Keeping you up to date on the progress of the Named Person scheme and the NO2NP campaign.
Around ninety parents, children and young people gathered at Hampden Park in Glasgow last Saturday to hear the Scottish government explain what their ‘named person’ scheme is all about.
The wheels appear to have fallen off the PR wagon though, as parent after parent took Phil Raines, Head of the Scottish Government’s Child Protection Policy Team, by surprise with their ‘off-message’ feedback.
• Why had the Government ploughed ahead with this scheme given the opposition?
• Why there had been no consultations with parents before now?
• Why was Highland Council‘s Bill Alexander’s word accepted on the success of the Pathfinder, when it had clearly not worked for many?
To his credit, Mr Raines accepted they had got it wrong and there was a lot more they need to think about. But if he thought his attempt to dress up GIRFEC as being about support, not intervention (although the concept of “early intervention” is referred to frequently in the Government’s draft guidance), would put parent’s minds at rest, he was mistaken – the questions kept coming.
• How are the professionals involved going to be trained?
• How will they be taught to work together across agencies using a common language, particularly when they are currently so bad at it?
They raised the issue of too many people being involved in sharing information and pointed out that this would only get worse when the legislation comes into force next year. (No comment from Phil Raines at this point, but he was seen taking copious notes.)
Further questions were asked about the funding of the scheme and managing complaints.
• How will it be maintained?
• Where is the money coming from now? Where will it come from in the future?
But there was no action plan for the future in terms of funding – not even a plan for a plan!
• How will a Named Person and any complaints against them be reviewed and monitored and who will do the monitoring?
• Who will train the monitors?
• Where do families fit in when there is a breakdown between the monitor and the Named Person?
Lots of good questions, but no answers except: “we have to re-think; we have realised it’s a larger issue than we had thought”.
But these determined parents weren’t finished yet.
They insisted that no local authority should launch or roll-out any aspect of the scheme on their own timetable. There must be only one launch date, the programmes already being rolled out by authorities such as Perth & Kinross and Forth Valley, must be pushed back. Everyone must stop the roll out until parental agreement has been reached – it can’t be launched before that.
By this time the ‘ideas’ board at the front had so many post-it notes on it, they were falling off! No wonder it will be three months or more before they write all this up for the participants.
Next it was the turn of the GIRFEC Guide, distributed to delegates before the event, to get short shrift. You may recall from a previous NO2NP blog that this is the information pack which stated that the named person would ensure that children have “what they need to have a good life”, including a say in how their bedroom is decorated and what they watch on TV.
Several parents were extremely angry as they pointed out that the illustration for a ‘safe place’ in the guide of a modern, semi-detached two-storey home did not reflect the reality for many. Was the Government saying that those parents who brought up their children on the 14th floor of a tower block were not providing a safe place for their children?
How, they asked, could such a broad statement about what a ‘safe’ place was go out to parents? How will a named person be expected to judge a family as being in a ‘safe’ place? How realistic is it to define ‘safe’ or ‘happy’ or ‘feel good’ anyway. Answer? ‘We’ll go back and look at the imaging being used’. In other words – we’ll do some window dressing rather than sort out the real problem.
And that was the recurring theme. At the end of the day parents were left with the clear impression that when it comes to GIRFEC there are plenty of questions but precious little in the way of answers.