‘Postcards from the Fringe’: Families give evidence about Named Persons

Guest blog by Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust and Alison Preuss of Scottish Home Education Forum

Evidence from families affected by GIRFEC shows parents shun family services as they do not trust Named Person scheme

A ‘fringe’ event was held in Edinburgh on 15 November to hear families’ own testimonies on the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill, which is currently before the Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament.

Although the Government has claimed the new Bill will remedy the defects of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, those adversely affected by the GIRFEC policy and the premature implementation of the Named Person scheme were excluded from Holyrood’s invitation-only evidence sessions and focus groups. In order to redress the balance, Tymes Trust and the Scottish Home Education Forum issued their own call for evidence.

‘Postcards from the fringe’ allowed attendees-in-person to respond to questions that had arisen from over 90 pieces of evidence submitted, and to raise other points for discussion.

A delegation of parents and children later visited the Scottish Parliament to deliver their evidence (www.np-fringe.uk/the-evidence) to James Dornan MSP, convener of the Education and Skills Committee.

Desired outcomes from the fringe event

  • Scrap the current bill. It cannot change the legal framework or consent threshold upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • A public inquiry into how unfettered mass data misuse became embedded in policy and practice, as admitted on the record by ‘services’ acting on unlawful Government guidance.
  • Access to justice for those who have had their rights infringed and are still suffering harassment.
  • Removal of legal immunity for professionals who breach data protection law and act beyond their powers.
  • Fully consent-based model for any ‘wellbeing’ data processing, from collection to deletion, with special protection from coercion for children in schools and ‘care’ settings.
  • Recognition of parents as experts on their own children.
  • Urgent review of information governance and data security.

Reflections from the fringe

Participants were asked whether they believed the new Bill would satisfy the terms of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, which struck down key provisions of the 2014 Act, and how they thought the Government and Parliament should proceed in the face of continuing opposition to its proposed legislation and an overarching policy framework which places state outcomes above citizens’ autonomy.

Much discussion focused on the data sharing and undefined, subjective notion of ‘wellbeing’ on which the Named Person scheme and wider GIRFEC policy rely, and inconsistent messaging (support or mass surveillance?). Families noted their irrevocable loss of trust in public/third sector providers, which has already resulted in avoidance of services, refusal to disclose information that may be misused or lost, covert recording of all engagements with professionals, opt-out from health visiting, nurseries and, increasingly, schools.

Other recurrent themes were the lack of access to justice for those whose human rights had been, and continue to be, infringed by public and third sector bodies, and the lack of accountability of those who failed to get it right in the face of case law and legal opinion that had predicted the outcome of the judicial review.

Families believed their own evidence and experiences had been filtered out in order to push through legislation and a code of practice whose only purpose is to seek circumvention of the Supreme Court ruling.

Many people were of course unable to attend the daytime event on 15 November. The event was held during the day so that we could hand deliver the evidence ‘postcards’ to the Parliament, but we had planned to live-stream the event for those unable to attend. With this in mind we had initially booked the Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace Edinburgh which was “well equipped with audio-visual equipment and […] Wi-Fi.” Unfortunately the Quaker Meeting House cancelled our booking out of the blue. The Quaker Meeting House has hosted National Third Sector GIRFEC Project as well as other GIRFEC supporting events.

This spanner in the works forced us to find an alternative venue at short notice – not an easy task in the middle of Edinburgh a month before Christmas. Unfortunately the broadband provision in the venue we finally secured was not what we had expected and did not support live-streaming of the event. What is more the acoustics have rendered the recording sub-standard. We are endeavouring to save what we can of the day’s discussions and may post the salvaged footage if we can.

We thank you for your patience.

Fife report: Named Person “may have contributed to confusion”

Last year the tragic and brutal murder of toddler Liam Fee by his mother and her civil partner led to a public outpouring of grief and dismay.

Two-year-old Liam was already on the radar of social services and the police. Fife, where Liam lived, was one of the leading pilot areas for the Named Person scheme.

The Scottish Government claimed in September 2015 that the Fife Named Person pilot scheme was “working well”, and it was held up by the Government as a model for the rest of Scotland to follow.

Following the conviction of Liam’s mother and civil partner, NO2NP said: “Hard questions must now be asked about whether there were missed opportunities to save Liam, and to what extent the Named Person scheme was to blame.”

At the time Deputy First Minister John Swinney attacked us saying: “I think it is atrocious to try to establish any link between the named person proposition and the Liam Fee case because Liam Fee was very much on the radar of social-work services, there was a very strong amount of involvement of social-work personnel.”

He asserted: “It has absolutely nothing to do with named person.”

A significant case review was opened to investigate. The review, led by Dr Jacqueline Mok, was published last month.

Contrary to Mr Swinney’s assertions, the review found that the Named Person scheme “may have contributed to confusion”.

It stated: “The role of the named person under the principles of Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) policy was relatively new in Fife at the time and not always fully understood by professionals, and may have contributed to confusion as to who was co-ordinating care for the family.”

We’ve always said finding a truly vulnerable child is challenging enough. The Named Person scheme risks diverting resources away from those who really need them.

A problem shared is a problem halved… or not in the case of Named Persons

It’s already six months since the end of John Swinney’s ‘three-month period of intense engagement’… And still no word from the Scottish Government.

Could it be that officials are struggling to resurrect the Named Person scheme after the UK Supreme Court struck down the very heart of it?

The judgment noted that “the sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person” (para. 78).

It then concluded that these information-sharing provisions were:
• Incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
• May in practice result in a disproportionate interference with the article 8 rights of many children, young persons and their parents, through the sharing of private information;
• Not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament” deeming the legislation “defective” and blocking it from coming into force.

So, did the Scottish Government get any helpful advice on information sharing during its ‘three-month period of intense engagement’?

Well, a large number of groups including Social Work Scotland, Clan Childlaw, the Office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner and several of the Third Sector organisations suggested that information sharing provisions should not be included in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act. They expressed a preference for relying on existing legal frameworks and having guidance on the Data Protection Act.

Even at the Information Sharing Stakeholder Reference Group meeting, you know, the GIRFEC data-sharing gurus, it was said that “absolute requirement to share information is not an approach desired by the majority of stakeholders”.

In terms of consent, the NHS GIRFEC leads thought a legislative duty to seek consent might alter commonly understood and accepted practice.

Another group highlighted that “obtaining consent is fundamental to effective support”.

Perhaps not the feedback the Scottish Government was hoping for… might explain why we haven’t heard much from them lately.

Keeping up appearances of ‘getting it right’

By Alison Preuss of Home Education Forums

Back in September 2016, Deputy First Minister John Swinney reassured Parliament that Named Person schemes which were already operating on a non-statutory basis – including the much-vaunted Highland pilot – were not affected by the Supreme Court judgment because they were acting in accordance with the existing legal framework.

His assertion that it would be ‘business as usual’ drew sharp criticism from families across Scotland, whose personal data had already been collected and shared by public and third sector bodies without their knowledge or consent – and who had the damning evidence to prove it.

What’s more, current policy documents – including the Highland Practice Model and the practitioner toolkit published on Perth and Kinross Council’s website – proved beyond all doubt that non-consensual data processing had become well established and embedded across services over the preceding several years.

In a valiant effort to keep up appearances of ‘getting it right’ post-judgment, the Scottish Government sought to validate its own Named Person guidance by publishing an update on its website.

It claimed that the guidance “remains valid”, but that “some of the information will need to be revised”, namely the information sharing provisions of Part 4 and 5 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 as the ruling “requires these provisions to be amended in order for them to be compatible with Article 8 of the ECHR”.

Actually, the legislation needs to be re-drafted and approved by Parliament, and it will also need to comply fully with human rights and data protection laws to the satisfaction of the Supreme Court. Data processing without freely given informed consent is no longer a legislative option and legal remedies will be available to those whose rights have been breached.

The revised statement goes on: “The current draft statutory guidance on sections 23, 26, 27 and 40 should be disregarded for the time being, until it is revised following amendment of the provisions. Any information shared by and with those identified as Named Persons under GIRFEC policy can and should continue to operate in accordance with the existing legal framework and guidance on data sharing, human rights and children’s rights. This includes the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act 1998. Read the Policy Update on delivery of the Getting it right for every child approach here.”

In fact, current information sharing guidance does not accord with the existing legal framework, as upheld by the Supreme Court, since it encourages non-consensual data processing on the basis of any vague, undefined ‘wellbeing’ concern, as opposed to adherence to the legally permissible threshold of risk, or likely risk, of significant harm to a child.

The question remains: was the Deputy First Minister unaware of this?

Find out if Named Persons have been rolled out in your area

Council areas where we believe Named Persons have been rolled out include…

• Aberdeen City Council
• Aberdeenshire Council
• Angus Council
• Argyll & Bute Council
• Dundee City Council
• Edinburgh City Council
• Falkirk Council
• Fife Council
• Glasgow City Council
• Highland Council
• Moray Council
• North Lanarkshire Council
• Perth and Kinross Council
• Renfrewshire Council
• Shetland Islands Council
• South Ayrshire Council
• South Lanarkshire Council

You have the right to request copies of any personal information an organisation may be holding about you. This is known as a Subject Access Request.

Find out how to make a Subject Access Request

Victory! Supreme Court strikes down Named Person scheme

Judges at the UK Supreme Court have declared the Scottish Government’s ‘state snooper’ Named Person scheme to be illegal.

McIntoshes

The controversial legislation has been condemned for breaching the human rights of families.

It is the first time the Supreme Court has prevented a major piece of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament from coming into force.

Unanimous decision

In a historic verdict, five of the UK’s most senior judges, including two Scots, unanimously overturned decisions by the courts in Edinburgh on the legality of the Named Person provisions of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

The judges branded the law “defective” for breaching article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which guarantees everyone’s “right to a private and family life”.

They declared Holyrood had exceeded its powers by making a law which allowed public bodies to share sensitive private information about children and parents without consent.

The judges stated:

“The sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person … the operation of the information sharing provisions will result in interferences with the rights protected by article 8 of the ECHR” (Para. 78). Because of the lack of safeguards “the overriding of confidentiality is likely often to be disproportionate” (Para. 100).

They concluded:

“…the information-sharing provisions of Part 4 of the Act are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament” (Para. 106).

“…since the defective provisions are not within the legislative competence of the Parliament, they cannot be brought into force.” (Para. 109)

NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said:

“We are delighted with the decision, which proves our concerns, and those of the 35,000 people who signed our petition, were properly founded.

Simon Calvert

“This proposed scheme was intrusive, incomprehensible and illegal.

“This ruling means the Scottish Government has been blocked from implementing this scheme on August 31. It must scrap its plan for state snoopers with intrusive data sharing powers. It has to go back to the legislative drawing board if it wants to try again. But it would have to come up with a much more limited scheme that actually respects the rights of children and parents.”

“The Big Brother scheme is history.”

“It’s wonderful news for mums, dads and children all across Scotland who no longer have to worry about this unjustified invasion of their private lives. To many of them the Named Person scheme felt like a legal battering ram to gain access to their homes. The court has taken sides with ordinary families and put the Scottish Government back in its place.”

The judgment emphasises the importance of article 8. In a withering verdict on the Government flagship legislation, it said:

“The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.” (Para. 73)

They also quoted from a US Supreme Court judgment which states:
“The child is not the mere creature of the state” (Para. 73).

To read the judgment or see the hand down visit the UK Supreme Court website.

Awkward Named Person training video reveals more than intended

If someone had set out to make a video demonstrating how the Named Person marginalises families, they could not have done a better job than this training video from Angus Council.

It’s designed to help professionals think about child’s planning meetings. If you have the stamina you can watch the 30 minute video in full but we’ve provided a few clips below.

No doubt the video deliberately portrays some bad practice, which professionals are meant to spot. But you can’t help feeling that it reveals more than the makers intended about the inherent problems of Named Persons.

It’s almost as if they want to show how awful the whole thing is.

In a room full of strangers talking GIRFEC and SHANARRI jargon, the Named Person thanks the mother for attending as if she’s just another agency. It seems mum has not been meeting national standards for parenting. But the professionals are too busy, too stressed, and too under-trained to do anything more than go over checklists.

Instead of getting help, mum gets a child’s plan meeting to make her more aware of her deficiencies.

Who’s who?

The video is a dramatised meeting. It begins with a headteacher saying hello to all those in attendance. She is the child’s Named Person.

As we all know, the new law gives her power to speak to the child, including about very personal issues, and provide information or advice, and obtain and share confidential information on the family – all without requiring consent.

‘Wellbeing’

The headteacher refers to GIRFEC, Getting it Right for Every Child, a national policy.

Under the Named Person scheme, professionals are supposed to use GIRFEC to measure a child’s ‘wellbeing’. They do this by referring to eight SHANARRI ‘wellbeing’ indicators: “safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included”.

Confusing

If this sounds confusing, that’s because it is. A child’s ‘wellbeing’ will be monitored using a whole range of strange graphics.

Guidance on implementing the scheme includes a ‘National Practice Model’, which has been drawn up using a series of diagrams called the ‘Wellbeing Wheel’, the ‘My World Triangle’ and the ‘Resilience Matrix’. In total, teachers and health visitors will need a working knowledge of 221 risk indicators and 308 ‘wellbeing’ indicators.

The headteacher/Named Person in the video is shown fumbling with a huge copy of the matrix.

According to the video, teachers could also be responsible for filling out new ‘wellbeing web’ forms, potentially for dozens of children, before passing them on to a Named Person.

Isolated

People don’t like the Named Person scheme because it undermines parents. The video shows how alone the parent is in these situations. An array of professionals and practitioners, who are probably mostly complete strangers, are discussing the family’s very personal and private matters. It’s intimidating and humiliating. How difficult would it be for a parent to voice a different perception of the problem at one of these meetings? Or to say they don’t accept all of the concerns the practitioners have? Or even to refuse to consent?

Information sharing

Families are concerned that the Named Person scheme will lead to an invasion of their privacy, with data being passed from agency to agency.

This has been one of the biggest issues since the scheme was first announced. Notice how the mum’s mental health worker says: “A lot of the information is sensitive. I just can’t discuss it”. And then she proceeds to talk about it anyway.

