family in Scotland is that stateemployees will have the authority, power and duty – regardless of parentalconsent - to monitor every child’s ‘wellbeing’ (nothing to do with childwelfare systems) against outcomes as dictated by government. The legislationincludesnodefinition of wellbeing and ultimately decisions will bemade on the Named Person’s subjective opinion.
For families across Scotland, how they live and raise their children isnow the business of Named Persons on behalf of the state, who can, according tothe statutory guidance, use compulsion to enforce interventions in familieswhere there is resistance. This could just be a difference of opinion.
This is a universal compulsory scheme with no opt out. If parentsare not “compliant” this could result in them being flagged up as showing‘resistance’ or ‘limited engagement’, both of which are risk indicators in thewellbeing assessment process. But parents declining advice will not stop theNamed Person carrying out their functions as stated in the Children and YoungPeople (Scotland) Act, to gather and share personal even sensitive informationon every child and all associated adults and to intervene.
The Young ME Sufferers (Tymes) Trust is the longest established UKservice for children and young people with ME and their families. There is nocure for ME and it can easily be made worse – it is poorly understood byteachers, social workers, health workers and other professionals. Suchmisunderstanding has led to children being misdiagnosed with, for example,school phobia & anorexia nervosa and parents being accused of abuse andneglect.
It is therefore hugely concerning that within the wellbeing assessmentprocess are 304 wellbeing signifiers including that: “the child/youngperson, along with parents/carers is compliant with treatment for anyillnesses, diseases, chronic conditions or impairments”. This is onesignifier of many that illustrates compulsion at the heart of this legislation.
Over 90% of calls to our advice line involve schools’ misunderstandingsof the children’s illness. Yet teachers and health professional are now NamedPersons which could have serious consequences for families.
Lowering the trigger for intervention to ‘wellbeing’ has the hugepotential of entrapping innocent families in compulsory state intervention.
This is a threat to families’ right to self-governance.
We must say ‘No’.