Named Person watchdog questions complaints system in letter to MSPs

The Public Services Ombudsman Jim Martin, who is responsible for overseeing the Named Person scheme, has written to MSPs expressing concerns about its complaints procedure.

In a letter to MSPs he stated it would be negligent of him not to mention his reservations about the system set up to deal with conflicts which arise between parents and Named Persons.

Martin told MSPs that the way the Government introduced the regulatory system was not flexible enough to adjust if changes are needed in the way complaints are dealt with.

A Scotland On Sunday comment piece raised the important question, “how much faith can parents be expected to have in the named person scheme if even the public servant who will have responsibility for dealing with any clashes that may arise between parents and the authorities has reservations?”

NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said: “The Named Person scheme may win the award for the most calamitous scheme the Scottish Government has ever dreamed up.

He added: “We already know that named persons will accumulate and share secret family data almost at will. And the scheme is so burdensome that the teachers and health visitors who are meant to take on the role are running away in droves. And the police say it can put abused children at even greater risk. Lawyers are against it. Social workers are against it. Parents are against it. Now we get confirmation that the complaints system has been botched. Surely this must be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?”

Martin’s letter to MSPs said: “My one concern is about the use of a regulation to set out the details of the process … Regulations do not change quickly and we have found issues in other areas where procedures set out by regulation have become outdated and out of step with modern complaint handling and, generally, the move has been to move away from this approach.”

He added: “I felt it would be remiss of me not to note that this particular legislative approach of creating the detail of complaints processes through regulations is now out of line with other areas in the public sector and we would recommend it should not be used as a model in the future unless there were compelling reasons to do so.”

Scotland On Sunday expressed sympathy for those opposed to the Named Person scheme.

In a leader comment the newspaper stated: “The concerns of those who feel uncomfortable about this new legislation are understandable.

“Named persons – in most cases teachers or health workers – will face potentially career-ending consequences if they fail to spot problems affecting a child for whose welfare they will have legal responsibility. Equally, the risk of overzealous action from named persons is a legitimate fear.”

The newspaper remarked: “There are also issues about what standard named persons are to apply. What one individual might feel is an acceptable way to bring up a child may, to another, seem quite wrong.”

It continued: “Most children already have guardians – their parents – and we sympathise with those who believe the state has no place in their families”.

“It is important to remember that mechanisms to ensure that children at risk are identified have existed for decades. Social work departments do much to assist in cases where children are believed to be in danger.”

The newspaper also commented that the concerns of those who fear the Named Person legislation will divert resources from those who need it most should not be dismissed.

Read more:

Watchdog voices fresh concerns over ‘named person’ scheme, The Scotsman, 27 February 2016

Leader: Concern grows over ‘named person’ law, The Scotsman, 27 February 2016