‘How not to do it’

We all understand the challenges faced by councils trying to help families, both those who ask for help, and those who need it but won’t accept it.

But the Named Person scheme with its all-pervading SHANARRI indicators, is not the answer. This video shows why. It’s a ‘how not to do it’ video. But is it even possible to make a video that would make this whole cumbersome, jargon-ridden, patronising policy look or feel any better than this?

NO2NP ROADSHOW: PETERHEAD

There was a great turnout at the Waterside Hotel, Peterhead on Monday night, as the NO2NP team rolled up to ‘The Blue Toon’ for their latest roadshow event.

We were delighted to welcome back a senior academic to share his own troubling experience of the highly invasive Named Person scheme.

The speaker, who wishes to remain anonymous, has undertaken academic research on the workings of the former USSR and he said it was “petrifying” to see the similarities between that and the Named Person scheme.

He explained how at a review meeting for his youngest child, the health visitor had mentioned in passing that they had a note that his son was depressed. She said this “must have been a mistake” in the “family record”, because the youngster was really happy. When he pressed her on what this family record was, he was told there were “daily notes”, which he found odd, as he had only met this health visitor twice. He discovered that the document was used to gather hearsay.

It took some persistence before he was finally allowed to see the record and to his alarm, he found it was a heavily redacted 60-page document. He was told the parts that had been scored out were “3rd party information”, i.e. people’s opinions about his family situation.

The authorities were clearly trying to make a case to intervene in his family with such routine issues as a blister on his child’s upper lip, nasal discharge and a nappy rash. The record will remain until his boys are 26.

“It’s very worrisome that interested and engaged parents have no way of finding out what’s happening to their families in terms of surveillance”.

He believes many health visitors don’t always want to be Named Persons, but have to in order to protect themselves and their jobs. He said he has huge respect for health professionals, but feels their time would be better spent on other things.

Despite all this, in an upbeat conclusion he said he has “great hopes” for the Supreme Court ruling and for local people standing up against this legislation.

Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust then took everyone through some of the tools used by practitioners for gathering information, including:

  • Parental capacity to provide well-being assessment: a pre-birth assessment tool used by midwives to record the prospective parents’ capacity to provide their unborn child’s right to be safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.
  • On the trail with the Wellbeing Snail: a board game for primary-aged children to teach them what the state’s concept of ‘good wellbeing’ looks like. The cards include such statements as “You told the teacher that you were sad because your friend was unkind to you, Go forward 2 spaces” and “You didn’t join the new after school fencing club, Go back 2 spaces.”

Snailgame

Lesley went on to highlight the uncomfortable fact that a wellbeing worry can be raised by anyone. Highland Council, who have run a pilot of the Named Person since 2007, illustrate this point by saying: “Concerns may be identified by the child or their family, by someone in the community, by the Named Person, or by a practitioner or clinician in ANY organisation, including adult focussed services and the police.”

Once that concern is raised the Named Person has a legal duty to then act to assess that child’s wellbeing needs.

She said there were more than 200 “risk indicators” which practitioners need to keep in mind, but they are told that “whilst comprehensive they do not seek to be exhaustive”. They include:

  • Being under 5 years old
  • Illness within the extended family
  • Experience of bereavement, e.g. a pet
  • Parental resistance or limited engagement
  • The parent having a different perception of the problem

IMG_3077

Lesley finished with the Grampian Practitioner’s Guide to Information Sharing, Confidentiality and Consent to Support Children and Young People’s Wellbeing’.

This states that the sharing of confidential information is lawful where disclosure is in the public interest; it then defines public interest as ‘protecting wellbeing’.

It also emphasises to practitioners that “Data protection does not prevent the sharing of information” and that they should “Record, record, record!” Is it any wonder that runny noses need 60-odd pages of ‘family record’ write-up?

Nigel Kenny of The Christian Institute then gave an update on the judicial review at the Supreme Court, before suggesting some practical ways in which people could get involved with the campaign.

At the end a record number of people signed up to be volunteers! Some of them will be in Peterhead’s town centre tomorrow for our latest Action Day, so if you’re around do come and speak to them.

Oh dear. Another not-so-helpful pamphlet

The Government is responding to massive public opposition to the Named Person with pamphlets trying to explain the scheme.

But the harder they try, the more confused they become.

The most recent leaflet is called Named Person: Supporting children, young people and parents and, to be fair, we do quite like its use of origami bird graphics. But the actual content (i.e. the important stuff) is unlikely to allay the fears of genuinely concerned parents.

girfec

• The leaflet explains that, from August 2016, every child in Scotland will be appointed a Named Person.

• It says there is “no obligation” on families to use the Named Person. Yet everybody knows the scheme is compulsory. All children will have a Named Person by law. It will be implemented regardless of whether or not there is any need for state intervention. And the authorities will be able to collate and share data on you and your children without your knowledge, let alone your consent.

• Elsewhere, it says Named Persons have “no new legal powers to compel parents…to accept advice, support or help”. In reality of course, if mums and dads refuse to engage with the scheme, they will inevitably find themselves under scrutiny. Separate Government guidance even lists “parental resistance” as a “risk indicator”.

• The leaflet refers to ‘wellbeing’ over ten times. This is because a Named Person will be tasked with looking after a child’s ‘wellbeing’. It sounds nice. But other guidance says “wellbeing is another word for how happy you are”. How can the state monitor the happiness of every child?

• Teachers or health visitors will most likely become a child’s Named Person. According to the leaflet, their new duties are simply ‘integrated into their current role’. In other words, it places an extra burden on busy professionals. Remember that health visitors and teachers have already expressed serious reservations. Advice to local authorities issued by an implementation partnership group even says: “Compliance with the legislation can only be achieved through significant transformational change supported by systems, practice and culture change.”

• The leaflet claims that the new law and supporting documents provide “a clear set of steps for practitioners”. Yet the guidance on implementing the scheme is littered with strange graphics.

– A so-called ‘National Practice Model’ has been drawn up using a series of diagrams called the ‘Wellbeing Wheel’, the ‘My World Triangle’ and the ‘Resilience Matrix’.

– The ‘Wellbeing Wheel’ is to be used to examine eight ‘key’ aspects of every child’s life, known as the ‘SHANARRI’ indicators: Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, and Included.

– In total, teachers and health visitors will need a working knowledge of 221 risk indicators and 308 ‘wellbeing’ indicators.

• The leaflet refers to “the needs of vulnerable children and families”. Yet the Named Person law says nothing about vulnerability. Appointing a Named Person to every child, regardless of need, will further overstretch resources. Those that really need help will be more likely to be missed.

• In explaining the role of Named Persons, the leaflet gives the example of “a health visitor [asking] for help from a speech and language therapist”. This seems innocuous enough. But why should parents have to rely on a Named Person to agree that their child should get a service?

• It assures us that families will “in most circumstances” know when confidential information is being shared. This may be the biggest falsehood in the entire document.

– The concept of parental consent appears absolutely nowhere in the legislation.

– The Information Commissioner’s Office suggests data protection law should not be seen as an obstacle to data sharing.

NHS documents endorse widespread sharing of data on children and adults.

– And guidance to health visitors actively discourages them from seeking consent for data sharing.

• Currently information can be shared without a child’s consent if there is a ‘risk of significant harm’ to a child. But under the Named Person scheme information can be shared if there is simply concern for a child’s ‘wellbeing’. So why does the leaflet specifically refer to “a concern for the safety of a child” when it comes to information sharing?

It’s all just very confusing. No wonder so many parents are saying ‘No’ to Named Persons.

Getting it wrong for Scotland’s children

Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell is responsible for the Named Person policy. She’s been a bit invisible recently, but she has made game attempts to defend the Named Person in the past (here and here).

She’s now written a blog, ‘Getting it right for Scotland’s children: what you need to know’. We’ve reproduced the blog below in its entirety, along with NO2NP’s responses.

Getting it right for Scotland’s children: what you need to know
By Aileen Campbell

We all want Scotland’s children to get the best start in life. Undoubtedly, parents and families are best placed to provide that for their children.

NO2NP: We agree

However, it is not always possible, no matter how hard we might try, to predict in advance which children might become vulnerable. The Named Person policy is an important part of trying to ensure that when things are not going well for children, something is done about it.

NO2NP: The Named Person law says nothing about ‘vulnerability’. Finding truly vulnerable children is like finding a needle in a haystack. The Named Person scheme makes the haystack bigger.

Every one of Scotland’s one million children will have a Named Person to “promote” their “wellbeing”. This is a vague concept that’s likely to be far removed from vulnerability.

One parent reported how his child’s Named Person compiled a 60-page dossier, behind his back, with concerns including that the boy sucked his thumb and had a runny nose.

Campbell says the Named Person will “ensure… something is done” (emphasis added). This conflicts with the First Minister’s claim that the scheme is “not mandatory”.

Campbell says the Named Person will act “When things are not going well…” That’s a very different intervention threshold to current child protection law, which cuts in where there is risk of significant harm.

The Named Person, using SHANARRI indicators, Wellbeing Wheels and over 200 ‘risk indicators’, will act “where the named person considers it to be appropriate”.

It has been introduced to make sure families and children get help if and when they need it. It is about supporting, not diminishing, the role of parents and carers.

NO2NP: Nice rhetoric. But the reality doesn’t match. The Named Person law orders health, education, police and other bodies to send private information to the Named Person about children’s wellbeing without reference to parental consent or knowledge.

One Government-funded leaflet says “wellbeing is another word for how happy you are”. To assess this, Named Persons “will help make sure” “Your child gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV”.

A Scottish Government training tool based on the game Cluedo calls for “effective intervention at even the lowest level of concern”. It says friends and landlords should feed information to the Named Person. Information like a parent being “worried about work” or “enjoying a glass of wine during the week”.

Even Named Person supporter Joan McAlpine suggested this “will inevitably lead to breaches of privacy” and “perhaps we should be honest about that and say that we will have breaches of privacy for quite a lot of families”.

How is all this meant to support the role of parents?

The policy was passed unopposed in the Scottish Parliament by 103 votes to 0 and has already been upheld by the highest court in Scotland.

NO2NP: Sometimes politicians and judges get things wrong.

That’s why the case has been appealed to the Supreme Court.

It’s also why parents are trying to persuade politicians to think again. Many politicians have already changed their minds.

For the record, it was the Children and Young Person’s Act as a whole that was passed by 103 to 0. The Named Person scheme was just one part of it.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. A Named Person won’t replace or change the role of a child’s parent or carer.

Parents and carers are, with very few exceptions, the best people to raise their children. All a Named Person does is ensure that parents have a single point-of-contact if they need it – someone they can go to if they are worried about their child in any way and need advice, information, help or support. They’ll normally be a Health Visitor for pre-school children and a head, deputy-head or guidance teacher for school-children.

NO2NP: No. That is not “all a Named Person does”. Why legislate to give them powers to obtain and share data and powers to act “where the Named Person considers it to be appropriate” if they are merely reactive to parental requests? How can they “ensure that when things are not going well for children, something is done about it” if they are merely “someone [parents] can go to if they are worried about their child”?

2. There’s no requirement for families to take up the offer of help.

Parents are entitled to advice from a Named Person but they are under no obligation to follow that advice. A Named Person isn’t there to monitor family life. They will respond to requests for help from parents or children and work with professionals, if for example a teacher, has concerns for a child’s wellbeing. The policy means that any child, young person or parent knows who to contact for help or advice if they need it.

Some have suggested that a Named Person would have a say on things like how a child’s bedroom is decorated or what TV programmes they watch – that’s simply not true.

NO2NP: We didn’t make up those examples. They came from Government-funded leaflets.

And if the Named Person will “work with professionals, if for example a teacher, has concerns for a child’s wellbeing” how does that square with “All a Named Person does is ensure that parents have a single point-of-contact if they need it”? If a professional contacts the Named Person, the initiative is not coming from the parent.

And can the parent refuse to engage with the Named Person’s recommendations? One Named Person defender, when asked if a parent could hang up the phone on a named person if they are not interested in their advice, said “No. Er… Yes and No”.

Not taking advice is one of the 200 risk indicators, and earned the parent of the thumb-sucking child mentioned above a black mark in his 60-page dossier.

As for saying the Named Person “isn’t there to monitor family life”, guidance for Health Visitors is explicit that a Health Visitor has “responsibility for overall monitoring of the child’s wellbeing and outcomes as their GIRFEC Named Person”.

3. Children who are at risk will be protected.

Nothing about the service will change child protection procedures already in place – police and or social work should still be contacted immediately if a child is believed to be at risk of significant harm.

NO2NP: The huge amounts of new data hoovered up by the Named Person scheme will inevitably result in over-referrals, burying the files of genuinely at-risk children under a mass of trivial details on ordinary families.

Health Visitors, who are forced to act as Named Persons for under-fives, say they risk being consumed by an “avalanche” of information. One said: “I think there may be a number of issues which will create excessive amounts of information sharing in a very formalized way. This will I think clog an already stretched system.”

And some innocent families will get caught up in the child protection system. Independent social work consultant Maggie Mellon says that if parents say they do not want a Named Person involved in their family’s affairs this would inevitably be regarded as a risk and would move the family into child protection investigation.

Eileen Prior of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council says the Named Person will “lead to more families being drawn into the system unnecessarily.”

4. A Named Person approach isn’t new.

A Named Person service already exists in many councils, including Highland, Fife, Dundee and South Ayrshire. The new scheme simply extends this good practice consistently across Scotland so that all children, young people and their families can benefit from the same support.

NO2NP: How can it take eight pages of statute to create something which “isn’t new”?

If it isn’t new, why do Health Visitors say it will “totally change my job”?

If it isn’t new, why does NHS Grampian say: “The Act affects the way we share information to support all children and young people. The shift in emphasis from a welfare to wellbeing approach impacts on all services who deal with children, young people or adults who are also parents”?

If it isn’t new, why did the Faculty of Advocates say it “dilutes the legal role of parents, whether or not there is any difficulty in the way that parents are fulfilling their statutory responsibilities. It undermines family autonomy. It provides a potential platform for interference with private and family life in a way that could violate article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights”?

If it isn’t new, why has it cost at least £61m to central Government and potentially at least £2m at the local council level?

