Keeping you up to date on the progress of the Named Person scheme and the NO2NP campaign.
Everyone knows the Scottish Government’s attempts to re-legislate for Named Person data-sharing have run into the sand.
The UK Supreme Court struck down the original information sharing powers because they didn’t comply with human rights law and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The Named Person scheme is still being rolled out across Scotland but on a non-statutory basis, with none of the invasive powers that the Scottish Government originally wanted.
As things stand, can Named Persons still share personal information about you or your children?
Under the GDPR, the sharing of personal information is permitted if one of the bases for data processing in article 6 is satisfied. If the data is deemed sensitive, a basis in article 9 must also be met.
Under each article, the consent of the data-subject is a basis for sharing. Another basis is where “processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject”.
Child protection would be a prime example.
In the absence of consent or child protection concerns, does the GDPR provides any alternative lawful basis for named persons to share personal information about children, young people and their families?
The Government may consider that named persons will be able to rely (at least in relation to non-sensitive data) on the fact the “processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest “ or “processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation”.
However, it would be surprising if the GDPR (taken with the European Convention on Human Rights) allowed the state to circumvent fundamental rights of citizens by passing a blanket law to allow officials to override those rights. (This is what they tried to do the first time round.)
Of course there are cases where a legal obligation or public function is so specific and limited in scope that sharing the specified information is permitted.
The limited nature of the function clearly identifies a pressing social need. That justifies limiting the rights of the data subject in the narrow area concerned. The limited nature of the duty imposes its own safeguards and allows the proportionality of any interference to be challenged and assessed.
However, the breadth of the named person policy does not lend itself to this.
The functions of the named person do not impose a legal obligation. Not do they set out clearly circumscribed functions. Notably, section 19(5) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 states that the “functions” of the named person are “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—
- advising, informing or supporting the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person,
- helping the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person, to access a service or support, or
- discussing, or raising, a matter about the child or young person with a service provider or relevant authority.
At the heart of these functions is a jelly-like notion of wellbeing. The notion is so malleable it can mean what a person wants it to mean. As the Supreme Court said:
““Wellbeing” is not defined. The only guidance as to its meaning is provided by section 96(2), which lists eight factors to which regard is to be had when assessing wellbeing. The factors, which are known under the acronym SHANARRI, are that the child or young person is or would be: “safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible, and included”. These factors are not themselves defined, and in some cases are notably vague: for example, that the child or young person is “achieving” and “included””.
Elsewhere in the judgement the justices stated:
“[T]he assessment of that wellbeing under section 96 involves the use of very broad criteria which could trigger the sharing of information by a wide range of public bodies and also the initiation of intrusive inquiries into a child’s wellbeing.”
In short, the lack of any definition of wellbeing in the Act gave rise to the Supreme Court’s conclusion that the legislation “may in practice result in a disproportionate inference with the article 8 rights of children, young persons and their parents, though the sharing of private information”. This was the basis of the court’s requirement that the changes to the legislation required by the court judgment would involve providing safeguards and that this would “involve policy questions” for the Scottish Government.
An all-singing, all-dancing concept of wellbeing, which bundles together so many different and vague indicators, has created a policy framework which is like a swollen river. The torrent is gushing downhill and will submerge what lays before it unless a suitable dam is built. Yet, nearly three years since the Supreme Court gave judgment the Government has not been able to construct a solution to the problems identified.
The reason for the Government’s failure to find a legislative fix for the data protection problems identified by the Supreme Court judgment is that the policy around which they are seeking to legislate lacks precision at its core.
In 2017 the Government asked a panel of experts to come up with a new binding code of conduct for practitioners. That panel has so far failed.
Even if the panel come up with a draft, it would have to have such a high level of legal content – deconstructing the elements which make up the SHANARRI concept of wellbeing – that it will render the guidance impossible for non-lawyers to navigate. It will not be fit for purpose.
The problem for the Government is that they have been pursuing a policy which seeks to do everything. If professionals and practitioners are not to be drowned in the impenetrable mess caused by enshrining SHANARRI in law, the Government must focus on the source of the problem. Redirecting the river at its source means a fundamental policy rethink.
The Scottish Government is considering controversial proposals to implement the detested named person scheme “by the back door” … even if MSPs refuse to support changes to the law.
Discussion of a so-called “Plan B” is revealed in documents which have only been made public, after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by NO2NP stalwart Lesley Scott.
The papers were produced following a meeting of unnamed top level government officials and advisors in February this year.
An annex under the headline “CONTINGENCY” states: “Contingency plan? What if the legislation is not passed?”
And adds: “Plan B for if Bill fails to make sure parts 4&5 can be implemented without information sharing.”
The scheme has been riddled with problems and last month a further delay was revealed.
