What is it?
The Scottish Parliament has passed legislation to appoint a ‘Named Person’ for every child in Scotland.
This is a state official tasked with looking after a child’s “wellbeing”, that is, their “happiness”. This state guardian will be put in place regardless of whether or not children or parents wish to have one and regardless of whether there is any need for state intervention.
The central data-sharing provisions on which the scheme relies have been declared illegal by the UK Supreme Court preventing it from coming into force as planned on 31 August 2016. If a new version of the scheme is now introduced it will not be able to operate in the way the Scottish Government had originally intended.
However, there is still cause for concern, not least because Named Person pilot schemes are already operating across Scotland.
What will a ‘Named Person’ do?
Named Persons are given some of the duties of parents. A Government-funded leaflet said this includes having to check if children get a say in how their room is decorated and what they watch on TV.
A Named Person will have the power to speak to a child, including about very personal issues, and provide information or advice – all without requiring parental consent.
8 reasons why this is a problem
- It undermines parents and permits the state to pry into the privacy of families in their homes.
- The Government keeps saying there’s no need for families to use the Named Person but this is disingenuous. The scheme is compulsory – every child will have a Named Person by law. They will have power to talk to a child without their parents agreeing with what they say.
- It’s already extremely difficult to protect vulnerable children. The Scottish Government is stretching limited resources even further by creating a scheme that applies to all children regardless of need. Named Persons are likely to be over-cautious in referring issues to social services, which creates unnecessary work for social workers instead of allowing them to help vulnerable children.
- One piece of Government guidance says a Named Person has “responsibility for overall monitoring of the child’s wellbeing and outcomes”. This is the role of a parent.
- The Named Person is tasked with monitoring the wellbeing of every child. Government-funded guidance says “wellbeing is another word for happiness”. How can the state monitor the happiness of every child?
- Teachers are busy enough without becoming a Named Person responsible for monitoring the wellbeing of hundreds of children.
- These plans could result in children feeling that their privacy has been invaded over personal issues and could lead to them shunning helplines and advisory services.
- The current law says social services can intervene where a child is at risk of significant harm. But Named Persons can intervene merely where there are concerns about a child's "wellbeing" or "happiness".