Depute first minister tells TFN that GIRFEC continues to at the heart of Scotland’s approach to supporting children and families
The Scottish Government’s named person scheme has not been scrapped – but instead will continue as an approach, within existing legislation.
Deputy first minister John Swinney recently announced that the Holyrood administration had agreed the recommendations of the Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) Practice Development Panel.
This resulted in a number of media headlines suggesting that the named person policy – which would have seen a guardian appointed for every child in Scotland but which had been opposed by some campaigners due to concerns about information sharing and the role of the state in families - was being “scrapped”.
But Swinney has told Third Force News that this is very far from the case.
He said: “I have had the privilege of visiting many services, including many third sector services. I have met people who are passionate about supporting children and families to achieve better outcomes. And I want to encourage that excellent practice to make a difference in children’s lives.”
The expert panel was established to develop an authoritative code of practice for information sharing.
It concluded that while it is possible to produce a legalistic code, this would not be user friendly and could be counter productive.
The panel suggested that the likely unintended consequence would be to stifle the consideration and process of necessary and proportionate information sharing, which would lead to reduced opportunities to offer support to children and families.
Instead, the panel recommended that practical guidance could support and sustain the GIRFEC approach under existing legislation. Accordingly, parts of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will not now come into force, meaning that neither the child’s plan or named person role would be placed in statute.
Swinney made it clear that GIRFEC continues to at the heart of Scotland’s approach to supporting children and families, and he says that this includes partnership with the third sector.
“It is a way of working”, he says. “It is a way of collaborating – and that includes across the public and third sectors, which is absolutely critical.”
“This government’s commitment to GIRFEC is undiminished. I am determined to ensure that families can get the help they need, when they need it and in a way that respects their rights. That is why I announced that the named person approach will continue as an approach which is now well embedded, and can be delivered within existing legislation in partnership with parents."
SallyAnn Kelly, chief executive of Aberlour, was a member of the expert panel.
She welcomes the continued Scottish Government commitment to GIRFEC, saying: “We believe those key principles of early support, working in partnership with families and responding to every child's individual needs to enable them to thrive, should remain a shared priority between the Scottish Government and all those involved in supporting children.
“Developing clear and accessible practice guidance is essential to ensure all practitioners can work consistently and in a way that respects children and families’ rights. We believe the Getting It Right For Every Child approach is the best way to achieve this, but this needs national and local budgets to prioritise early intervention and prevention services that allow us to support families across Scotland to thrive.”
The chief executive of Children 1st, Mary Glasgow, wrote in a recent blog about the importance of providing clarity for families about the support and advice available for them, of investing in family support and of being more mindful that children live in families and communities when we make policy and develop practice.
She wrote: "I am looking forward to being part of the ongoing review of the GIRFEC Practice Guidance and to considering how to strengthen GIRFEC going forward, transferring the experience and knowledge we have gained over the last few years—the passion, debates and discussions—into invigorated and energised policy making, emboldened by the work that is going on to embed children’s rights into our domestic law."