SOCIAL WORKER EXPOSES ERRORS IN COLUMNIST’S ‘OTT’ SLURS

The Named Person scheme has received a lot of media attention recently. But not all of it is particularly enlightening. Take, for example, Dani Garavelli’s recent article in Scotland on Sunday criticising opponents of the Named Person scheme.

Maggie Mellon, an experienced registered social worker and independent consultant, sets the record straight and exposes the errors in Garavelli’s article.

Dani Garavelli’s piece in the Scotland on Sunday (Scare Tactics Put Children’s Lives at Risk, 13 March) criticises the campaign against the Named Person for ‘overblown rhetoric’, ‘emotive scare stories’ and hyperbolic statements rather than decent arguments. However, the boot is on the other foot, and her claims are rather let down by her own article, which is composed of rhetoric, scare stories and also badly thought-out hyperbole.

Dani Garavelli combined slurs with some very bad arguments. It seems that those of us who oppose the legislation are expected to have very thick skins in order to pursue our convictions. We are putting children at risk, and we only support parents’ rights and not children’s rights.

I have become used to expressions like ‘crazies’ ‘zoomers’ and ‘fruitloops’ being thrown around by supporters of Named Persons about those who try to warn of the dangers of this legislation. Iain McWhirter, writing in The Herald, had to preface his article stating very reasonable objections with the statement that he is not an evangelical or right-wing family values man.

I am not Christian, let alone evangelical, nor am I right wing. I did not home educate my children. I did not smack them. I am a strong supporter of every article of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I have never been diagnosed as mentally ill. But if I had been, I would be chilled to read the insults, as they stink of exactly the kind of prejudice that may make life very difficult for children or families who are ‘different’ in any way – and of prejudice against people who put human rights ahead of supervision and surveillance, no matter how benevolent the intentions.

In claiming that opponents of the Act are ‘putting children at risk’ and that we are more concerned with parents’ rights than children’s rights, she is merely repeating unfounded slurs and criticisms that have been the hallmark of the defence of the Act, not of opponents of it.

I have written several well-thought-out criticisms of the legislation, and particularly of the lowered thresholds for intervention and information sharing – as have several others. The scaremongering over the last week or so has been all one way and the responses have been well-founded, without resort to rhetoric or slur.

Dani Garavelli repeats the claim being deployed by Government and supporters of the Named Person that children have died because of a failure to share information. There has not been a single child death inquiry which has found that children have died as a result of failure to share information.

Children who have died, in Scotland and in England and Wales too, have all been known to the authorities. Information was shared. Information sharing is not the issue. The very difficult thing to do is to correctly identify the level of risk, and to have the resources, relationships, skills and time to take the necessary action.

Using the threat of likely deaths of children to justify the imposition of Named Persons is therefore a totally fabricated scare story. Information can and should be shared about any child thought to have suffered or to be at risk of significant harm. This requires discrimination, sensitivity and a personal knowledge of, and relationship with, the parent and the child.

What the legislation requires instead is information sharing about any concern about a child’s ‘wellbeing’. Contrary to Garavelli’s assertion, the Government literature identifies these concerns as including choice in decorating bedrooms, TV programmes, and all sorts of other lifestyle issues. That’s what ‘wellbeing’ can encompass you see.

Garavelli offers a classic example of a badly thought out argument when she writes that ‘someone from Barnardo’s’ told her that ‘some doctors’ are not passing on information about children who present with repeated sexually transmitted diseases.

A sexually transmitted disease in any child under 16 years is a prime example of what is a child protection red warning sign of sexual abuse. Health professionals will be aware of that. If they fail to protect the child, or to inform others who can, then they need training and reminding of their responsibilities.

Instead, Garavelli and Barnardo’s think that this alleged failure on the part of a few doctors should mean that any teenager asking for the morning after pill should be reported to their Named Person. But – badly thought out argument alert – this will mean making teenagers reluctant to seek medical advice and help.

And parents too – if for example post-natal depression is thought to present a risk to a child that needs to be shared, and which might involve child protection and other intrusive assessments, parents are going to keep very quiet about it or any other problems.

And why should every Tom, Dick and Harry of a Named Person or teacher or social worker know about a young person’s private health concerns when parents are not even entitled to this information? What kind of country will this be when the state believes our children’s secrets are safe in their hands but not in ours?

The argument that alleged failure by a few health or other professionals to share information that they are supposed to share already necessarily means that nothing can be confidential for young people or parents is a classic bad argument.

What such an indiscriminate breach of confidentiality will cause is children and young people and parents being scared to seek advice and help.

That’s what I call a badly thought out argument. And also a serious risk to children and young people.

Read more by Maggie Mellon

SENIOR SOCIAL WORKER SAYS LET NAMED PERSON SCHEME ‘DIE OFF’

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