5. Information sharing will only happen to protect wellbeing and support families.

A Named Person will work with families, as they already do, to understand individual circumstances. They will only receive information from other professionals where it is relevant to the child or young person’s wellbeing and where it will help them support the child and family.

NO2NP: The Information Commissioner’s Office are quite open that the legislation is ‘lowering the trigger’ at which data can be shared.

Clan ChildLaw says the wellbeing threshold “involves a highly subjective judgment on the part of the Named Person and others as to whether to share information. It allows for the sharing of confidential information at that lower threshold even if the child does not consent. There is a serious risk that the overriding of confidentiality when there is no child protection concern will lead to children being reluctant to engage with confidential services.”

The information sharing provisions do not limit information sharing to “where it will help them support the child and family”.

Apart from in exceptional circumstances where there is a concern for a child’s safety, the child or young person and their parent will know what information is being shared and why, and their views will be taken into account.

NO2NP: This is simply untrue. The Named Person information sharing provisions in the Act say absolutely nothing about telling parents what is being shared and why. If it is “likely to be relevant” to the Named Person and “ought to be provided” then it “must” be shared.

Government guidance to Health Visitors actively discourages professionals from seeking consent, saying sharing of information with or by a child’s Named Person “will be a duty even where there is a duty of confidentiality hence consent to share relevant and proportionate information in this context will not be required and if sought and refused could potentially damage the HV/parental relationship”.

Kayley Hutton only discovered that her Named Person had compiled a 120-page dossier on her and her daughter Kaiya when she made a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act. It turned out officials had been secretly recording innocuous incidents as matters for concern.

For example, a report by Kayley’s support worker stated: “Kayley was waving off an overnight visitor as I left”. This guest was actually a female friend who had stayed at her house after a relationship ended.

The law already allows information sharing to prevent or tackle a risk to wellbeing. The highest court in Scotland has said that “it has no effect whatsoever on the legal, moral or social relationships within the family.”

NO2NP: No, Minister, the current law does not allow that. The current threshold for information sharing is “risk of significant harm”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office say the Named Person law is “lowering that trigger down to wellbeing”.

Let’s see what the Supreme Court has to say about it all…

NO2NP ROADSHOW: FALKIRK

A big thank you to all those who braved Storm Henry to come to the latest NO2NP roadshow event in Falkirk on Monday night!

Dr Stuart Waiton

After Dr Stuart Waiton welcomed everyone, community paediatrician Dr Jenny Cunningham contended that children’s rights should not trump parents’ rights. “Parents are fully autonomous beings,” she said, “able to make their own decisions, while children are not. The principle of parental autonomy is fundamental to a democratic society.”

She went on to say that, far from respecting this parental autonomy, in recent years, social policy has seen parenting as “deficient” or “problematic” and there is a widespread consensus that the state has to intervene to address it.

Jenny emphasised that “there’s a world of difference between parental behaviour that puts children at risk of significant harm” and parenting that doesn’t fit the Government’s expectations.

Dr Jenny Cunningham

She said that “everything has been ‘GIRFEC’ed” [GIRFEC is the Government’s Getting It Right For Every Child framework] throughout health, education and social work. The legislation obligates all professionals to identify deficiencies in children’s lives and make decisions about whether their wellbeing is threatened and this is clearly seen in the new Universal Health Visiting Pathway, which will be introduced this August.

Jenny finished by saying that parenting isn’t a tick box list to be assessed by the state but a relationship between parent and child that grows at its own pace, as we are all individuals.

Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust then spoke about the recent decision of the Inner House of the Court of Session to reject our legal challenge. She quoted their use of the word “welfare” to describe the purpose of the legislation and showed how it is not interchangeable with “wellbeing”, but fundamentally different.

Lesley Scott

The Scottish Government has made this clear in their final statutory guidance, which states that “welfare and wellbeing are different, in that wellbeing is a broader, more holistic concept.” Even First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seems to be unsure about the purpose of the legislation, as she has said it is “about making sure that we are doing everything in our power to protect vulnerable children”. So, is it about child protection or children’s wellbeing?

On further scrutiny of the guidance, Lesley argued, there is “a dangerous conflation of the two [ideas]”, with the Information Commissioner’s Office conceding that there was a “lowering of the trigger” for data sharing from risk of “significant harm” to threat to “wellbeing”. This is confirmed in the guidance, which states that “a series of low level indicators of wellbeing need (whether obviously related or not) taken together can amount to a child protection issue”.

Lesley went on to point out, chillingly, that the guidance “is clear on the ability of Named Persons to use compulsion against parents and families who show any degree of non-engagement, non-compliance or mere ambivalence in the face of state functionaries’ opinions”. She went on to refer to sinister “compulsory supervision orders” which the guidance encourages Named Persons to use “at an early stage…to ensure compliance”.

Gordon Macdonald

After a short video, CARE for Scotland’s Parliamentary Officer Gordon Macdonald, gave an overview of the passage of the Bill through Holyrood, stressing that it was really only children’s charities that were consulted and many of them tend to view families as potential problems. No consideration was given to religious liberty during the one morning given over to scrutinising the Bill, whose terms were applauded by the majority of the agencies invited to the session.

As a result, CARE and others involved in the NO2NP campaign, had no option but to go to court to seek to have the legislation overturned. Gordon suggested that the Court of Session had taken a “very optimistic view” of the legislation, but we were going to the Supreme Court in March and would, if necessary, go on to Strasbourg and Luxembourg, as the matter is so important.

Gordon concluded that there is a real risk of the scheme being operated in a “totalitarian” way, because individual children’s rights are being viewed in isolation from – and at times in opposition to – their relationship with their parents.

IMG_2178

After some practical points were shared, there was an in depth Q&A, which brought out further revelations about the scheme, including that “wellbeing” was sometimes seen as whether children had sufficient “hope, love and spirituality” in their lives!

A dedicated group of volunteers will be in Falkirk’s High Street on Saturday morning for our latest Action Day, handing out flyers to shoppers and encouraging them to sign the online petition – if you are free to join us, please email volunteers@no2np.org.

Twitter’s pro-independence ‘Angry Salmond’ questions Named Person plans

‘Angry Salmond’, who is best known for his witty political jibes promoting Scottish independence on social media, has raised concerns about the Named Person scheme in a comment piece in The National newspaper.

The man behind the popular Twitter parody account, who is now a regular columnist in The National, said it was ‘suspicious’ that the scheme has been kept “off the public radar and not openly championed as the world-beating miracle cure that its creators doubtlessly consider it to be”.

He stated: “I can’t help but notice that people who know little about Named Person seem entirely in favour of it, while impassioned researchers appear wholly against it.

He added: “I’ll concede that every child being assigned a mandatory government official who employs a “Wellbeing Wheel” to determine if the kid is happy or not certainly isn’t something parents are used to”.

Criticising the speed in which ministers pushed through the proposals, he commented: “Maybe we could have stepped cautiously toward the Named Person scheme rather than diving unwaveringly upon it with no real evidence it will improve anything.”

The columnist warned: “The Named Person idea makes people anxious that, once again, politicians are trying to put out the village fire with a tsunami”.

But Angry Salmond, like many, makes the misguided statement that “the intention of the scheme is to help vulnerable children”, and accepts that this is “a righteous idea”.

Yes, we would all agree that helping vulnerable children is “a righteous idea”. But this scheme is not about child protection as the Government would like us to believe – we wish it was that focused! Instead, it is a universal scheme to monitor the happiness of children, which is highly subjective.

Lesley Scott, the Scottish representative for The Young ME Sufferers (TYMES) Trust in a letter to The National, warned: “This dangerous legislation conflates wellbeing worries with child protection concerns, lowering the trigger for state interference to when a child’s “wellbeing” is adversely affected by any matter arising from any factor”.

She added: “The Scottish Government’s own legal team conceded that every child in Scotland is now viewed as potentially ‘vulnerable’ which holds the considerable implication that all parents are now viewed as potentially neglectful or abusive.”

On the term ‘wellbeing’ she also highlighted that even “the Scottish Government concedes that wellbeing ‘can mean different things ranging from mental health to a wider vision of happiness’.”

MSP MAKES FLAWED CLAIM THAT ‘NAMED PERSON HAS NO POWERS TO COMPEL’

Last month MSP Stewart Maxwell confidently stated during a Named Person debate in the Scottish Parliament that “the named person has no powers to compel parents or children to do anything without their consent”.

But we wonder if Mr Maxwell has ever read the Named Person legislation or the accompanying 90-page guidance… Because if he had, he would struggle to find much about parental consent…

Named Persons are given vast functions including “advising”, “informing” and “discussing” at their own discretion – without the need for parental consent.

Here’s what the Act itself actually says the Named Person’s functions include:

“…doing such of the following where the named person considers it to be appropriate in order to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person—

(i) advising, informing or supporting the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person,

(ii) helping the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person, to access a service or support, or

(iii) discussing, or raising, a matter about the child or young person with a service provider or relevant authority”.

Parental consent is never mentioned in the Act. And it’s pretty clear that it’s up to Named Persons to decide when and how they carry out their functions.

Does Mr Maxwell still think that the Named Person has no powers to compel parents?

Let’s see what the Scottish Government’s Statutory Guidance says…

“Named Person functions fall into three main categories:
a) advising, informing or supporting the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person. This may involve the Named Person providing direct help to the child, young person or parent, either after a request for assistance, or when a wellbeing need has been identified, or following an assessment of the child’s or young person’s wellbeing” (para. 4.1.22).

It’s accepted even by the Scottish Government that “wellbeing” is an extremely subjective term. Many parents have been asking what would happen if a parent disagrees with what the state thinks is right for their child. Where does that leave the parent?

The functions of the Named Person…continued:

“b) helping the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person, to access a service or support. The Named Person may feel that the child or young person might benefit from support from a service other than their own. They will discuss the most appropriate approach with other practitioners and seek assistance to support the child, young person or parent to access the service if appropriate” (para. 4.1.22).

No sign of the need for parental consent here… Can you spot any?

During the Judicial Review of the legislation last year the Scottish Government QC admitted that if a teenager discovered she was pregnant whilst in hospital the Named Person would definitely be informed, but he wasn’t sure about the parents.

Still think that “the named person has no powers to compel parents or children to do anything without their consent”, as Maxwell stated? Okay, let’s look at one more function of the Named Person…sharing a child’s personal data:

“c) discussing or raising a matter about a child or young person with a service provider or relevant authority. The Named Person may identify or be made aware of a wellbeing need, which – in their professional judgement – requires advice and support from another agency. The Named Person will discuss this with the child or young person and parents, as appropriate, and may then need to discuss the wellbeing issue with professionals in other agencies, sharing information in order to complete the assessment of the child’s or young person’s needs. They may also need to share information to get specialist advice about what kind of service or support would be most appropriate for the child or young person” (para. 4.1.22).

Still no sign of “parental consent” here… Not only does the Named Person not need to seek parental consent, it looks like the Named Person only needs to discuss matters with parents if they deem it ‘appropriate’.

Looks to us like Named Persons have plenty of powers which do not require parental consent.

You can read the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 here and the full guidance here.

Taxi drivers recruited under GIRFEC to spy on children

‘What happens in the taxi doesn’t stay in the taxi’

A child protection training officer has been caught disclosing that taxi drivers are under a legal duty to spy on child passengers and report information to Named Persons.

Speaking during a GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) training day for voluntary sector workers, Scottish Borders Child Protection Committee’s Training and Development Officer Jim Terras stated, “if you’re contracted out for services to the local authority, you will have a duty, a legal duty, to assist the Named Person”.

LISTEN TO THE RECORDING OF JIM TERRAS

Local authorities have been known to give contracts to taxi drivers to transport children to school. Terras, a former police officer, revealed that 600 taxi drivers had been contracted by the Scottish Borders Council and were therefore under the GIRFEC system.

He said: “Now you can imagine the conversations I’ve been having whilst I’ve been doing taxi driver training. Right? Because we have over 600 taxi drivers… are contracted to the Scottish Borders Council to transport young children, adults at risk of harm, to various places.

“And I have to explain to them that if they’re covered by the GIRFEC system… they as taxi drivers also have a duty to tell us what’s been happening, and this idea of, you know, ‘what happens in the taxi, stays in the taxi’ doesn’t exist any more… you’ve got to tell us, because it’s a legal duty.”

Terras continued: “We’ve got taxi drivers that I’ve spoken to who are contracted to the Scottish Borders Council, they say, ‘oh, it’s not our job’, and now we’re saying, ‘well it is, now, if you’ve got a contract for the council’.

“If a child tells you something in the actual front seat of the car or behind you, that this happened last night and all the rest of it, and you’re concerned about it etc, and then I went on to ask, ‘What happens if that happens? What do you do? Where do you go?’ And a lot of them didn’t think to get out of the car at the school and go in and speak to the teachers. I had to explain to them that that was the step that they should take.

“It’s quite interesting how this is affecting lots and lots of different organisations where you’re effectively having to explain to them that passing on information and the duty to assist the Named Person means that you will have to know about – it’s quite clear that you can pass on this information.”

A NO2NP spokesman raised concerns about “Big Brother bureaucrats recruiting a network of spies to snoop on families”.

He commented: “This is not about reporting abuse or neglect; it’s about passing on information to the state about the day-to-day happiness of young people.

“And woe betide them if they fail in this Stasi-like duty.”

taxi drivers

Scottish Daily Mail, 28th December 2015

Named Person ‘bureaucracy’ is a big issue, says leader of headteachers

General Secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, Greg Dempster, has raised concerns about what the bureaucracy of the Named Person scheme will do to a headteacher’s time.

Speaking during a meeting of the Education and Culture Committee in November, Dempster said: “We need a review of the expectations on school leaders in primary.”

“There is an issue with bureaucracy. The biggest issue that I hear mentioned as an absorber of headteacher time is the bureaucracy associated with the named person duties and GIRFEC. It would be useful to have a look at that bureaucracy.”

In July The Herald reported that teachers were concerned about the extra workload the Named Person scheme would create.

The country’s largest teachers’ union, EIS, said that it would have “serious concerns” about any related workload demands during holidays.

The union, which says it backs the scheme in principle, criticised the lack of clarity over how the scheme would work and said its members were becoming increasingly worried about the extra burden the Named Person role will place on them.

NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said at the time: “Teachers have a hard enough time and carry out what can sometimes be a thankless job without adding to their burdens during their well-deserved holidays.”

Named Persons being ‘trained to suspect parents’, warns sociologist

Leading sociologist and supporter of the NO2NP campaign, Dr Stuart Waiton, has strongly criticised the Named Person scheme and the Scottish Government’s GIRFEC approach.

He cautioned that “every single professional who comes into contact with children is being trained to be suspicious of parents”.

“Rather than using their common sense, their professional judgment and their basic humanity to recognise problems they are being educated to be risk averse, to think ‘safety’, and danger, and to intervene in a family’s life based on minor issues”, he added.

Dr Waiton, a senior lecturer at Abertay University, raised concerns that “the potential for gross interference” by Named Persons was “extraordinary”, and could “destroy” conventional rights to family privacy because the legislation makes a blanket assumption that all parents need state support.

His comments came as MSPs debated the Named Person scheme in Holyrood yesterday in response to a Conservative motion opposing it. Labour expressed some reservations around implementation, but largely endorsed the Government’s approach.

Liz Smith MSP, the Conservative’s Spokesperson on Culture, Sport and Young People, made the case to oppose the scheme, saying some police officers “feared by making it compulsory for every child, it will be much less possible to direct sufficient attention to those who need it most”.

Read more from Dr Stuart Waiton:
Submission to the Education and Culture Committee
NAMED PERSON LAW ‘DEGRADES THE VERY MEANING OF PRIVACY’
TESS ARTICLE: “UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL”
Video: Four key trends in society which have driven the Named Person plans

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DISAPPEARING EXPERT COMMITTEE

Will the Scottish Government explain the mystery behind the sudden disbandment of an expert steering group set up to oversee the introduction of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014?

The Named Person provisions are contained within the 2014 Act, and are due to be implemented across Scotland in August 2016.

The steering group, known as the GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) Programme Board, was chaired by Aileen Campbell and had planned to work until August 2016.

Minutes of a May 2014 meeting revealed that Police Scotland had “raised issues surrounding ensuring high-risk children remained a focus”. At this point there was no indication that the group would end, but the committee was mysteriously scrapped later that year.

A Scottish newspaper was told by officials that “a decision was made at ministerial level to wind up the GIRFEC Programme Board after May 2014″.

The steering group included top level representatives from the police, social workers, health boards, children’s charities, civil servants and councils.

A NO2NP spokesman commented: “Police concerns that the Named Person approach may move the focus away from high risk children were by far the most significant item discussed at what turned out to be their last meeting.

“If it is true that the Government closed the board down because they didn’t want it exposing the risks created by their Named Person scheme then this is a resignation issue for the minister.

“If child protection concerns expressed by senior police officers are being swept under the rug, what hope do we have that the Government will listen to anyone? Public anger against this scheme is growing as pilot schemes reveal the problems of implementing the Named Person. So far the Government seems bent on pursuing it at all costs and against all objections. It’s time they listened to parents, police, social workers, teachers and all the others who have serious questions about the Named Person.”

Liz Smith MSP, a supporter of the NO2NP campaign, said: “This seems an extraordinary situation given that it was quite clear from the minutes of the last meeting that the board would continue until implementation was complete in 2016.

“The more this policy is discussed, the more that we are seeing concerns being raised, not only by parents but also by those who are on the frontline of delivery.”

Police Scotland has continued to raise concerns about the Named Person provisions and in July this year, it warned about a “lack of clarity” in the scheme, as well as complications surrounding the sharing of sensitive information.

Crucially, they expressed fears that the Named Person pilot schemes are resulting in delays to remove children from abusers because officials are spending time conducting ‘wellbeing’ assessments. The Police Scotland warning is contained in an official police submission on the guidance to how the 2014 Act will operate.

NO2NP said at the time:

“This submission essentially discredits the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”

The spokesman added: “The allegations made by Police Scotland could not be more serious. Rather than speeding up help for abused and neglected children, the extra layers of bureaucracy significantly delayed the reporting of criminal acts against the youngsters.

“‘Wellbeing’ assessments, which are at the heart of the entire Named Person scheme, have apparently caused delays that allowed abused children to be exposed to yet more abuse.

“Named Persons, unlike social workers, are not experts in handling child abuse cases. It is unfair on teachers and health visitors to burden them with this responsibility. This statement from the police shows that involving non-experts in serious cases of abuse and neglect risks losing key evidence, allowing child abusers to avoid justice.

“This damning piece of new evidence gives the lie to the Government’s main defence for the Named Person scheme. The incompetent Named Person policy will not protect abused and neglected children – it will expose them to even more danger.

He continued: “The police offered the Government specific examples where following the Named Person policy actually delayed reports of child abuse and neglect. The public must be told immediately if the Government has asked for that evidence and if not, why not.

“The minister must make a public statement at the earliest possible opportunity about any and all cases where Named Person pilot schemes have resulted in delays reporting child abuse and neglect.

“This latest shocking development confirms that the Named Person policy is going to be a disaster: a disaster for abused and neglected children and a disaster for good Scottish families.

“The time has come for the Government to admit it has made a huge mistake and scrap the whole scheme.

The NO2NP spokesman added: “The Government will point to the fact that Police Scotland say they support the Named Person scheme. But what else are they going to say? The police can’t lobby against a key government policy. But they have essentially discredited the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”

NO2NP Action Day: Stirling

A dedicated group of NO2NP volunteers were in Stirling City Centre on Saturday morning. The group braved the cold – and the disruption of a fire alarm in the Thistle Shopping Centre – to hand out leaflets to shoppers, many of whom were unaware of the controversial state guardian scheme.

IMG_1933_blog IMG_1948_blog IMG_1931_blog

NO2NP had held a meeting in the Golden Lion Hotel on Tuesday night as part of our national roadshow and our volunteers found on Saturday that a sizeable majority of those they spoke to were opposed to the controversial scheme.

IMG_1957_blog

One campaigner remarked: “Regardless of where people stand politically, when they hear what the scheme will entail – intrusion into family life on a vast scale, with a data sharing free-for-all to go with it – they join us in saying no to this scheme, which is unwanted, uninvited and unnecessary.”

The team secured dozens of signatures for our national petition, which can be found at no2np.org.

NO2NP AT THE SNP CONFERENCE

As delegates approached the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre last week for the SNP’s Autumn Conference, they were met by a friendly team of NO2NP supporters, handing out leaflets explaining why we are opposed to the Named Person scheme.

SNP5 SNP6 SNP3

Despite the controversial policy having been pushed through the Scottish Parliament by the SNP last year, large numbers of delegates were happy to take a flyer and consider our arguments.

Surprisingly few indicated support for the scheme and a number expressed strong opposition to it. One delegate commented that the SNP had gone ahead without consulting the party membership on the matter.

SNP1 SNP2 SNP7

A number of MSPs stopped to speak with our team, including government minister Aileen Campbell, who is responsible for the Named Person policy. She engaged in some good natured banter with our volunteers. Let’s hope she and her colleagues take note of the public concern there is about the legislation within her own party and beyond. People of all political persuasions can see that it is a gross intrusion into family life, unworkable and bad news for truly vulnerable children, who will see stretched resources diverted away from them by the universal nature of the scheme.

Do keep telling your friends to sign the petition to let the government know that more and more people are saying No to Named Persons.

Scottish Government’s Top Ten Named Person ‘Facts’: Fact 1

The Scottish Government has published ‘Top ten Named Person facts’ on its website. The first of these ten ‘facts’ says the Named Person ‘does not undermine families’ and “will not interfere in how a child’s room is decorated” or “the TV programmes they watch”.

Scots Govt 10 facts_fact1

But if this is true, then why does the Government’s GIRFEC leaflet tell parents the Named Person will check if a child “gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV”…?

GIRFEC leaflet - RESPECT page GIRFEC leaflet back page

Read the full GIRFEC leaflet here

GIRFEC front cover

NO2NP ROADSHOW: INVERNESS

The Waterside Hotel on the banks of the River Ness was the latest venue for the NO2NP Roadshow on Tuesday night this week.

Simon Calvert from The Christian Institute welcomed everyone and explained that the aim of the Named Person scheme was to “police children’s happiness” but that there was no way it was the role of the state to do this. Named Persons would effectively be “looking over parents’ shoulders” to see if they were “ticking all the boxes”.

IMG_1833

Gordon Macdonald from CARE for Scotland then spoke about the background to the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act (which introduced the Named Person scheme) and the “totally inadequate scrutiny” given to the Bill in its passage through Parliament. Even some MSPS who voted for it are now realising that they had been too enthusiastic about it, thanks to the NO2NP campaign.

He said opposition to the scheme, both inside and outside the Scottish Parliament, has been increasing, something that is “unusual” once a Bill has been passed. Gordon went on to speak about the judicial review of the legislation, which is currently on its way to the Supreme Court. He said that although the courts have rejected the judicial review so far, the situation has improved. The most recent ruling has restricted the level of interference: medical records of a general nature cannot now be shared.

And the court has recognised that the Named Person scheme must be interpreted in light of human rights and data protection legislation. Gordon stated that not only was there an inappropriate level of interference in family life under the scheme, it was also unmanageable.

Next up was Lesley Scott of TYMES Trust, who gave a critique of the radio interview Government minister Aileen Campbell had given following the court’s ruling last month, during which she had repeatedly said that the scheme does not infringe upon parents’ rights and responsibilities for raising children in any way.

IMG_1813

However, Lesley pointed out that, while existing law allows the state to override parents where there are child WELFARE concerns, the Named Person is now legally responsible for a child’s WELLBEING.

Although the GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) team acknowledges that there is a difference between welfare and wellbeing, the Scottish Government and even the judiciary are constantly conflating and confusing the two. Welfare has a clear legal understanding (it is threatened when a child is at risk of significant harm) but wellbeing by contrast is not commonly understood in any context.

Indeed, on the Scottish Government website, wellbeing is described as “a complex, multi-faceted construct that has continued to elude researchers’ attempts to define and measure it”.

Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute then provided some practical points for people to get engaged with the campaign, including helping out with the NO2NP Action Day in Inverness City Centre.

If you live in the Inverness area and would like to help raise the profile of the NO2NP campaign this Saturday, get in touch with us at admin@no2np.org – it would be great to see you there!

BBC Radio Scotland’s Kaye Adams hosts extended Named Person debate

The Kaye Adams Programme on BBC Radio Scotland was broadcast live from Inverness earlier this week, where a Named Person pilot scheme has been operating under The Highland Council.

In a lively debate Adams hosted an in depth analysis of the scheme with contributions from a mixed panel and members of the public.

Those speaking in favour of Named Persons included Aileen Campbell MSP, Minister for Children and Young People and Bill Alexander, Highland Council’s Director of Care and Learning. NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert and Tymes Trust Scottish representative, Lesley Scott spoke against the scheme.

Listen to the full programme on BBC iPlayer

Adams pressed the Minister over who would have the final say if the parents had a different opinion to the Named Person about the wellbeing of their child.

Campbell conceded that parents were the best people to look after their children and stated that the Named Person would only have the final say if there was a child protection issue.

This sounds fine in theory but in reality it raises the same problem time and time again – The scheme being defended is not the same scheme being proposed in the legislation.

Responses from proponents of the scheme were riddled with confusion and contradiction.

Bill Alexander contradicted the Minister saying the scheme was not about child protection, but about early intervention and working in partnership with parents based on consent.

Calvert challenged Alexander’s claims and said: “If, as Bill just said, this was a scheme that operated with consent… we wouldn’t be having this campaign, but that’s not what the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act is about.

He added: “The Named Person is appointed for every child in Scotland whether families want it or not. No parent can opt out. The Scottish Government made this very clear during the court case. They said opting out would defeat the purpose of the scheme”.

Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust warned that the universality of the scheme created the assumption that professionals are always right, whilst parents’ views are pushed way down the ladder.

She said: “If parents start to object then they are seen as a problem. It’s very difficult for parents to go against advice, you’re seen as a problem to be sorted, not a parent standing up for the rights of their child”.

Concerns were also raised about the difficulties of assessing the subjective nature of wellbeing and the burden it will place on social workers.

Calvert warned: “Escalation is going to happen all the time. You have this data gathering operation at the level where child minders and accident and emergency units are being told ‘give information about families to the Named Person, you don’t need the families consent’.

“The Named Person then gets that information, they have to assess, not whether there’s a risk of harm, but they have to assess whether the kid is happy enough. The Government is clear about that, wellbeing means happy enough, so they are then going to escalate things up to the next level, and that’s going to weigh down social workers with file after file on families where there aren’t any real problems. And every minute spent on one of those files is a minute not spent helping families that really do need help.”

He said: “The Government says that all children are potentially vulnerable which means that they think that all parents will potentially leave their children vulnerable”, and added, “the problem with this system is it is assessing parenting and assessing whether you are making your child happy enough according to a Government checklist”.

Kaye Adams pointed out that: “Wellbeing and nurturing are very subjective terms” and asked proponents of the scheme what they would do if the Named Person’s view of whether the child is being adequately nurtured or is happy enough was to potentially conflict with the parent’s.

Lesley Scott disclosed that even on the Government’s own website it admitted wellbeing was difficult to describe, detailing it as a “complex multi-faceted construct that’s continued to elude researchers attempts to define and measure it”.

Scott also addressed the argument about the legislation being necessary for vulnerable people and noted that: “Things were already in place for children who were vulnerable”. She said, “this is not about vulnerable children, this legislation doesn’t mention the word vulnerable, it’s about wellbeing.

The Minister attempted to defend the argument that you cannot define and measure wellbeing by referring to the SHANARRI indicators, the ‘wellbeing wheel’ and reassuring the public that different local authorities have different approaches!

Christine Cameron, Head of St Joseph’s Primary in Inverness and supporter of the Named Person scheme, was also on the panel and was asked by Adams about what she would do if a parent did not want the help of a Named Person.

She said: “It would be my job to convince them that I was there to help … it’s always been my job to work with families… Yes it can be a challenge at time but it is something that is my responsibility to do”.