John Swinney set up a panel to produce a Code of Practice by September 2018, after Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee said it would not pass the legislation without one. But Professor Ian Welsh, chair of the panel, wrote to Mr Swinney to inform him that the panel would not be able to meet this deadline.
Lesley Scott of the TYMES Trust, said: “These worrying documents show the focus is clearly on implementing Named Person by the back door, regardless of whether the new Bill gets through Parliament. Clearly, we are now dealing with a Government which is ignoring the UK Supreme Court, has no regard for the elected representatives of the Scottish people and is determined to shun public opinion.
“They are riding roughshod over the democratic system in pursuit of a flawed, failed and discredited project.”
Ms Scott asked for all details from three key meetings of the Statutory Guidance Framework Group tasked to review the named person scheme in October and December last year and in February this year.
Only one set of minutes was released and NO2NP has been angered by the decision of the Scottish Government to redact the names of every single person who attended the key meetings.
Ms Scott has now contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office which deals with FoI appeals seeking a review of this decision.
Senior social worker Maggie Mellon, former chair of the Scottish Child Law Centre, said: “The names of all present – including the chair – are all redacted. So much for open government. There is no way of identifying which agencies are providing wrong advice or whether the persons present represent their colleagues and agencies properly.
“Is it now so toxic to be associated with the named person scheme that people are not willing to have their names made known?”
She added: “These are presumably many of the same people who advised the government so badly first time round, that breaching confidentiality is ok even when any concerns fall well below the proper threshold. What is so important about this flawed scheme that it has to be pushed through?”
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said: “This proposed scheme was intrusive, incomprehensible and illegal. It still is, and continued implementation of it must cease. As must plans to continue its implementation in the future.
With the Government stubbornly ploughing ahead with a much more limited form of the Named Person scheme and much confusion still surrounding it, a team of NO2NP volunteers organised an Action Day outside the SNP’s Spring Party Conference in Aberdeen last weekend.
Delegates were given the new NO2NP Parents’ Guide to the Named Person Scheme, which is an easy-to-read 4-page leaflet to help parents understand their rights following the Supreme Court judgment.
As the legislation was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court and a breach of human rights, one NO2NP volunteer asked a delegate: “But don’t you believe in human rights?” The delegate’s response, “Yes, but not YOUR kind of human rights!” was disappointing.
A majority of those attending the conference did take a leaflet and a number of those we met were against the Named Person scheme. A senior union official declared himself completely against the scheme and a children’s work professional criticised the much-lauded Highland Pathfinder (the first Named Person pilot scheme).
One man acknowledged he “admired [our] persistence”, while another said that no other organisation produces as many different leaflets as NO2NP does – perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we won The Herald’s Public Campaigner of the Year Award!
A huge thank you to the hardy volunteers who persevered through thick and thin over the weekend! If you would like print copies of our new Parents’ Guide to distribute, please get in touch with us by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NO2NP will be holding a one-off special event, Named Persons: Doomed… or just delayed? in Edinburgh on Monday 20 March, 11:00am – 1:15pm.
Do you want the unique opportunity to question the QC behind the Supreme Court legal challenge?
Would you like to be clear about your legal rights following the Supreme Court judgment and get equipped to take action in your community?
Do you want to know how to make MSPs more responsive to the concerns of parents?
Then come along to this one-off free event and hear from key figures involved in opposing the Named Person scheme; including legal experts, parents and key members of the NO2NP campaign. BOOK NOW
Speakers will include:
- Aidan O’Neill QC – Leading human rights lawyer who acted on behalf of parties to the successful Named Person legal action
- Jim Sillars – Former deputy leader of the SNP, who said the Named Persons legislation was “riddled with ambiguity”.
- Kevin McKenna – Columnist regularly featured in The National, The Herald and The Guardian, who has warned against the “deeply flawed” Named Persons legislation
- Maggie Mellon – Independent social work consultant
- Dr Stuart Waiton – Sociology and criminology lecturer at Abertay University
It was another packed house for the latest Named Person debate, this time from St George’s Tron, Buchanan Street, Glasgow last Thursday evening. SASO (Scottish Association for the Study of Offending) were the hosts with Sheriff Ian Fleming chairing the event.
First to the lectern was Matt Forde, National Head of Service, Scotland, at NSPCC. Matt took everyone back to the 1990s talking of society’s propensity to lock up people and criminalise children as young as 8. He talked of how the murder of Jamie Bulger at the hands of two other children had led to a societal and political view of children as ‘out of control’, even “feral”. However, in the Q&A that followed, NO2NP’s own Jenny Cunningham rebuffed this vision of the period stating that she remembered it as being a time when focus started to turn to parent-blaming for all the ills of society. Matt contended that “rhetoric was very strong at that time – today it is a very different debate.”
