Keeping you up to date on the progress of the Named Person scheme and the NO2NP campaign.
A good number came out on a rainy night this Tuesday to hear the latest from the NO2NP team – some travelling many miles to join us. Our roadshow events are proving to be very popular – please email us firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like one in your area next year!
Dr Stuart Waiton from Abertay University in Dundee opened the meeting and referred people to the SHANARRI song the Hopscotch Theatre Company have been performing to youngsters in primary schools across Scotland. Everyone agreed it was a shocking piece of propaganda.
Liz Smith MSP the explained that she opposes the Named Person scheme because it undermines the crucial trust between parent and child, and between families and professionals, and because it diverts resources away from the most vulnerable children. She left those gathered in no doubt that this scheme is “for your children – and your grandchildren” – every family must engage with it. She also spoke of how, as a result of the NO2NP campaign, many politicians who had voted for the controversial legislation are now having second thoughts.
Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust referred to the recent BBC Radio Scotland debate broadcast from Inverness, where the main Named Person pilot scheme is based. Lesley recounted that one of the participants, a Head Teacher who has been a non-statutory named person for seven years, believed that it was “absolutely” within her powers to be proactive about any concerns she had about a child. When pressed about what she would do if the parents did not wish her involvement, she said: “it would be my job to convince them that I’m there to help, that we were working together as a unit”. Bill Alexander, Director of Care and Learning at Highland Council, and a “staunch proponent” of the Named Person, was also on the BBC programme and he was adamant that there was “no compulsion on parents” to accept any advice or help – it was the professionals who could not opt out. But, Lesley went on,if professionals must act on a wellbeing worry then the family must accept the intervention and engage with the process positively or risk being characterised as ‘hostile’ or non-engaging, leading to further state intervention. Lesley then explained that the term “wellbeing” (which is central to the role of the named person) is very hard to define. Yet families “are to be judged using what can only ever be subjective assessments which are therefore forever prey to the personal bias and prejudices of the individual conducting them”. Lesley said the scheme “embeds the state at the heart of family decision-making, resulting in the systematic destruction of the autonomous family unit”.
Dr Jenny Cunningham, a community paediatrician, told those gathered that Alistair Gaw, Head of Social Work in Scotland, had gone on record as saying the named person scheme is not about child protection. Yet whenever the Scottish government tries to defend the scheme, they always invoke child protection arguments. Since 1997, every Westminster and Holyrood government has spoken of the need for state intervention into family life, but the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act takes this the furthest yet. “There’s a world of difference between parents who put their children at risk of significant harm and those who don’t match up to the government’s standards for parenting”, she said. The legislation obligates all professionals – not just Named Persons – to identify where parenting does match government indicators, making paediatricians and other doctors monitors of parenting rather than promoters of child health. One of the most shocking revelations Jenny made was that health visitors are being told not to seek the consent of parents to disclose confidential information on their family, because if they refused and the health visitor then told them their consent wasn’t needed anyway, this might undermine the relationship with the parents. Better to keep them in the dark!
After Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute shared some practical suggestions about how people could get involved with the campaign, there was a lively Q&A. A retired psychotherapist said the scheme was the worst possible thing for vulnerable children, because they would be terrified of dealing with strangers from officialdom. A teacher stated how the scheme would undermine his role.
A number of folk from Tuesday night’s meeting will be leafleting in Stirling City Centre this Saturday. Feel free to come and join us.