NO2NP ACTION DAY – GLASGOW

A large group of NO2NP volunteers gathered in Glasgow City Centre on Saturday morning to raise the profile of the campaign and encourage people to sign the online petition.

190915_No2NP_15_small 190915_No2NP_25_small 190915_No2NP_16_small

Interest in the Action Day came from people of all ages, even some young couples who weren’t yet parents. Dozens were very happy to sign the online petition and promised to tell their friends and family about it too.

190915_No2NP_06_small 190915_No2NP_11_small 190915_No2NP_17_small

Time and time again, people remarked that they couldn’t understand why the Scottish Government would want to introduce such a scheme. Some said it would be completely unworkable, while others said it smacked of Big Brother and was more fitting for countries like China or North Korea.

190915_No2NP_27_small 190915_No2NP_01_SMALL 190915_No2NP_28_small

190915_No2NP_14_small 190915_No2NP_26_small 190915_No2NP_22_small

It was very clear to the team that Glasgow Says No to the Named Persons!

190915_No2NP_18_small 190915_No2NP_09_small190915_No2NP_05_small

The next Action Day will be in Inverness on Saturday 10th October. If you’d like to come along and get involved, do get in touch with us at admin@no2np.org.

And do keep letting your friends know about the online petition at www.no2np.org!

Named Person scheme to squander staggering £61 million of public money

NO2NP recently hit out at the amount of money which has been spent on the Getting It Right For Every Child programme, the foundation of the Named Person scheme.

The results of a freedom of information request made in the last few weeks revealed the details of the costs involved, and they were breathtaking.

A spokesman for the campaign, said: “The Government has been quick to criticise the lack of funds available to them during the current economic climate in crucially important areas like health and education as well as law and order.

“But they have seen fit to squander a staggering £61 million of public money on the Named Person scheme.”

This figure would be equivalent to funding 450 front line social workers or 370 front line police officers.

It is hard to comprehend that the Government thinks this ill thought-out and flawed scheme is of more value than hundreds of extra social workers and police officers which could have been funded with the Named Person and GIRFEC budget over a four-year period.

“Now, that is something which really would have helped vulnerable children”, said NO2NP spokesman, Simon Calvert.

“Instead, this country is being presented with nothing less than a huge white elephant which is taking money away from vulnerable children. Appointing a state guardian for every single child is quite simply money down the drain. It’s totally unnecessary for the vast majority of families who neither need nor want a state official for their children.”

While spending this money on Named Persons for every child and young person under 18 – and there are more than one million of them – there is a real risk that the most vulnerable, those who are most in need of help, will be overlooked amid the welter of useless confidential information about ordinary families generated by the Named Person.

The scheme may be a well-intentioned attempt to prevent children who may be in need of help from ‘slipping through the net’. However, that safety net will only be stretched to breaking point as a result of this policy, raising the prospect that genuine child protection cases will fall through the holes. The authorities already possess all the powers they require to deal with cases of neglect or abuse.

We say consign this project to the legislative dustbin before any more public money is wasted.

NO2NP ROADSHOW: EDINBURGH

The large Salisbury Suite at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh was nearly filled to capacity on Tuesday morning for the first NO2NP Roadshow event since the summer break.

Dr Stuart Waiton of Abertay University in Dundee opened the meeting by saying that the autonomy of the family was being undermined by social policy across the board, with an overemphasis on “early intervention” by professionals to sort out children’s problems.

Liz Smith MSP then spoke about the huge mailbag she had received from people concerned about the scheme, which she says destroys the trust between families and professionals that is essential in bringing up a child.

She said that the scheme was “repugnant” and a “badly mistaken policy” that “diminishes resources”. The volume of support for the NO2NP campaign is growing all the time, with almost 12,000 people having now signed the petition. The appeal of the campaign “goes well beyond party politics” and the breadth of political views of those involved in it was “a good thing”.

She also pointed out that the bureaucracy of running the scheme would be enormous and too difficult to put into practice. The scheme has been “mis-sold” by the Government and the responses that concerned citizens have received have been “inaccurate” and “patronising”, she said. The Government, who are telling people how to live their lives, has not been shown in a good light, she added. In closing, Liz urged people to get involved, as it is “such an important campaign”.

Next up was Lesley Scott, Scottish representative for The Young ME Sufferers (TYMES) Trust.

She picked apart the three main arguments that have been used by the Scottish Government to justify the scheme:

1. “We’re doing all we can to help vulnerable children”
2. “We’re just formalising what we’ve been doing for ages”
3. “And Parents have asked for it.”

Lesley pointed out, firstly, that the word “vulnerable” does not appear anywhere in the legislation or the Government’s guidance and that their own QC admitted in the recent appeal case heard in the Inner House that every child is seen as potentially vulnerable. The corollary of this is that every parent is therefore viewed as potentially negligent or abusive. This will have a significant impact on how parents will be viewed and treated. If children, parents and associated adults do not agree with all of the Named Person’s views, then they will be treated as “non-engaging”: the balance has shifted dangerously in favour of the state.

The next argument – that local authorities are simply formalising what they have already been doing – has not been reflected in the attitudes of the professionals tasked with administering it, only a minority of whom think they currently have the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of how to provide it.

And the contention that parents asked for the scheme is misleading at best, as parents with disabled children in the Highland region asked for a single, voluntary point of contact for accessing services. But that is not what they have got with the legislation and any success in the Highland Pathfinder has been shown to be down to other causes than the GIRFEC approach.

Lesley concluded by saying that the Government’s “disjointed excuses are shown to be a smokescreen and the true purpose of the legislation comes into view; it is a transfer of authority from your family to the state – an assault on the autonomous family unit”.

After a compelling new campaign video was shown, independent social work consultant Maggie Mellon spoke about her opposition to the scheme. She said that “parents are responsible for children’s upbringing, not services”, and that it is a very easy thing for professionals to display prejudice, when they don’t have the full picture. Civil servants have driven through this legislation but they haven’t thought through how dangerous it will be. People thought that they were getting a single point of contact, but that’s not what the legislation says. It doesn’t give parents or children the right to be consulted, as the Named Person is to take action “where he or she considers it to be appropriate to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person”.

Commenting on the enormity of the universal scheme, Maggie remarked that “you can’t get all the sand on the beach through a little sieve”. A head teacher of a primary school isn’t going to have the time or the knowledge to explain your child’s needs to a range of professionals. Maggie said that she is against the Named Person scheme because “it’s wrong and it will cause damage”.

She said we should use the threat of compulsion far less than we do. She commented: “There’s too much compulsion and not enough compassion”. The Act moves the threshold from “at risk of significant harm” to “any concern about anything that might present a risk to a child’s wellbeing”. Instead of addressing the real needs of children, it is sinister surveillance. It’s not a point of contact for families to access services, she said, but a point for those services to access children. It’s as if the state is saying “We’re central, you’re peripheral”.

Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute finished the formal session by taking everyone through the Action Packs that had been prepared for the meeting, before the usual lively Q&A finished off the meeting.

The next stop for the NO2NP Roadshow will be Glasgow on Monday 14th September at the Couper Institute, 86 Clarkston Road at 7.30pm – hope to see you there!

 

Liz Smith MSP

Liz Smith MSP

 

Lesley Scott

Lesley Scott

 

Maggie Mellon

Maggie Mellon

 

Nigel Kenny

Nigel Kenny

 

Q & A

Q & A

Scottish Government’s rose-tinted take on ‘Fairer Scotland’ events

The Scottish Government has released a video showing its highlights of the Fairer Scotland ‘conversations’. The Government’s report, however, sounds somewhat different to what has been reported elsewhere. (more…)

Jolly Singalongs At Govt’s Kilmarnock Roadshow Fail to Impress

Around sixty locals turned out for the latest stop in Scottish Government Minister Alex Neil’s summer tour in Kilmarnock on Thursday. The lunchtime event was held in the town’s Centrestage Theatre and, in keeping with the venue, the opening item was a medley of traditional Scottish songs sung by a local male voice choir – not at all what those who had gathered were expecting.

The bemused audience were further surprised when it became clear that Mr Neil would not be present for the “conversation” that was to take place during the meeting, but instead, local individuals noted questions from each table.

Alex Neil returned after about 40 minutes to hear from each table the major concerns people had about community life in Scotland and what the Scottish government could do better. A retired businessman referred Mr Neil to the Scottish government’s publication, Creating A Fairer Scotland – What Matters To You? – a copy of which had been made available to everyone. The publication states: “The vast majority of children starting primary school don’t show any signs of social, emotional or behavioural difficulties” and the businessman wanted to know why, given that frank admission, the Scottish government has appointed a guardian for every single child and young person until they are 18.

Mr Neil explained that the scheme was intended to identify the many children he claims have been abused but have not yet been identified (thereby treating every parent as a potential child abuser) and he believed parents would be consulted on who their child’s Named Person was going to be (even though there is nothing at all said about this in either the Act or the draft guidance). The Minister confirmed when pressed that there would definitely be a review of the legislation within a year or two of its coming into force in August 2016.

At the end of the event, Mr Neil did finally address all those gathered and highlighted the many concerns he had heard raised about the Named Person scheme. He indicated that these would be “fed in” to the other feedback they were receiving from around the country and would hopefully be addressed in the coming days.

The meeting was finished with a rendition by some local teenagers of the song from the Joseph musical Any Dream Will Do, but perhaps there should be added to the title “provided your Named Person considers it promotes your wellbeing”.

Police Scotland warn Named Person ‘wellbeing’ checks could delay removing abused children

ExpressPolicePolice Scotland has warned that the Named Person scheme could delay removing children from abusers because officials are spending time conducting ‘wellbeing’ assessments.

It was revealed at the weekend that Scotland’s police force is concerned that children could be the victim of “further criminal acts” caused by “significant time delay” created by the extra layers of unwieldy bureaucracy linked to the Named Person proposals.

A NO2NP spokesman said a ministerial public statement is required “as soon as possible” to explain how many youngsters have been left in danger and for how long.

The Police Scotland warning is contained in an official police submission on the guidance to how the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will operate.

The submission states: “A potential risk has been identified that ‘wellbeing concern’ assessments are being carried out by a range of practitioners from organisations when there is actual information that a child has or is the victim of abuse and or neglect deemed as criminal acts.

And it continues: “This has resulted in a time delay, at times significant, during which time the children (or other children) are exposed to the potential of further criminal acts and the potential for evidential opportunities to be lost or compromised. Specific examples can be provided if required.”

The NO2NP spokesman said: “This submission essentially discredits the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”

He added: “The allegations made by Police Scotland could not be more serious. Rather than speeding up help for abused and neglected children, the extra layers of bureaucracy significantly delayed the reporting of criminal acts against the youngsters.

“‘Wellbeing’ assessments, which are at the heart of the entire Named Person scheme, have apparently caused delays that allowed abused children to be exposed to yet more abuse.

“Named Persons, unlike social workers, are not experts in handling child abuse cases. It is unfair on teachers and health visitors to burden them with this responsibility. This statement from the police shows that involving non-experts in serious cases of abuse and neglect risks losing key evidence, allowing child abusers to avoid justice.

“This damning piece of new evidence gives the lie to the Government’s main defence for the Named Person scheme. The incompetent Named Person policy will not protect abused and neglected children – it will expose them to even more danger.

He continued: “The police offered the Government specific examples where following the Named Person policy actually delayed reports of child abuse and neglect. The public must be told immediately if the Government has asked for that evidence and if not, why not.

“The minister must make a public statement at the earliest possible opportunity about any and all cases where Named Person pilot schemes have resulted in delays reporting child abuse and neglect.

“This latest shocking development confirms that the Named Person policy is going to be a disaster: a disaster for abused and neglected children and a disaster for good Scottish families.

“The time has come for the Government to admit it has made a huge mistake and scrap the whole scheme.

The NO2NP spokesman added: “The Government will point to the fact that Police Scotland say they support the Named Person scheme. But what else are they going to say? The police can’t lobby against a key government policy. But they have essentially discredited the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”

Develop ineo+754-20150720162529

Scots sunday express - page 2 - px

Sources:
Police warnings over state guardians, Scottish Sunday Express, 19 July 2015

Police abuse warning over SNP state guardian plan, Scottish Sunday Telegraph, 19 July 2015

Police Scotland submission, 2015 (See page 2)

Analysis Of Responses To The Consultation On Draft Statutory Guidance For Parts 4, 5 & 18 (Section 96) Of The Children And Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, June 2015 (See para 6.57)

SNP minister comes under fire from ex-teachers over Named Person plans

A senior member of the SNP Government has come face to face with critics of the Named Person plans. (more…)

Liz Smith MSP: ‘Named Person scheme is both sinister and hugely misguided’

Writing in the Sunday Express the Scottish Conservative Spokeswoman for Young People has warned that the Scottish Government’s Named Person plans “will not work”.

Liz Smith MSP said many parents and professionals are likening it to “the totalitarian imagery in George Orwell’s famous book, 1984”.

She acknowledged the Scottish Government’s motivation to tackle “appalling abuse which is suffered by some children”, but asserted that “you do not do that by insisting that all children between the ages of zero and 18 have a state guardian”, and branded the policy “both sinister and hugely misguided”.

The article stated: “For a start, what is implicit in this proposal to have a Named Person for every child is the assumption that the state, rather than parents and families, has the primary obligation to look after children. That is entirely the wrong way round.

“If there are thousands of parents across Scotland doing a thoroughly good job – and there are – then what right does the Scottish Government have to tell them that the state knows better? What on earth is the point of insisting that these families have a Named Person on the same basis as those families who face genuine problems? I do not believe that anyone can work out the logic of this thinking.”

She continued: “Secondly, by insisting every child has a Named Person, the Scottish Government will, by definition, dilute the resources which are available to help those children in genuine need. Is the Scottish Government really suggesting that an 18-year-old couple who are very successfully bringing up a toddler are in need of three Named Persons when there are some children out there who desperately need our help?

“Little wonder that local authorities, who are already under considerable financial pressure, are throwing up their hands in horror at what this might mean for them”, she declared.

The MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife noted that the recent controversial Hampden event, where organisers were accused of bribing parents to turn up, was a recognition that the policy was in “big trouble” and an attempt to persuade parents that there was nothing to worry about.