That debate, Matt stated, began a process to bring about social change that would improve the situation for children. Through this, specifically a review of the children’s hearing system, came GIRFEC and, after the SNP won a minority Government in 2007 they “started to speak more positively about young people” in a wish to ‘Make Scotland the Best Place to Grow up’.
According to the NSPCC wellbeing is defined by SHANARRI, despite the judgment from the UK Supreme Court last year which stated: “‘Wellbeing’ is not defined” and said about SHANARRI: “These factors are not themselves defined, and in some cases are notably vague.”
Matt spoke about how well GIRFEC and the Named Person had worked in Highland. He noted that the NSPCC support early intervention and the principles of the Children and Young People Act, including Named Persons, adding that GIRFEC and Named Persons are just one way to meet the needs of children.
Next up was NO2NP regular Maggie Mellon who maintained that “for most of the children referred to hearings, it would have been better to have had no such formal intervention at all.”
Maggie explained that in England and Scotland the criminal justice system was now “rowing back” from looking to alternatives to incarceration, which simply led to pulling in “more people who would not previously have become involved in the criminal justice system”.
“But we are now going there with children and families,” Maggie warned. “In the world of GIRFEC and Named Persons, ‘risk’ is ascribed to a wide range of social or other circumstances. This leads to negative attention, a higher risk attribution, risk-averse professional behaviour and systems. As well as negative impacts on children, families and the wider civic society. This is, in essence, my case against the Named Person”, Maggie said.
The law, Maggie insisted, “doesn’t lie” and she pointed out that there is “no duty to respond to parents’ or children’s requests, no mention of any duty to consult, collaborate or advocate for a parent or child”.
Maggie also went into the origins of early intervention, debunking the Hackman Curve (a source of much excitement by civil servants over potential savings through prevention science) as simply “a hypothesis and one that has actually been disproved by any number of actual research studies”.
In a well-argued and evidenced talk, Maggie summed up by saying “We don’t need Named Persons. The whole project is a diversion from real prevention and social justice.”
Some interesting points were made in the Q&A, none, it should be noted in favour of the Named Person policy. David Scott, a regular attendee at NO2NP events, questioned the term ‘risk’ and its use in the assessment of children and families pointing out that ‘risk’ is defined as a combination of the probability of an event and the consequences. Probability, he pointed out, has two separate meanings which are conflated; one is objectively measureable and applies to recurring events. The second definition which applies to unique events such as those occurring in families is ‘belief’. Therefore when officials talk of ‘risk’, they merely speak of their own belief giving it simply a veneer of objectivity.
Once again, the case for the Named Person crumbles when exposed to careful and accurate analysis.
On Monday this week, around 200 local residents from across Perth and Kinross attended a public meeting hosted by the Scottish Cabinet at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.
The purpose of the meeting was to enable local residents to air their concerns about issues affecting them so, since the Scottish Government’s imposition of a Named Person will affect every single family with children under 18 in Perth and Kinross (as well as the rest of Scotland), NO2NP volunteers were there to greet them.
The flyer that most people took summarises what the Supreme Court judgment achieved last July in stopping the unpopular legislation in its tracks. In a nutshell, the Named Person’s blanket powers to ‘grab and share’ data on families were unanimously struck down by the judges.
One gentleman had not heard of the campaign but as soon as he was told, he was enthusiastically in support of it. Another delegate’s outraged response at the scheme was another example of how angry people are at the imposition of such a scheme on every family in Scotland. Especially when it was never consulted on or requested by the vast majority of Scottish parents.
Even Deputy First Minister John Swinney took a leaflet – we hope it will remind him that he still needs to make his announcement on the future direction of revised Named Person legislation in light of the Supreme Court’s damning judgment.
There were lots of questions asked at the meeting and sadly there wasn’t time for everyone to ask their questions publicly. But, to their credit, the Cabinet met delegates over tea and coffee afterwards, and local NO2NP supporter Lesley Scott took this opportunity to ask the Deputy First Minister her question.
She wanted to know why the Scottish Government had not told Perth and Kinross Council to remove inaccurate data sharing guidance from their website, since they had removed it from their own. The Council made the excuse that the Scottish Government had not told them to remove it.
Mr Swinney argued that each local authority was an elected body that was autonomous in its decision-making – but Perth and Kinross Council don’t seem to think so…! “Does the Information Commissioner’s Office have the power to tell the Council to remove it?” Lesley then asked. The Deputy First Minister agreed to look into the matter, so we’ll be keeping an eye on developments.
In the meantime, preparations are well underway for a major NO2NP event in Edinburgh on Monday 20th March, so make a note in your diaries now – more details to follow soon!
