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”.