Lesley Scott, of The Young ME Sufferers Trust, wants charities to give more focus to the services they provide
In Scotland, the lines between governmental and non-governmental organisations are being blurred - resulting in loss of trust between them and the families they aim to serve.
Last month in Edinburgh an event called Postcards from the Fringe,organised by Tymes Trust along with the grassroots group Scottish Home Education Forum, finally allowed the voices of parents and families to be heard for the first time on the issue of the named person and getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) legislation that is being discussed at Holyrood.
What is clear from the evidence submitted by families is that they do not feel supported by this legislation, as we are continually told is its purpose, the reality is that they feel targeted and judged.
So bad is this authoritarian and dogmatic culture that GIRFEC and named persons has generated, families are now shunning the very state agencies this legislation was meant to direct them towards for any help and support they need. The evidence from families shows that instead they are forming their own support networks through existing parents groups or even setting up new ones, thereby subverting this dangerous legislation.
But of increasing interest and concern is that third sector organisations are themselves falling in to this category of state agencies, being seen by the very families they are trying to help as simply an extension of government.
The acceptance and support of GIRFEC and named person legislation by a great many in the third sector (in direct conflict with the views of many parents and families) requires them to gather and share with state agencies information on families, which has led to breaches in data law during the embedding of this legislation into practice before it even became law. Evidence submitted to the education and skills committee over the named person legislation illustrated very clearly that this has been happening over a period of years perpetrated by many organisations in both the public and third sector.
The involvement of the third sector in the Scottish Government National Third Sector GIRFEC Project has not helped families to view these formerly independent organisations as separate from the state. The project was launched by the Scottish Government in 2013 with the aim of supporting “the wider third sector to embed the role of the third sector in implementing Getting It Right for Every Child in localities”. Those charities and organisations involved in this project are revealed to parents as purveyors and enforcers of state agenda and dogma rather than the autonomous ports of objective assistance and support they once were.
Once the trust has gone, it is rarely regained and without such a fundamental building block there can be no relationship. Engagement based on a voluntary trusting relationship between families and organisations is the foundation of the third sector; that foundation is crumbling through collusion with government over GIRFEC and named person legislation. Does their substantial funding by the Scottish Government affect their willingness to participate?
The third sector needs to remember its roots and its purpose, break away from its dangerous liaison with government and turn its focus once more to providing independent objective advice and support to families. If not then the future of the third sector will be assimilation by government and shunning by the people they claim to serve.
Lesley Scott is Scottish officer for Tymes (The Young ME Sufferers) Trust.