There was a packed audience in the University of Dundee’s Dalhousie Building on Monday night, when around 130 students, academics and members of the public came to hear a group of speakers on the subject: What’s wrong with the Named Person?
Chairman and NO2NP supporter Dr Stuart Waiton explained at the start that he had wanted speakers on each side of the debate, but despite extensive enquiries, he could not find a single person who was prepared to come and speak in favour of the Scottish Government’s flagship policy.
The first speaker, Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust, brought everyone up to date with the groundbreaking Supreme Court judgment from last July.
One of the most shocking paragraphs from the unanimous ruling 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.” (Paragraph 73)
The Supreme Court judges had noted that “wellbeing” is nowhere defined, adding that the SHANARRI indicators (standing for Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included) “are not themselves defined,” and “in some cases are notably vague.”
“Yet,” Lesley went on, “practitioners up and down the country have been, and continue collecting information on ALL children and their families, on all aspects of their lives, in order to assess us against these undefined, vague, subjective measures.”
Thankfully, all five judges agreed that the idea that parents must comply with any advice given “could well amount to an interference with” Article 8 of the ECHR (the right to respect for private and family life). The Court also held that the legislation’s data sharing provisions, which they held were central to the role of the named person, “are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament”.
Addressing the Deputy First Minister’s reaction to the judgment in his speech to the Scottish Parliament, Lesley remarked that “Mr Swinney insisted that ‘the judgment itself does not require current policy to change … so my message to local authorities and health boards is a clear one – please continue to develop and deliver a named person service in your area…'”
“By pushing for the continuation of the named person provision and its information gathering and sharing processes,” Lesley concluded, “it seems that the Deputy First Minister is in danger of encouraging unlawful practice by state bodies.”
Next up was Dr Jenny Cunningham, a recently retired community paediatrician from Glasgow, who opened her talk by claiming that the named person scheme was “illegitimate and illiberal”. She argued that this is because a democracy depends on the principle that “parents ought to be autonomous in relation to their own families”.
“The underlying assumption is that adults are unable to identify vulnerable children – so the state has to intervene! ‘This belittles parents'”, she said.
Jenny concluded: “We should strongly resist and argue against this idea that parents are incapable of assessing children’s wellbeing needs and accessing services – parenting is about establishing good relationships with children and establishing parental authority.”
The final speaker, Maggie Mellon, an independent social work consultant, played a BBC news video from the late 1990s, where former Prime Minister Tony Blair argued for intervention in “problem families” – even pre-birth! – to ensure they would not become “a menace to society”. “So it didn’t start with the SNP at all!” Maggie quipped.
“It’s important that we understand the rationale and the ideas underpinning the legislation,” she said. “The government has made it clear it thinks the Supreme Court judgment is purely technical and they’re going to plough on ahead.”
Maggie criticised the approach whereby named persons exercise “purely subjective judgements about what’s appropriate … we’re not talking about child protection, but the monitoring of childhood”.
She went on to remind the audience that there is no duty in the Act to consult or collaborate with parents: “It’s just not there. We’ve been treated to flights of complete fancy about the voluntary nature of the scheme. We were told it was in response to parents’ demands – then we were told it was to save children from their parents!”
Maggie concluded by saying “a Named Person can’t provide a hot meal, a pair of shoes, a warm home – but they can spend time doing SHANARRI wheels with 300 wellbeing outcome signifiers and 200 risk indicators! It doesn’t work.”
There followed a lively Q&A session – here’s a taste of it:
“It’s blurring the lines of when we decide when parents are failing in their responsibilities.”
“It’s a terrible piece of legislation – fatally flawed.”
“There’s lots of meetings and paper shuffling – but I’m concerned my son will not get the support he needs.”
“Everyone is identified as problematic, so children with real needs are overlooked.”
“Parents are the people who can hold the Government to account – but parents are under surveillance themselves.”
“Named Persons won’t love your children as much as you do.”
“We need to put power back in the hands of parents”
The message from Dundee was clear: there’s still widespread opposition to the Named Person scheme, so perhaps the Deputy First Minister will reflect on that fact?
Mum exasperated by unlawful info sharing and ‘Named Person knows best’ attitude
A mum of a child with cerebral palsy has spoken of her frustration at professionals breaching her family privacy.
She says there is a widespread culture of sharing medical information without parental consent – in breach of data protection laws – and that this could have damaging consequences in her child’s life.
Here’s her story:
My child has mild cerebral palsy. This sets the professionals off on manic information sharing because they treat it as a constant “wellbeing need” under the protocols associated with the Named Person scheme.
The existence of mild cerebral palsy would never meet the legal criteria to allow information sharing without my consent and I have made it abundantly clear that I will never consent to information sharing unless I have been briefed first.
This is because most of the advice we’ve received about my child’s condition has been very negative and unhelpful.