“So it is little wonder that large numbers of parents are starting to rebel and those who are supposed to operate and oversee the policy are voicing serious concerns. Whether it is the police, our lawyers, groups of teachers or health visitors, a number of professional bodies have said that they don’t think the scheme can really work in practice.

“They say it will be impossible to avoid controversial sharing of confidential data and confusion over the lines of family responsibilities.”

Suggesting that better options were possible, she concluded: “The Named Person policy is intrusive, unnecessary and the accompanying guidance is nothing more than bureaucratic gobbledygook.

“Perhaps this is why some MSPs, who initially backed the legislation, are now coming out of the woodwork, having second thoughts because they now understand the implications of this terrible legislation.

“They can see the growing fury amongst parents who will simply not accept that they need to be told how to bring up their own children and they can recognise the alarm bells amongst professional organisations.

“The best thing the Scottish Government can do now is scrap it all together – before George Orwell’s famous book becomes a reality.”

Source: Scottish Sunday Express, 12 July 2015

Another MSP adds voice to mounting criticism of Named Person scheme

Hugh Henry MSP for Renfrewshire South has become the latest voice to question the controversial Named Person scheme.

Henry says he is concerned about overburdening schools which are not set up to take the extra workload, as well as the financial implications for councils.

Henry said: “I do have concerns about the way in which the SNP government is introducing the Named Persons Policy.

“There could be significant financial implications for councils and I am worried that children that have no need for a named person will have one imposed upon them.

He added: “I fail to see how in large schools staff will have sufficient time or knowledge to make this work properly.

“The Scottish Government should listen to parents and others who are calling for a rethink,” urged Henry.

His comments are just the latest in a mounting chorus of criticism. In recent weeks concerns have been expressed by Police Scotland, EIS (the country’s largest teaching union), children’s panel members, sociologists, activists of all parties and newspaper editors.

This is on top of the Law Society, the Faculty of Advocates, Child Clan Law, the Scottish Association of Social Workers, the British Association of Adoption and Fostering, the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council and many others who have been expressing concerns for some time.

Source: Labour’s Hugh Henry questions state guardian plan for kids

Research: ‘Increased referrals did not see equivalent rise in child abuse detection’

A recent study into child protection strategies revealed that a rise in referrals did not result in a matching rise in detected cases of child abuse.

Researchers from Bristol Law School at the University of the West of England (UWE) said they found a “311 percent increase in referrals over the 22 years studied, but no corresponding increase in the detection of child abuse”.

A UWE press release stated: “The results raise questions about the policy towards year on year increased referrals and the resultant pressure on social workers and Children’s Services Departments to make decisions about which cases should continue onto assessment and beyond, and which should not.”

One of the researchers, Dr Lauren Devine, said: “We can see that the mixing of referrals for support services with referrals for suspected child abuse is problematic. We recommend fewer low-level assessments and wider availability of universal support services.”

The evidence briefing, entitled ‘Child protection and assessment’, stated: “Assessment can cause significant stress for affected families and difficulties for social workers, in cases of wrong decisions and failure to uncover serious child abuse.”

It continued: “Policies have tended towards over-referral and assessment, in an attempt to reduce the number of cases that are missed.”

But according to the research, the growth in referrals has not seen a similar increase in the number of child abuse cases detected.

Commenting on the figures from the 22-year study of referrals in England, the evidence briefing explained: “The data shows that the vast majority of families simply need support services – and many families do not even reach the support threshold.

“There is increased pressure on agencies to refer children, but it’s not properly recognised by professionals working with families or by policymakers that the consequences for families of the referral can be negative.”

The researchers made a number of recommendations, including: “The assessment of need for early intervention should be a simplified, consensual and less intrusive process, unless there are clear grounds for suspecting child abuse.”

Evidence briefing_Child protection and assessment

Sources:
Lawyers contribute to rethinking child protection strategy
Evidence Briefing: Child protection and assessment

Child protection chief gets in a twist when quizzed on Named Person

Even those supporting the Named Person scheme are failing to coherently answer basic queries about the plans.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Alan Small, Chair of Fife Child Protection Committee, faced questions from presenter Kaye Adams about the catch-all, intrusive nature of the legislation.

Attempting to defend the scheme, Small said people understand that “at times” families need somebody to turn to, but Adams pointed out that it is unclear to what extent the Named Person will have the power or inclination to interfere or pry into family life.

When asked if a parent can hang up the phone on the Named Person and say they’re not interested, Small responded with an unconvincing “No. Er… Yes and No”. Hesitating, he said “it all needs to be taken into context with the needs of the child”.

This caused Adams to ask: “But who decides the needs of the child?”

To which Small asserted that it would be public services and the Named Person who decide.

Adams continued to probe asking: “And where’s the parent in that?”

Avoiding the question, Small instead spoke about “proportionality”, which he says is an important word to be used when discussing the scheme, but he was unable to explain what the word actually meant when pressed by Adams.

Adams said: “Define for me proportionality.”

Small replied: “I actually don’t think there is a definition suitable for proportionality… er… proportionality is fairly well understood in public services…”

Named Person plans are a threat to every Scottish family

A columnist for the Scottish Daily mail has written extensively on why the Named Person plans are unwise, unlawful and unfounded.

John MacLeod said: “Many fear that the named person could have too much power. Others wonder about implications under the Data Protection Act or the terms of confidence. How much might lawfully be kept from parents?”

He continued: “just one of the details that makes the named persons scheme such thoroughly bad law is how it ensnares every child in the country, not just those already known to be at risk or of which, in that weasel term, ‘social services are aware’.

“Indeed, a strong argument in itself against the plan is how it will dangerously overstretch public resources and officials: that truly vulnerable, seriously abused youngsters will be overlooked amid a tsunami of moans.”

MacLeod also referred to a similar programme to Named Person which was launched on the Isle of Man in 2010 where, “the world and his wife were invited to report even the slightest concern to children’s social care”.

He noted that: “It rapidly grew hard to retain or recruit staff as they buckled under a preposterous new workload. Families, meanwhile, resented needless intervention.

“A Tynwald committee in time pronounced that over-referral threatens the protection of children at significant risk of harm because of the difficulty of finding a needle in such a large haystack.”

The columnist also drew attention to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which “asserts that citizens have a right to a “private and family life… the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”.

He added: “By its very enacting, the new law undermines parental authority and the privacy of the home – to say nothing of clear EU law on data confidentiality and how freely sensitive information may be passed around the public sector.”

“The overwhelming majority of Scotland’s carers and parents do a perfectly good job of raising their children and the Scottish Government’s ongoing insistence that ‘the new scheme is very little different to what happens already’ immediately begs the question: why change it?”

MacLeod concluded that, “untold Scottish Government energy has been vested in this chilling new scheme – founded on the premise that you, as parents, may well be evil or at least grossly incompetent; that you must be monitored in time for the state to stop you.”

DM - John McLeod 04 July 2015

Scotsman: Sociologist says ‘scrap Named Person scheme’

Sociologist and Scotsman columnist Tiffany Jenkin has called for the Named Person scheme to be scrapped.

Writing in a comment piece for the Scotsman over the weekend, she said: “The named person scheme is an unprecedented and damaging intervention into family life that will direct help away from those most in need. It should be scrapped.”

She said: “Lumping parental responsibilities on state agencies will mitigate against children’s interests being served”.

Remarking on the process of childrearing, she said: “Most parents raise their children the same way: according to their own beliefs, hopes and dreams, with all the idiosyncrasies that accompany them, under the pressured, day-to-day realities of their busy lives – but they all do it with love. The nature of domestic life is that it is messy, but even when people get things a little wrong, and that’s not hard, everyone is trying to do their best.”

Jenkins asserted: “What everyone needs is to be allowed to get on with it. To be trusted to do a reasonable job, and not blamed for problems that are nothing, or not much, to do with childrearing.”

But she says this, “it would seem, is impossible”

She explained that, “in the last few decades, the family and the early years of a child’s life have been identified, in political circles, as the breeding ground for social problems. The family is fingered as the place where everything goes wrong: poor educational attainment, obesity, joblessness, stress, addiction, criminality, if not intentionally so, then accidentally so, according to policymakers.”

Jenkins warned: “Policymakers pose early intervention into a child’s life as the solution to any problem that might arise later. It is a flawed approach that has negative consequences: social solutions to such problems are neglected – structural issues are ignored; and the family has become the focus of intervention, intervention that seems to know no end.”

She said the assumptions behind this kind of approach “will cause more harm than good”.

Commenting on the Named Person scheme, she warned: “So every single child will have a named person – someone who is not their mum or dad, a member of their extended family, or in their circle of friends – to watch over them, and watch over their parents.

Jenkins highlighted: “Up until this scheme, professionals involved in children’s lives had to have a reason to be there: education, health or serious concerns about abuse. Up until this law, state intervention required justification – no longer is this the case.”

Tiffany Jenkin - 04 July 2015

Source: Tiffany Jenkins: Named person law is troubling, The Scotsman, 03 July 2015

Herald comment: Named Persons turning into a PR disaster

Herald Scotland social affairs correspondent, Stephen Naysmith, has described the Named Person scheme as “a presentational fiasco”.

Naysmith highlights the Government’s failure to answer simple questions such as: “Will the scheme divert resources away from those who need them most? What happens if a named person thinks a child needs intervention but social workers think there is no need (or resources)? How will it help, teachers and health visitors already look out for children in their care?”

He stresses that “not being able to explain – clearly – why a universal named person scheme will be able to help families better or sooner than existing arrangements has been a disaster.”

Naysmith concluded: “Maybe the legislation is bad to the bone, or maybe it just needs to be better communicated. But ministers’ current favoured explanation – “you never know when someone’s going to need help” – just doesn’t cut it.”

He also commented on the recently revealed consultation responses to the Government’s guidance on how the Named Person scheme would work in practice.

Naysmith said: “The report on the Government’s guidelines was generous to a fault. For example it found 38% of organisations said examples in the guidance hadn’t been helpful, while 63% had. This is recorded as ‘in general, organisations found the examples… helpful’.

“Yet opaque jargon and a lack of detail have left the public suspicious. Even organisations repeatedly told researchers the guidance was complex, repetitive and left them none the wiser.”

Herald comment - PR disaster

Source: Named persons turning into a PR disaster for ministers, Herald Scotland, 06 July 2015

Children’s Panel Member says Named Person is “Clumsy and overblown”

A Children’s Panel Member in Falkirk, which has been operating the ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’ (GIRFEC) approach for some time, has written to The Scotsman criticising the Named Person plans.

“My objections are as stated by many others, in the area of unnecessary state intervention into family life”, wrote David Donaldson.

He continued: “On a practical note, most government department’s administration is slow moving and woefully inefficient, with the obvious recent example of the police being unable to indicate numbers of stop and searches and blaming it on a “clunky’ computer.

“What chance, therefore, is there of an effective system of monitoring every child in Scotland up to the age of 18?

Donaldson raised concern that families in crisis, which “require a speedy, effective response from the relevant services”, will fall into the “black hole” of Government administration.

He said: “At present, Children’s Hearings receive reports from and attendance by Social Services, health visitors, and teachers, along with many other organisations such as Barnardo’s and Spark of Genius, as well as local ¬authority intensive crisis services.

“Many of these people who will be ‘Named Persons’ are already actively involved with families and doing excellent work. Families in crisis require a speedy, effective response from the relevant services but there is the real likelihood they will fall into the “black hole” that will be Government administration.

He asserted: “We do not need GIRFEC but what we do need is ‘Get It Right For Every Vulnerable Child’ and there are, unfortunately, still too many of them.

“If the Scottish Government has £40 million to invest it would be much better spent in bolstering the existing services which are often overstretched and swimming against the tide”.

Scotsman - David Donaldson

Source: Scotsman Letters: Guard against ‘named person’ notion, The Scotsman, 06 July 2015

Callers flood BBC with opposition to Named Person plans

Callers have inundated the BBC with opposition to the Named Person scheme, as the Government is criticised for not knowing the reality of its own proposals.

NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert and Lesley Scott of ME children’s charity TYMES Trust – a supporter of NO2NP – also spoke out on BBC Radio Scotland on Thursday.

One caller told Kaye Adams that the scheme would undermine the family and “smacks of Big Brother”.

In the words of another concerned caller, if finding vulnerable children is like looking for a needle in a haystack, the Named Person plans are like making the haystack bigger.

The fact that parents will have no choice as to whether their children have a Named Person was highlighted by yet another caller.

The Daily Mail criticised Fiona McLeod’s appearance on the show, saying she “failed to answer simple questions” about the plans.

DM - minister falters over NP on radio phone in

Speaking after the programme, a spokesman for NO2NP said: “It was striking that the scheme the Minister was defending is not the same as the scheme her Government has actually legislated for.

“She thinks the Named Person is just someone parents and kids can ask for help.

“But the Named Person is legally empowered to monitor parents and children, to share their confidential data, and to put services in place, all without parental consent and even in defiance of parental wishes.

“The Government actually put out a leaflet for parents saying the Named Person is there to monitor children’s happiness.

“It said this means the Named Person will check ‘Your child gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV’, ‘You trust your child to do the right thing’. This is an outrageous invasion of private family life.

“If you give a government official the duties of a parent, they will act like a parent. They will escalate issues that should be left to parents.

“Social workers desks are going to be overflowing with reports from Named Persons of all kinds of tittle tattle that should be beneath their notice.

“That means children who are neglected or abused are going to be even more likely to be overlooked because social services are going to be overwhelmed with Named Person reports about kids who weren’t allowed to watch their favourite TV programme.”

£100,000 Price Tag for Named Person PR

The Scottish Daily Mail has revealed that the Scottish Government spent more than £100,000 on PR for the Named Person plans in recent weeks.

Taxpayers have paid the price for a series of events designed to promote the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) scheme.

Around 600 people attended three regional events in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth, and the GETLive event at Hampden, where parents received £25 gift vouchers, as well as travel costs and catering.

A NO2NP spokesman described the move as a “fortune at a time of grim austerity”.

He added: “It’s an absolute outrage a government which is pleading poverty… can find this eye-watering amount of public funds to spend on PR for their own unpopular policy of state guardians.”

DM 100k article

More questions than answers for GIRFEC gurus at Hampden

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.

