THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DISAPPEARING EXPERT COMMITTEE

Will the Scottish Government explain the mystery behind the sudden disbandment of an expert steering group set up to oversee the introduction of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014?

The Named Person provisions are contained within the 2014 Act, and are due to be implemented across Scotland in August 2016.

The steering group, known as the GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) Programme Board, was chaired by Aileen Campbell and had planned to work until August 2016.

Minutes of a May 2014 meeting revealed that Police Scotland had “raised issues surrounding ensuring high-risk children remained a focus”. At this point there was no indication that the group would end, but the committee was mysteriously scrapped later that year.

A Scottish newspaper was told by officials that “a decision was made at ministerial level to wind up the GIRFEC Programme Board after May 2014″.

The steering group included top level representatives from the police, social workers, health boards, children’s charities, civil servants and councils.

A NO2NP spokesman commented: “Police concerns that the Named Person approach may move the focus away from high risk children were by far the most significant item discussed at what turned out to be their last meeting.

“If it is true that the Government closed the board down because they didn’t want it exposing the risks created by their Named Person scheme then this is a resignation issue for the minister.

“If child protection concerns expressed by senior police officers are being swept under the rug, what hope do we have that the Government will listen to anyone? Public anger against this scheme is growing as pilot schemes reveal the problems of implementing the Named Person. So far the Government seems bent on pursuing it at all costs and against all objections. It’s time they listened to parents, police, social workers, teachers and all the others who have serious questions about the Named Person.”

Liz Smith MSP, a supporter of the NO2NP campaign, said: “This seems an extraordinary situation given that it was quite clear from the minutes of the last meeting that the board would continue until implementation was complete in 2016.

“The more this policy is discussed, the more that we are seeing concerns being raised, not only by parents but also by those who are on the frontline of delivery.”

Police Scotland has continued to raise concerns about the Named Person provisions and in July this year, it warned about a “lack of clarity” in the scheme, as well as complications surrounding the sharing of sensitive information.

Crucially, they expressed fears that the Named Person pilot schemes are resulting in delays to remove children from abusers because officials are spending time conducting ‘wellbeing’ assessments. The Police Scotland warning is contained in an official police submission on the guidance to how the 2014 Act will operate.

NO2NP said at the time:

“This submission essentially discredits the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”

The spokesman added: “The allegations made by Police Scotland could not be more serious. Rather than speeding up help for abused and neglected children, the extra layers of bureaucracy significantly delayed the reporting of criminal acts against the youngsters.

“‘Wellbeing’ assessments, which are at the heart of the entire Named Person scheme, have apparently caused delays that allowed abused children to be exposed to yet more abuse.

“Named Persons, unlike social workers, are not experts in handling child abuse cases. It is unfair on teachers and health visitors to burden them with this responsibility. This statement from the police shows that involving non-experts in serious cases of abuse and neglect risks losing key evidence, allowing child abusers to avoid justice.

“This damning piece of new evidence gives the lie to the Government’s main defence for the Named Person scheme. The incompetent Named Person policy will not protect abused and neglected children – it will expose them to even more danger.

He continued: “The police offered the Government specific examples where following the Named Person policy actually delayed reports of child abuse and neglect. The public must be told immediately if the Government has asked for that evidence and if not, why not.

“The minister must make a public statement at the earliest possible opportunity about any and all cases where Named Person pilot schemes have resulted in delays reporting child abuse and neglect.

“This latest shocking development confirms that the Named Person policy is going to be a disaster: a disaster for abused and neglected children and a disaster for good Scottish families.

“The time has come for the Government to admit it has made a huge mistake and scrap the whole scheme.

The NO2NP spokesman added: “The Government will point to the fact that Police Scotland say they support the Named Person scheme. But what else are they going to say? The police can’t lobby against a key government policy. But they have essentially discredited the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”

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