In any event, it is our legal right to retain full control over what information is shared.
Doctors and medical professionals repeatedly told us that the brain condition was so severe our child would never walk, talk or learn. But our little trooper has done all of those things and more and is now in mainstream school and one of the brightest pupils in the class.
In part this was made possible because as parents we chose to ignore the ‘professional’ predictions and treat our child as normal.
We do not like medical information which is overly negative being shared as it may taint the views of teachers and reduce their expectations so that negative predictions become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Yet despite my constant complaints and threats of legal action under the Data Protection Act, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never managed to get control of the information sharing. It has been relentless over recent years as the GIRFEC (‘Getting It Right For Every Child’) mentality has taken hold.
Sometimes when I’ve challenged them for sharing without consent, they’ve claimed I did consent. This is often written down in notes by the professionals, but of course they have nothing in writing from me because it is not true. When questioned they loosely infer consent from vague conversations.
And then there’s the multi-disciplinary meetings. These involve the school, the council, and the health board. All of them are data controllers. The meetings happened frequently and usually without us present. Sensitive information flows freely across data controllers without any consent. Letters and emails containing inaccurate medical information are cc’d to mass audiences and emails ping back and forth unencrypted and unprotected.
Not long before the Named Person scheme was due to come into force, but before the Supreme Court defeat, I managed to get a complaint through to senior levels at the NHS. I spoke with an executive who proudly explained that they were planning to put in place a process for sending details of every single A&E visit straight to the Named Person (who, as we know, will often be a teacher at the council – not a health professional in the NHS and with no role in medical care).
Alarmed I said “But what about the Data Protection Act?” They clearly hadn’t given it any thought. The lack of understanding of what is acceptable in terms of data sharing was not just written into the Named Person law that the Supreme Court struck down. It’s written into the brains of officials at the highest levels.
I sometimes wonder if privacy means anything to these people.
I feel exhausted by the constant fight to try to prevent practitioners from sharing our confidential information inappropriately and unlawfully. When you have so many battles to fight over care issues, you feel you have to pick your battles.
We love our child and know their needs better than anyone else. We want to be able to decide their care and education, and we have the right to decide what, when and why confidential information is shared. Is that too much to ask?
If you have had a similar experience do write to us at email@example.com.
|Council||Status of Named Persons|
|Aberdeen City Council||The Named Person scheme was implemented within Aberdeen City in 2012. The Council’s GIRFEC website notes the Supreme Court judgment and states that “Practitioners should continue to ensure that all information sharing is in keeping with current legislation.”|
|Aberdeenshire Council||The Named Person role was being implemented as early as 2012.
The Council’s GIRFEC website notes that following the Supreme Court judgment, “the legal aspects of this scheme were not formally introduced in August 2016 as anticipated”.
|Angus Council||The Named Person was introduced in Angus in 2012, and the Council say that the scheme currently operating is in accordance with data protection principles.|
|Argyll & Bute Council||The Named Person scheme was being implemented from January 2012. The Council reported in September 2016 that they have fully implemented the Named Person scheme and remain committed to continuing with that work.|
|Clackmannanshire Council||Named Persons have been in operation since at least early 2014 and the Council website suggests the scheme is ongoing.|
|Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)||The Named Person scheme was being developed from 2014 and by June 2016, 3400 children had Named Persons in the area.|
|Dumfries & Galloway Council||The Council were implementing the Named Person scheme in 2015, aiming to ensure every child had a Named Person by May 2016. Following the Supreme Court judgment, Named Persons are still being used to support the application of GIRFEC.|
|Dundee City Council||Named Persons have been operating in Dundee City for several years and continue to function after the Supreme Court judgment.|
|East Ayrshire Council||The Named Person role has been in place since at least 2014 and the Council website says that each young person’s Named Person is either their health visitor or a teacher.|
|East Dunbartonshire Council||East Dunbartonshire began rolling out the Named Person scheme in August 2013.|
|East Lothian Council||The Council have been implementing a Named Person scheme and after the Supreme Court judgment the Head of Education at East Lothian said they would “carry on sharing wellbeing concerns” and “continue training staff on the Named Person application”.|
|East Renfrewshire Council||East Renfrewshire Council say that ALL children will have a Named Person.|
|Edinburgh City Council||The Council began implementing GIRFEC and the Named Person policy across 2010 and 2011.The Council seems to still be running a scheme, with a link to find Named Persons on the Council website.|
|Falkirk Council||All children of school age in Falkirk had a Named Person by October 2015. GIRFEC implementation is ongoing and school handbooks for 2017 state that every child will have a Named Person.|
|Fife Council||The scheme seems to be continuing with a contact on the Council website for a central mailbox to find out who the Named Person is or to raise a wellbeing concern. Following the Supreme Court judgment, the Council are continuing to prepare for the introduction of the whole Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, and note they will continue to share information in a proportionate manner.|
|Glasgow City Council||A Named Person scheme was in operation before the Supreme Court ruling, under development from late 2012. Since the Supreme Court ruling, the Glasgow Council website says: “The ‘Named Person’ scheme has not started yet – we are still waiting on a date for when it will start.”|
|Highland Council||Under the heading “The Named Person role” the Highland Council website says: “We started working with the Scottish Government to develop the GIRFEC reform programme in 2006. It was fully implemented across the authority in 2010.”