NO2NP Roadshow: East Kilbride

The Arran Suite at the Holiday Inn, East Kilbride, was filled to capacity for the latest NO2NP Roadshow event before the summer break.

Community paediatrician Dr Jenny Cunningham told those gathered that concerns about the scheme were far more than questioning a different health model or budgeting constraints: it is about scrutinising families and undermining parental autonomy, which is the basis for a democratic society, she said.

She went on to explain that the role of the community paediatrician has been redefined by this legislation. While previously 80% of her work was about various disabilities in children, and only 20% about vulnerable children, now 70-80% of her work has to do with assessing vulnerability through the SHANARRI ‘wellbeing’ indicators.

SHANARRI stands for; safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.

She finished by saying that she and many of her colleagues were very concerned about the new obligation to share confidential information.

Next up was Lesley Scott of TYMES Trust, who said she had watched a video on South Lanarkshire Council’s website about young children and the importance of good attachment. Yet nothing was said about parents and children or families.

Lesley went on to explain – and display – the 13 pages of “outcome signifiers” to wellbeing that the University of Edinburgh had drawn up. South Lanarkshire Council had also produced 398 pages of guidance for named persons and Lesley queried whether everyone would interpret it the same way. The guidance estimates that 20-30% of children and young people will require additional input from state agencies.

Lesley expressed her concern that there is no facility for parents or children to disagree with the Named Person’s professional assessment of what is “needed” and parents will have no control over the ever-changing standard of parenting to which they will be held.

There was a very lively and extended Q&A, where several people questioned whether Named Persons knew anything about the real world of parenting, especially when some of them may have no children of their own.

The NO2NP Roadshow will be taking a break for a few weeks over the summer, but do watch out for further events we have planned for later in the year!

In the meantime, a big thank you to everyone who has come to these Roadshows – please continue to tell your friends about the campaign and encourage them to sign the petition.

 

IMG_1713

Community paediatrician Dr Jenny Cunningham

 

IMG_1714 - edit

Lesley Scott showing 13 pages of “outcome signifiers” compiled by Edinburgh University.

PARENTS TRAINED ON HOW TO GIVE THEIR KIDS STATE-APPROVED “GOOD LIFE”

Parents will be told at a training day today that their children will be monitored by state officials who will “check every child has what they need to have a good life”.

Organisers behind the ‘GetLive GIRFEC Event For Parents’ were accused of bribing parents into supporting the Named Person scheme when it was revealed they were offering £25 vouchers and free travel and refreshments, along with free childcare, to attend the event.

In a leaflet, ‘An Easy Read Guide To… Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC)’, sent to delegates ahead of today’s event, the state benchmark of a “good life” is set out for parents in detail.

GIRFEC is the policy behind the Named Person scheme.

Explaining its SHANARRI “wellbeing” indicators, the booklet tells parents there are “8 things every child needs to have a good life”.

SHANARRI stands for; safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.

The leaflet instructs parents about what they should and should not do in order to fulfil these Government parenting standards. It makes clear that the job of the Named Person – and other officials like social workers and doctors – is to check parents are complying with these standards.

It states: “People who work with your child will check…”
– “Your child gets praise when they do well”
– “Your child does activities they like to do”
– “Your child gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV”
– “You trust your child to do the right thing”
– “Your child can be part of a group like Scouts, Brownies or a football group if they want to”

The leaflet also says state officials will check which people are around your child, where your child lives and what is going on in your child’s life. They will even “think about what is good about your child’s environment”, and “think about what could be better”.

Read the full leaflet here

A spokesman for NO2NP said: “We have warned all along that the Named Person scheme would undermine parents’ responsibility for their own children and allow state officials unprecedented powers to interfere with family life.

“This leaflet confirms that the Named Person is intended to take a highly intrusive role in ordinary family life. It’s effectively an admission that critics of the scheme have been right all along. “

“The list of things the Named Person – and doctors, nurses, teachers social workers – ‘will check’ is outrageous. It is exactly the kind of invasive behaviour we’ve been warning about.

“For example, if a child doesn’t like the colour scheme or wants to watch films containing horrendous violence or sex scenes, the child can complain to the Named Person who then adjudicates on the family’s decisions about décor and who holds the TV remote control. It is absolutely outrageous.

“In the past the Scottish Government and their officials have attempted to dismiss opponents of this scheme for exaggerating its impact.

“Clearly, we were right all along and they have been trying to keep us all in the dark about what they really intend.

“Unless parents wake up quickly to what the Named Person is really about and make their voices heard, many of them will face a level of state monitoring of the minutiae of parenting that is unprecedented in our history.

“This is not about protecting vulnerable children. It is not about helping families who want help. It is about policing parenting according to a state ‘happiness’ index. Families cannot thrive under that kind of ‘big brother’ scrutiny.”

‘This is about empowering Named Person to police happiness of Scottish children’

During a BBC Radio Scotland debate last week Lesley Scott of ME children’s charity TYMES Trust, a supporter of NO2NP, warned that the Scottish Government’s plan was about “empowering the Named Person to police the happiness of Scottish children”.

Scott was debating Alex Cole-Hamilton, Head of Policy at children’s charity Aberlour and a proponent of the Named Person scheme. Cole-Hamilton failed to give a single example of how the Named Person scheme had made a positive impact when pressed by BBC presenter Kaye Adams.

Adams asked Cole-Hamilton: “What was happening that made anyone feel that this was necessary? Where was the gap? Where was the lack?”

Referring to the Highlands pilot he responded saying there had been “some really good examples of this drawing the threads together”.

Adams however said drawing the threads together was an “airy fairy expression” and asked for further clarification.

She pressed Cole-Hamilton again, saying: “Give me a positive example of where this has made a child or a family’s life better?

Cole-Hamilton again failed to provide a single example, but instead admitted it was about “prevention”.

He said: “I don’t have specific case examples to give you because this is all about prevention.”

Listen to the full exchange from 7 minutes 10 seconds

TYMES Trust’s Lesley Scott refuted Cole-Hamilton’s claims about the Named Person creating a single point of contact. She said parents already know who they need to go to if there is a problem, they already know who their child’s teacher, GP or health visitor is. These are all people who are already in place, she added.

Scott explained that the Named Person can access and share confidential medical data and school records. She continued: “They can question a child and give them advice, and supply services to them without the parents’ consent, and on the basis of what they think is most likely to make them happy”.

Scott also pointed out that the scheme was not about identifying significant risk or harm but about wellbeing, which is “a lower, broader undefined threshold”.

Scott also questioned how the scheme will work in practice. She raised concerns about the “enormous bureaucratic burden of the Named person” scheme on teachers and health visitors, who would be expected to administer the scheme, professions which she says are already at breaking point.

She said looking for children at risk is like looking for a needle in a haystack but all the Named Person scheme is doing is making the haystack bigger.

‘All children potentially vulnerable’, Scottish Government QC tells judge

Last week’s appeal hearing rehearsed many concerning reasons why the Named Person scheme is not compatible with a free and democratic society, but perhaps the most revealing and worrying comment came from the Scottish Government’s QC.

Pressed by Lord Malcolm on why every child needed to have a Named Person, when not all of them were at risk, Alistair Clark QC, representing the Scottish Government, stated that every child was deemed to be “potentially vulnerable”.

Mr Clark’s words expose the thinking behind these intrusive plans.

A NO2NP spokesman said: “The assumption that all Scottish children are potentially vulnerable is patronising to all ordinary parents trying to do their best to bring up their children.

“The Scottish Government is saying to normal mums and dads that they all need the state to be a co-parent to stop them leaving their child potentially vulnerable.

“This unwarranted intrusion into family life is undermining and unnecessary.”

During the appeal hearing last week Aidan O’Neill QC, representing those bringing the legal challenge against the Named Person, addressed conflict between respect for the family and responsibility for the protection of children from harm.

He said there was no pressing social need requiring interference in the lives of every family and said: “The overwhelming majority of children are not neglected and the Named Person scheme subverts family life and supplants parents.”

He said: “We accept there is a legitimate state interest in the protection of the vulnerable, but this is not just dealing with the vulnerable, it’s dealing with all children.

“Most families do not need the state to get involved. Some parents – a tiny minority – do cause harm to their children but that does not justify appointing a named person to every child.”

Mr O’Neill pointed out that the Named Person scheme had been drawn up to promote children’s ‘wellbeing’ – a concept which, according to the Government, can include everything from mental health to a “wider vision of happiness”. He responded, “That’s what parents do and have done through the ages. It’s not the state’s job.

Mr O’Neill raised the concern that the central assumption behind the scheme is that “the state knows best”.

‘THIS IS WORSE THAN THE NANNY STATE’, QC TELLS COURT ON DAY 1 OF APPEAL

Yesterday, Aidan O’Neill QC, representing campaigners challenging the Named Person scheme, told Scotland’s highest court that the plan to give every child in Scotland a state guardian was “incompatible with the fundamental rights of a democratic society”.

O’Neill, a leading human rights expert, said the scheme created a situation “worse than a nanny state because the nanny is at least responsible to the family”.

He was speaking at the start of the appeal hearing by opponents of the Named Person legislation, after Lord Pentland rejected their initial bid last year.

During the appeal, in Edinburgh’s Court of Session, Mr O’Neill said the state should support the family in the upbringing of children as the family is the fundamental group unit of the state and entitled to state protection.

He said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written to counter Nazi and Fascist totalitarian states which placed value on “uniformity and conformity” and to point out that “the child is not the mere creature of the state”.

He told the court the scheme didn’t require families to give consent and offered no chance to opt in or out and said: “The presumption is every child needs a named person. That is wrong. The vast majority of parents bring up their children perfectly well. For the state to assume a responsibility for every child regardless of need or threat of harm is to go beyond what we properly expect from a democratic society that respects families and respects diversity.”

Based on the guidance issued by the Scottish Government he also drew attention to the fact that: “Not only can you not opt out of the scheme you have to positively co-operate with the named person otherwise you could be characterised as ‘hostile’ or ‘non-engaging’ which leads to further state involvement. ”

He said the compulsory nature of the law and the need to collate data on every child would result in “white noise” meaning “those who do need help get lost”.

Mr O’Neill recognised that there are conflicting issues between respect for the family and responsibility for the protection of children from harm. But he said there was no pressing social need requiring interference in the lives of every family and continued: “The overwhelming majority of children are not neglected and the Named Person scheme subverts family life and supplants parents.”

He said the scheme was drawn up to promote ‘wellbeing’ (which can include everything from mental health to a “wider vision of happiness”) among children but said: “That’s what parents do and have done through the ages. It’s not the state’s job.

“We accept there is a legitimate state interest in the protection of the vulnerable, but this is not just dealing with the vulnerable, it’s dealing with all children.

“Most families do not need the state to get involved. Some parents – a tiny minority – do cause harm to their children but that does not justify appointing a named person to every child.”

He said the central assumption behind the scheme is that “the state knows best” whereas families “are the breeding ground of diversity and individuality”.

The legal action is being brought by The Christian Institute, CARE, TYMES Trust and the Family Education Trust, with the support of academics and individual parents, all of which support the NO2NP campaign.

The appeal before Lord Carloway, Lord Malcolm and Lord Bracadale continues today with the Scottish Government’s response.

The Named Person scheme is part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act and is expected to be implemented nationwide in 2016.

Named Person scheme – ‘Stalinist blueprint for a happy childhood’

Graham Grant, Home Affairs Editor for the Scottish Daily Mail has written a stark warning against the Named Person scheme, branding it a “Stalinist blueprint for a happy childhood”.

Commenting on recent remarks by Bob Fraser, the civil servant driving forward the Named Person scheme, he said: “It may have sounded at first like a calm explanation of a sensible policy. But, in reality, what was presented was a chilling manifesto for effectively outsourcing parenting to the state and to its legion of officials”.

He continued: “In essence, government officials have been quietly drawing up guidelines for a happy childhood – a kind of Stalinist, state-endorsed blueprint for a healthy and contented upbringing, which must be adhered to at all costs.

“This idea of compulsory compliance with a set of government-imposed ideals is, of course, a facet of totalitarian states, which rely on the micromanagement and strict regulation of private and family life.

“The ‘enforcers’ are the named persons themselves – mainly health visitors and head teachers – who will log perceived deficiencies in the child, perhaps demanding confidential medical records to back up their concerns”.

Fraser, the Getting it Right for Every Child health adviser in the Scottish Government’s Better Life Chances unit, suggested parents could be judged on how much they show their child ‘love, hope and spirituality’.

Grant commented on this point stating: “By setting arbitrary yardsticks based on ‘love, hope and spirituality’ – which, in any event, may seem more appropriate for a New Age commune – the named persons hope to uncover ‘problems’ that previously did not exist.

“Parents may soon be asked imponderable questions such as: ‘Have you thought about imbuing your child with more hope?’ Or: ‘Did you realise your child was falling short on the “spirituality” index?’

“Hope is a subjective concept and once the state is in charge of its definition, the scope for its abuse becomes clear. Ultimately, why should the state have a clearer idea of what hope and happiness mean than parents, or anyone else?”

Grant also commented on the “scale of intrusion” the Named Person scheme poses warning that it is “far greater than most people realise”.

He writes: “Pivotal to the smooth operation of the system is the free flow of personal information between public bodies. The named person can demand sensitive personal information, for example, from the NHS, if they believe the circumstances demand it.

“In fact, the named person will be assigned to children while they are still in the womb. Yet how many prospective parents are aware of this horrifying detail – an act of antenatal appropriation by state officials?”

Source: The Scottish Daily Mail, 02 June 2015

Media Round Up: NO2NP Petition Launch and Action Day

Media coverage of the NO2NP petition launch and Action Day

‘Named person’ opponents step up campaign
The Scotsman, 31 May 2015

‘Named person’ opponents campaign
The Courier, 31 May 2015

‘Named person’ opponents campaign
Press and Journal, 31 May 2015

‘Named person’ critics step up campaign
BBC News, 31 May 2015

Fresh campaign to fight ‘state guardian’ scheme
The Sunday Times (£), 31 May 2015

Campaign against ‘named person’ plan steps up ahead of court ruling
STV, 31 May 2015

Protesters gathering names against named persons law in Dundee
The Courier, 30 May 2015

Parents could be reported for not giving kids enough ‘love, hope and spirituality’

The top civil servant behind the Named Person scheme has suggested parents could be reported to state officials if judged to be showing their child inadequate levels of ‘love, hope and spirituality’.

