Named Person law undermines parents by focusing on trivia

Guest blog by Dr Stuart WaitonLM_No_To_Named_Person_Campaign_Edin_007

Defenders of the Named Person law often claim (1) it doesn’t undermine parents and (2) it will help stop cases of serious child abuse or neglect.

But the Policy Memorandum on the new law explained that the role of the Named Person is, ‘based on the idea that information on less critical concerns about a child’s wellbeing must be shared if a full picture of their wellbeing is to be put together and if action is to be taken to prevent these concerns developing into more serious issues’.

The Named Person and all professionals dealing with children and families are to be educated about the importance of early intervention. Early intervention necessarily means professionals share data and intervene in family affairs earlier than they used to. This necessitates a Minority Report type approach where relatively minor incidents are treated as ‘risks indicators’.

In the National Risk Framework document, it is explained that the ‘Named Persons, Lead Professionals and others then need to project the future probability or likelihood of harm and to determine if this harm is significant in nature or not. Projection of probable risk of harm significantly also means that there is a potential for error in terms of what we think may occur. This is no small task indeed’.

The incredibly broad category (if it can be called a category) being used to encourage data sharing is ‘wellbeing concerns’, a therapeutic and woolly terms that is being taught to professionals helped by the 308 wellbeing indicator list and the 221 risk assessment indicators. Health visitors are also being taught that they must check family finances, check for domestic abuse and to take a proactive ‘health creating’ approach with the ‘emphasis on wider family health’.

Here health no longer relates to the health of the child or infant as we would previously have understood it, but to a much wider idea of the ‘healthy’ family and the ‘healthy’ parent.

Some people, particularly it seems, family professionals and modern politicians, appear to think that ‘bad parenting’ is the cause and solution to almost all of society’s problems. They also appear to believe that parents are incompetent. The social mobility tsar, Alan Milburn thinks that four out of ten children are missing out on good parenting, for example, and David Cameron now tells us that all parents should aspire to have parenting classes.

Meanwhile, what a ‘child at risk’ means continues to expand to include more and more aspects of life that would previously have been seen as relatively unproblematic and certainly not something that should be the concern of professionals.

Professionals should be encouraged to use their judgement and experience to assess if a child is at serious risk of harm. Where this is not the case we should not be encouraging them to become risk managers of all children or wellbeing monitors of all aspects of their lives.

Stuart Waiton
Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Criminology, Abertay University.