At the end of August 2016, after the Supreme Court judgment, Highland Council confirmed that it is still running a Named Person scheme in the area.
|Inverclyde Council||Inverclyde were setting out to develop a Named Person scheme at least from early 2015, if not before. Inverclyde Council’s website says (from August 2016): “The ‘Named Person’ service has not started yet – we are still waiting on a date from the Scottish Government.”|
|Midlothian Council||The Named Person scheme was being rolled out in Midlothian and by June 2016, training had been delivered to all staff who would have Named Person responsibilities. Midlothian continues to work on the Named Person scheme and says that 50% progress has been made, stating: “The Named Person legislation rollout has been delayed until 2017, work will continue for implementation and take account of changes to the legislation.”|
|Moray Council||The Named Person service began to be introduced in 2012 and by May 2015, every child at school was expected to have a Named Person. The Council website says that guidance is being revised due to the Supreme Court ruling. “The Practitioners Guide to Information Sharing, Confidentiality and Consent will be revised once those changes to the legislation are known.”|
|North Ayrshire Council||North Ayrshire Council’s GIRFEC website says that it has implemented the roles and responsibilities of the Named Person.
However, in response to an FOI, North Ayrshire Council said in October 2016: “Implementation of the Named Person Service in August did not go ahead in the light of the Supreme Court ruling however, we continue to support all of our children and young people across North Ayrshire Council through the wide range of services we offer.”
|North Lanarkshire Council||Education and health staff were aware of the implementation of Named Persons in 2013 and by 2014, Named Persons had been introduced across North Lanarkshire.|
|Orkney Islands Council||Named Persons were referred to as early as August 2012 as part of implementing GIRFEC.
However, a recent health action plan states: “Single point of contact in place for named person requirements however implementation now deferred until August 2017.”
|Perth and Kinross Council||A Named Person scheme has been operating for several years in Perth and Kinross, with implementation well underway by October 2013. The Council is continuing with the Named Person scheme, still offering training in December 2016.|
|Renfrewshire Council||Named Persons have been in place in Renfrewshire for a few years, and the full statutory duties were to be in place by the end of August 2016.
A September 2016 report notes: “A local, interagency implementation plan was at a final stage to ensure the relevant policy, procedure, communications and training were in place for the planned commencement of the Act. This work has been suspended pending the outcome of the Scottish Government response to the Supreme Court.”
|Scottish Borders Council||Named Persons were in operation in the Scottish Borders from late 2013.
Several school handbooks in the area for 2016/17 list the headteacher as the Named Person.
|Shetland Islands Council||Preparation for implementing the Named Person scheme was beginning as early as May 2009, with guidance for contacting a Named Person fully in place by 2014 and they have continued operating.|
|South Ayrshire Council||GIRFEC started to be implemented in 2009 and Named Persons were in place across South Ayrshire by February 2012. Named Persons were still in operation in December 2016, but a newsletter did highlight that as a result of the Supreme Court judgment, “the duty on practitioners, that they must share wellbeing information with the Named Person is not lawful”.|
|South Lanarkshire Council||A South Lanarkshire Council spokesman said that every child in a South Lanarkshire school has had a Named Person since about 2009, with GIRFEC running from 2006. It was reported in September 2016 that implementation of the Named Person would not be affected by the Supreme Court judgment and that it would continue.|
|Stirling Council||By 2014 it was reported that “Staff in education are confident in their role as named person” in the Stirling Council area. Stirling Council website states that implementation of Part 4 (Named Persons) was paused so that the Scottish Government could make necessary changes to information sharing provisions in the Act. Information sharing in Stirling will continue in line with the Data Protection and Human Rights Acts.|
|West Dunbartonshire Council||West Dunbartonshire Council said in August 2016 provisions of the Named Persons scheme were already in force through the Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) scheme. Council SNP spokesman Jonathan McColl said there was “no reason” for the council to stop preparing to enact the legislation.|
|West Lothian Council||Named Persons were being introduced in West Lothian as early as Autumn 2013. The scheme seems to be continuing and in September and October 2016, there were update sessions on the Named Person service in West Lothian.|
Like out-of-date milk was the Information Commissioner’s 2013 data-sharing advice to public bodies following the Supreme Court ruling in July.