Bob Fraser, the Getting it Right for Every Child health adviser in the Scottish Government’s Better Life Chances unit, explained his latest thinking at a conference of childcare workers.

He argued it was about all children and not just “the usual suspects” who are already known to social services.

He said: “Every child deserves to have positive well-being. We have had suggestions of different indicators, of love, hope and spirituality. I am not wedded. The Act is there at the moment. But in a few years, if people feel it is right, they should change that.”

A spokesman for NO2NP said: “This is a dark, deeply worrying and insidious development. Apparently the named person will police family life according to some ever-shifting ‘happiness index’. It’s an impossible standard for parents to measure up to.”

Liz Smith MSP, a vocal opponent of the plans, said: “This is exactly the sort of nonsense which critics of the named person scheme feared would happen.

“Parents will be horrified at the suggestion of being targeted because a state guardian doesn’t regard their home as sufficiently spiritual.”

Sources:
Scottish Daily Express, 01 June 2015

Scottish Daily Mail, 31 May 2015

Petition officially launches on first NO2NP Action Day

On Saturday NO2NP officially launched its online petition to oppose the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme. Volunteers took to the streets of Dundee to help raise awareness of the campaign by giving out leaflets to the public and gathering signatures for the petition.

A team of volunteers were also out in Kirkintilloch, the constituency of the Minister for Children and Young People.

The petition doubled in size over the launch weekend, and now has more than 4,500 signatures. Sign and share the petition here.

NO2NP Roadshow speakers Dr Stuart Waiton, a sociologist and lecturer at Abertay University, and Lesley Scott, from Tymes Trust, joined volunteers at the Dundee Action Day.

Free_NO2NP_AR

The Action Day and petition launch comes ahead of the appeal hearing by campaigners opposing the Named Person scheme, due to be heard in the Court of Session this Wednesday and Thursday.

A spokesman for NO2NP said: “We remain deeply concerned about the threats to the human rights of families to their privacy in their own homes as well as the breaches of data protection laws as the state passes confidential family information to and from different public bodies.

“The state thinks the named person – a health visitor, a teacher or other professional – can fulfil the role better than mums and dads which is ridiculous.

“It’s vitally important that the higher courts consider this issue, because it’s driving a coach and horses through parents’ rights and private family life.”

NO2NP Action Day: Dundee and Kirkintilloch, Saturday 30th May.

Free_NO2NP_AR

Free_NO2NP_AR

Free_NO2NP_AR

Free_NO2NP_AR

Free_NO2NP_AR

Free_NO2NP_AR

Free_NO2NP_AR

Kirkintilloch petitioners

Kirkintilloch volunteers

IMG_6252

IMG_6232 - small

IMG_6223 - small

NO2NP Roadshow: Falkirk highlights

Falkirk was the latest stop for the NO2NP Roadshow last night, when local supporters of the campaign were given the lowdown on the state guardian scheme.

Dr Stuart Waiton from Abertay University explained some of the key developments in social policy over the last 15 years in relation to child welfare. The concepts of abuse, vulnerability and early intervention have become deeply embedded in the minds of many strategists and there is a feeling that parents cannot advise their children properly without first receiving advice from professionals. This is known as “third way parenting”.

Lesley Scott, from TYMES Trust, pointed out that contrary to the contentions of Acting Minister for Children and Young People, Fiona McLeod, parents across the country did not ask for the Named Person scheme. Lesley went on to explain how the Scottish Government’s pilot of the scheme in the Highlands led to nearly 8,000 children (1 in 5) being put on a “child’s plan”.

During a lively Q&A session it was asked if teachers could opt out of being Named Persons. This was a very significant change in the terms and conditions of their employment, yet some of the teaching unions have yet to indicate their detailed views on this matter.

The Roadshow will be calling at the Elmwood Golf Club, Cupar at 7.30pm on Tuesday next week, when MSP Liz Smith hopes to be one of the speakers – do plan to join us, if you live in the area!

SW

Lesley Scott

LS

LS - close up

LS - My world triangle

LS - wellbeing wheel

LS + SWa

Announcing new Roadshow dates for May and June

We are pleased to announce more NO2NP Roadshows coming up in May and June.

Supporters from across Scotland often contact our team requesting a NO2NP Roadshow in their area and we do our best to try and make it happen.

Let us know if you would like one in your area by emailing: admin@no2np.org

It’s still surprising how many people are unaware of the Named Person legislation. Help us spread the word by telling people about the Roadshows. Experts will be sharing about the background to the plans and concerns surrounding the scheme.

DOWNLOAD AND SHARE THE FLYER

NO2NP Roadshow flyer May & June 2015

No2NP_Roadshow_Flyer_150519_online_BACK

NO2NP Roadshow: Elgin highlights

The campaign saw strong support in Elgin last night as concerned parents and individuals, with some traveling quite a distance, turned out for the latest NO2NP Roadshow.

Nigel Kenny of The Christian Institute explained that the campaign was made up of a broad coalition of organisations and individuals from academia, charities, education, medicine, politics and social work. He said all those involved have a shared concern for the importance and autonomy of the family in raising the next generation.

Videos were shown, the first explaining the background to the campaign, and the second from First Minister’s Questions last week, when NO2NP supporter Liz Smith MSP challenged Nicola Sturgeon over Clan (Community Law Advice Network) Childlaw’s concerns about data sharing.

Lesley Scott from Tymes Trust then spoke about the blueprint for every child’s life that has been planned under the GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) model, including the Wellbeing Wheel, the My World Triangle and the Resilience Matrix. She pointed out that Edinburgh University had identified no fewer than 304 outcomes that could arise from the SHANARRI “wellbeing” indicators.

Nigel finished off the talks with an update on the judicial review appeal (due to be heard in Edinburgh on 3rd and 4th June) and some tips on how people can get involved with the campaign.

There was a lively and extended Q&A at the end, where people expressed their deep concerns about the negative impact that the scheme will have on families, schools and society at large.

The NO2NP Roadshow will be stopping off at Falkirk next on Wednesday 27th May, when we’ll be at the Best Western Park Hotel in Camelon Road at 7.30pm. Hope to see you there if you live in and around the area!

PicFrame

NO2NP Roadshow: Aberdeen highlights

The latest NO2NP Roadshow event was held in the Aberdeen Arts Centre on Monday (11th May), where one local woman’s run in with an emanation of the Named Person scheme at her daughter’s school was raised during Q&A as a matter of concern. Even more concern was expressed when it was revealed that a GP would be obliged to share confidential patient details about, for example, a mother’s struggle with depression with her child’s Named Person.

After a video was shown about the judicial review in the Court of Session, Abertay University sociology lecturer Dr Stuart Waiton spoke about the disjuncture between the people and the powerful and how, over the past century, children were no longer being seen in the context of their families and government was increasingly seeing its role as one of “risk management”.

Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust then made reference to the quote in a recent newspaper article by Acting Minister for Children and Young People that the Named Person legislation “is about making sure that we are doing everything in our power to protect vulnerable children.” Lesley then pointed out that the word ‘vulnerable’ does not appear anywhere in the legislation or in the draft statutory guidance. Instead, she said “this legislation is about measuring the wellbeing of each and every child.”

Some practical points on how people can be involved in helping the NO2NP campaign were then shared by Nigel Kenny of The Christian Institute, before a lively Q&A, always one of the high points of these Roadshows.

Our next event is in Elgin this coming Monday (18th May) at the Laighmoray Hotel, Maisondieu Road, Elgin, IV30 1QR at 7.30pm – please do come along and find out more about the campaign.

NO2NP Roadshow: Edinburgh highlights

On 23rd April the NO2NP Roadshow hosted a well-attended meeting in Portobello on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Dr Stuart Waiton chaired the event and spoke of the decline in the view of the family as an intrinsically good institution, instead it is now seen as the source of most children’s problems.

The first speaker was social work consultant Maggie Mellon, who said that it was “absurd” to assume that every child in a family “is potentially at risk and that information must be shared equally about all of them just in case”.

Then Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust, representing families of young ME sufferers, spoke about the shift in the Named Person legislation to focus on wellbeing meaning that “the threshold for intervention in a child’s life has been drastically lowered from ‘at risk of significant harm’ to that of a worry over something as intangible as wellbeing. This means that significant decisions are open to personal interpretation and bias on the part of the named person.”

Finally, Nigel Kenny of The Christian Institute gave some practical points, as well as an update on the judicial review appeal, which has now been fast-tracked to be heard by the Inner House on 3rd and 4th June.

Named Person guidance consultation closes Friday 1st May – respond now

The Scottish Government’s consultation on statutory guidance to accompany the Named Person scheme closes on Friday 1 May.

Download the response form here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0046/00469612.doc

The guidance was supposed to clarify and illuminate matters, but has somehow only managed to muddy the waters even more.

It contains over 100 pages of impenetrable, incoherent and incomprehensible politically correct double speak. After looking through it, and even after taking legal advice, we are none the wiser as to how this scheme will work in practice.

The responsibilities of a Named Person are going to fall on teachers and health visitors.

These are hard-working professionals with massive conflicting demands on their time. How can they be expected to shoulder the additional burden of making crucial decisions which will impact on children and their parents?

One thing is clear: the guidance confirms everything we’ve been saying about the Government’s plans. Parents are sidelined and face the prospect of confidential information being shared about them and their children without consent.

For example, the section on sharing information says:

“the Named Person should make it clear that whilst the views of the child and parents are valued and must be taken into account, their consent is not being sought, and the Named Person may, where appropriate, share information without consent”.
(Paragraph 10.2.14, emphasis added)

NO2NP remains firmly of the view that the primary legislation itself is fundamentally flawed and cannot be corrected by guidance. Nonetheless, it’s important that the Scottish Government hears what people in the real world think of their state guardian scheme. This consultation is another chance for us to say No to Named Persons.

Full details of the Scottish Government’s consultation (including the Respondent Information Form you’re supposed to include with your response) can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0046/00469598.pdf

If you’re short on time, you might just want to respond to question 23, which invites general comments on the Named Person.

For suggestions on the line you might want to take, check out the tips below.

Please say NO2NP by responding to this consultation by 1 May.

 

Suggestions for responding:

  • The guidance should be prefaced and punctuated by assurances that the Government recognises that parents are primarily responsible for their children, not the State.
  • Paragraph 2.7.1 says that there’s a wellbeing need if a child’s wellbeing “is, or is at risk of, being adversely affected by any matter” (emphasis added). This is extremely vague and makes it almost inevitable that Named Persons will interfere in ordinary family life because the threshold of wellbeing is so low.
  • The list of things the Named Person is supposed to have “a clear understanding of” (see para. 4.1.16) sounds like a lot to add to the job description of professionals who already have a full time job.
  • Parents are repeatedly sidelined in the guidance. For example, according to paragraph 4.1.19: “The Named Person response to any wellbeing concerns should be proportionate, informed by the child’s views and should reflect the nature of their need for additional support” (emphasis added). What about parents’ views?
  • ‘Information sharing’ is one of the greatest concerns because of the potential for breaches of privacy. Paragraph 10.2.14 suggests that parental concerns about information sharing could be ignored on almost any grounds. This is going even further than the legislation.
  • The guidance should set out in exactly what circumstances parents could be legitimately excluded from discussions about a child’s wellbeing – if any – instead of using vague generalities.
  • Paragraph 10.2.19 says children or parents would only have to engage with the Named Person if “there is a current concern or a concern arises about the child’s wellbeing”. But the fear is that a refusal to engage with the Named Person will itself likely be deemed “a current concern”.
  • Paragraph 10.3.5 gives virtual carte blanche to Named Persons to share information with other ‘service providers’: “if they consider it is relevant to the exercise of functions of the recipient which affect or may affect the wellbeing of the child or young person”. Guidance should stipulate safeguards to protect privacy, not open the door further to unnecessary data sharing.

New sex ed guidelines give priority to Named Person ahead of parents

The Scottish Government’s new sex education guidelines have deepened concerns over the ‘intrusive’ Named Person’ provisions, and are yet another example of the Government undermining parents.

The new guidelines state that if a child discloses that underage sexual activity has taken place then teachers should “discuss any concerns they have with the young person and ensure they have access to confidential, young people friendly services, where appropriate”.

It then goes on to say: “If there is judged to be a risk to the child’s wellbeing, staff should inform the child’s Named Person”, but makes no mention of parents.

A NO2NP spokesman criticized the guidelines, stating: “It’s beggars belief a teacher with concerns about the well-being of a child – including under-age sexual activity, which is a serious criminal offence – should be told by the government to pass on those concerns to the named person and not the child’s parents.

“How can a professional with potentially hundreds of kids to keep an eye on be given priority over the people that care about children the most – their own parents?

“Parents aren’t mentioned at all in the entire section on confidentiality in this guidance. The Government think the named person is entitled to know confidential, sexual health information about a child that its own parents are not.

“This is another example of the government undermining parents. The guidance’s empty platitudes about partnership between parents and schools are negated by the priority given to the named person’s role. What parent is going to feel they can co-operate with teachers if they know they will keep them in the dark about their child’s sexual activity but will share it with the named person?”

He added: “Mums and dads are being marginalised and sidestepped, their roles and responsibilities diminished and their authority undermined.”

Liz Smith, the Conservative young people spokeswoman, said: “I have huge problems with this. Parents will be very concerned that the first person who children will go to is the named person. Parents are being­ ­marginalised.”

Sign the petition

Share:
people have
signed the
petition so far

"I oppose the Scottish Government's plan to assign a 'Named Person' to every child in Scotland because it undermines families and diverts resources from children who need them."

I am a resident of Scotland and 16-years-old or over

* We need your postcode to ensure you are a resident of Scotland. If you choose to receive email updates (below) this also enables us to send information relevant to your local area.

Our emails are delivered through MailChimp. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Your details will not be published. NO2NP will not sell or trade your data. We hold and process your data in line with our privacy policy. You will receive a confirmation email upon signing the petition but will not receive further updates unless you have ticked the box above.