Keeping you up to date on the progress of the Named Person scheme and the NO2NP campaign.
Disclaimer: I’m about to ask you some ridiculous and inappropriate questions.
Cast your mind back to being nine years old. In the course of that year, how many cars did you steal? How many times were you arrested? On how many occasions did you use LSD, cocaine, ecstasy or heroin?
What about life as a 14-year-old. How many times had you been pregnant or got someone else pregnant? How many children had you given birth to or fathered? How often did you or your partner use a condom?
And what about your relationship with your parents. Did you feel close to your mum and dad? If you misbehaved, did they take away your TV privileges? Did anyone in your family ever argue or shout at each other?
Perth and Kinross Council asked all of these questions in a 2013 kids’ survey. As inappropriate as it may seem, school children were asked about their drinking habits, drug use, intimate sexual experiences and even family finances.
But rather than listening to concerns, and scrapping the survey format, a similar questionnaire (called ChildrenCount) was rolled out in Perth and Kinross, as well as in Renfrewshire, Angus, Dundee and North Ayrshire.
It included the following questions:
• When you have misbehaved do your parents listen to your side?
• How often do your parents tell you they’re proud of you for something you’ve done?
• Do you enjoy spending time with your father?
• How old were you when you first smoked cannabis?
• How many times in the past year have you sold illegal drugs?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, last month it was revealed that Scottish pupils will soon face new tests about their private lives. Children could be asked if they have a cosy home, whether their parents make them feel special, or who clothes them and cooks for them. All of their answers will be stored on a giant Government database.
As top social work consultant Maggie Melon said, the information could easily be “interpreted as evidence of child abuse or neglect”.
Aside from being grossly inappropriate and an obvious intrusion into private family life, the surveys are doubly concerning when viewed in the context of the impending introduction of a Named Person for every child, tasked with policing their ‘wellbeing’.
Parents should not be made to feel like their judgement is constantly under question. Nor should the state assume that it knows best.
Kenneth Roy, ex-BBC journalist and editor of Scottish Review, has lifted the lid on a worrying new child wellbeing survey doing the rounds in several local authorities, including Dundee City. In an explosive piece in Scottish Review entitled ‘We are sleepwalking into an authoritarian Scotland’, Roy draws the link between these surveys and the wider named person scheme. He writes:
“Parents in Dundee (as well as Angus and North Ayrshire) are being assured in an official letter that the questionnaire is part of an ‘exciting’ collaboration – everything has to be exciting these days – between the Scottish Government and ‘your local council’. Who could resist such an offer?…If, however, you are one of those pesky people in Dundee who don’t approve of your children confiding intimate details of their private lives, it won’t be all that simple to opt out.
“The letter goes on to explain that the information gathered in the ‘ChildrenCount Survey’ – note the exciting collaboration between two unrelated words – will be used to enable the authorities, national and local, to better plan public services. Sounds familiar? If you were a regular reader of this magazine last winter, you will remember our long campaign opposing ‘Evidence2Success’, a questionnaire circulated to children in Perth and Kinross schools…’Evidence2Sucess’ – a concept tainted by all the bad publicity…seems to have disappeared as a brand, but only to be replaced by ‘ChildrenCount’. From next Monday, children will be counting all over Dundee.
“This is not some innocuous local initiative. After the pilot in Perth and Kinross, it feels like the next stage in a grand plan: the creation of a massive national database backing up the present administration’s intention to have a ‘Named Person’ for every child in Scotland. The named persons will be public officials. They will assume the role of advisors and guides to our children, though only in office hours and not on bank holidays. The named persons will also require to have what is called ‘annual leave’. No doubt, however, the paperwork spewing out of ChildrenCount surveys will be their beach reading. In this intriguing new Scotland, where European directives are lightly ignored in the interests of contentment, the only people who will be explicitly forbidden from being named persons are the child’s own parents.”