The guidance was well and truly past its sell-by date. But yet it continued to remain on the shelf.
In 2013 Ken Macdonald the Information Commissioner issued a letter to public bodies giving guidance about data-sharing practices in relation to the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which had just passed through the Scottish Parliament.
On the assumption that the Act would come into force new advice was issued. This became the go-to guidance for public bodies on how state officials should share confidential information.
But in July when the UK Supreme Court struck down the data-sharing provisions in Part 4 of the Act, an alarm was raised about the now legally inaccurate advice, and whether or not local authorities had been sharing data unlawfully as a result.
Those involved in the NO2NP campaign wrote to Head of ICO Regions, Ken Macdonald, raising concerns. The Information Commissioner eventually conceded and asked the Scottish Government to remove the inaccurate advice from its website.
Simon Calvert, NO2NP spokesman, commented:
“This was clearly legally inaccurate advice given the outcome of the court case. It further demonstrates how the public sector is having to rein in its policies and practices in light of the Supreme Court victory.”
He added: “The difference in content and tone could not be clearer. A key plank to the named person scheme was the scattergun approach to sharing data on families.
“Who knows how many mums and dads and children have already been subject to the implementation of the inaccurate advice previously given out?
“We ourselves have been contacted by numerous families who have uncovered intimate personal information about them being passed between agencies through making subject access requests for information which is held on them by public bodies.
“They are rightly furious and some are considering their legal remedies.”
If you think confidential information about you or your family could have been shared unlawfully, do consider making a Subject Access Request. Find out more here.
If the reply to your Subject Access Request discloses information which alarms you and you think it may help the campaign against Named Persons, contact us by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
We understand any information you share with us may be extremely sensitive and will be treated confidentially. We won’t use any information without your explicit consent.
Utopia: “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.”
You would perhaps expect to see ‘utopian’ ideals populating the pages of fiction, but not perhaps on the floor of the Holyrood chamber or in front of a Parliamentary Committee. But when it comes to the Named Person scheme, the normal rules don’t apply.
Highland Council is often wheeled out by proponents of the Named Person scheme as Scotland’s utopian ideal. It’s frequently used as ‘evidence’ of the scheme’s success, and the reason for a nationwide roll-out. And this time it was Deputy First Minister John Swinney’s turn to spin the wheel.
In front of not only the Holyrood chamber but again in the Education and Skills committee, Mr Swinney confidently stated some impressive sounding stats about a drop in referrals to the Children’s Reporter in Highland.
Predictably, he attributed the success to Highland’s Named Person pilot scheme.
But as the saying goes… the devil’s in the detail.
You may be surprised to learn that Mr Swinney’s stats did not paint the whole picture.
What he didn’t tell you was that in the same time period there was a drop in referrals across Scotland. In fact many local authorities which did not have a Named Person pilot scheme saw an even higher percentage drop in referrals.
Highland was not even close to being an isolated case study.
Highland’s figures were only mid-range in comparison to the rest of Scotland.
There is therefore no evidence to suggest a link to the Named Person pilot scheme.
It’s time to wake up from the utopian dream and face reality: Highland is not the model and inspiration for the national Named Person scheme that Mr Swinney and others would like us to believe.
NO2NP has won the award for “Public Campaigner of the Year” at The Herald’s Scottish Politician of the Year Awards 2016 last night.
The category is described as: “A public award to recognise an individual or group that has best engaged with the political system to change legislation”.
Congratulations to every family that has stood up and said NO to Named Persons – this is recognition of your hard work and perseverance. Thank you for all your support.
On behalf of the campaign, the award was collected by Independent social worker and NO2NP supporter Maggie Mellon, Tom Hamilton the campaign’s PR guru, and Elaine Motion of Balfour+Manson LLP, solicitor on the successful Named Person court case.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said: “We are absolutely delighted by this award which is a recognition of the efforts of everyone involved with the campaign – including the tens of thousands of families who have joined us in saying no to Named Persons.
“It’s been an excellent year for the campaign, with a constant stream of initiatives mobilising our supporters and drawing media attention to the countless intrusions and blunders associated with the Named Person scheme.
“On top of this, groups and parents involved with the campaign secured a terrific victory in the Supreme Court, which struck down the central provisions of the scheme.
“This award is the icing on the cake but the campaign is far from over. We and our supporters will continue to keep an eye on the scheme and all its manifestations.”
Report by Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust
The NO2NP campaign was back in action again on the streets of Scotland leafleting delegates at the SNP Conference in Glasgow.
It was a grey drizzly start to the day but the rain held off for NO2NP volunteers who donned the red sweatshirt.
First familiar face to appear was Michael Russell, former Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning who arrived in a golf cart waving and smiling. However, those smiles did not last long when he was approached by a NO2NP volunteer holding out a leaflet and asking if he would take one. He responded with an outstretched palm and a curt “No! Certainly not.”
Delegates started to arrive in large numbers. One group refused a leaflet because they said they supported the Named Person scheme, but one of the members of this group later peeled off and returned to tell the NO2NP volunteer that they worked with children and had major concerns over the scheme. They said they understood the campaign’s points and encouraged NO2NP to keep going.
Sadly, not everyone was as pleasant or civil. One NO2NP volunteer politely offered a leaflet to a passing delegate but was met with an expletive. A small minority of those we encountered responded with similar hostility.
Far more interactions however were very positive with one lady stopping to say she had trained social workers and teachers and was strongly against the Named Person – she added that she wished she had been consulted. A member of teaching union NASUWT stopped to take a leaflet saying “we’re against it” and asked “what is meant to happen in the summer holidays?”
Our great team of volunteers coped admirably with all of the lively interactions, including the hostile ones as they continued to voice the concerns raised by the vast majority of ordinary Scots who realise the central importance of family life.
In her closing speech to the SNP conference, Nicola Sturgeon said:
“So whatever our disagreements let us always treat each other with respect and let’s work harder to understand each other’s point of view.”
If only such sentiment went further than the microphone on the SECC stage. John Mason MSP took the time to stop and chat but he was a lone voice amongst the politicians we encountered; and all debate on Named Person at the conference appears to have been blocked. It’s difficult to understand another’s point of view if you don’t take the time to hear what that view is.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has claimed during a BBC interview that the Supreme Court did not say the Named Person policy was illegal or breached human rights.
She maintained the Government spin that the bulk of the scheme is unaffected by their defeat in the Supreme Court, downplaying the court defeat as “a particular concern upheld in the Supreme Court around the data-sharing aspects of this”.
If only she had read the judgment for herself:
“the sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person” (para. 78).
“one of the principal purposes [of the Named Person law]… was to alter the existing law in relation to the sharing of information about children and young people, so as to enable information about concerns about their wellbeing” (para. 4).
“the information-sharing provisions … are incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under article 8 of the ECHR because they are not ‘in accordance with the law’ … 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 … 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).
Still claiming it’s about child protection
The First Minister said her Government was “determined” to “progress with this policy … because it is about trying to protect children”. But even arch loyalists like Alistair Gaw have admitted the Named Person is “not about child protection”.
The First Minister also claimed she wanted to act “in a way that brings people together and addresses people’s concerns as we go”. Her Deputy First Minister’s refusal to consult with anyone who doesn’t agree with his policy doesn’t augur well for this.
As BBC Scotland’s political editor says to the First Minister, “Folk are still not very happy with this.”
The media and the Government know we are not going away. Let’s keep up the pressure.
A health board has agreed to remove a leaflet which could have led to unlawful data-sharing following the Named Person Supreme Court judgment.
The leaflet was spotted by a parent who contacted NO2NP stalwart Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust. She wrote to NHS Tayside to ask for the leaflet to be withdrawn.
Parents were being handed the leaflet at Accident and Emergency departments in the area.
“When you attend this department your own details or those of your child may be disclosed to other professionals, for example, School Nurse, Health Visitor, Social Work and GP. This follows the guidance from the Scottish Government.”
When the Supreme Court judges struck down the data-sharing provisions at the centre of the Named Person scheme, they ruled that routine sharing of confidential information breached the right to privacy.
Despite encouraging routine data-sharing, the Scottish Government has denied local authorities have acted unlawfully.
But as The Courier said in an editorial responding to this case:
“The Scottish Government has insisted the Supreme Court judgement ‘does not relate to current practice in relation to information sharing’. It had best keep its fingers crossed because NHS Tayside’s move casts doubt over this statement.”
Mrs Scott has called on the Deputy First Minister to review Named Person pilot schemes.
Chief Executive of NHS Tayside Lesley McLay responded to Mrs Scott’s concerns and agreed to withdraw the leaflet and review its data-sharing policy.
Mrs Scott said: “I am delighted NHS Tayside did the right thing. But many other health and local authorities may be operating similar schemes which have the potential to breach data protection laws.”
Commenting on the Deputy First Minister’s refusal to review Named Person pilot schemes, she said: “He has stubbornly maintained the named person pilot schemes currently operating across the country are unaffected by the ruling from the UK Supreme Court. The problem Mr Swinney has is that current practice includes those very elements that the UK Supreme Court found to be in breach of Article 8.”
Simon Calvert NO2NP spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has spent years encouraging a cavalier attitude to family privacy. Now they’ve been stopped in their tracks by the Supreme Court, it is really up to them to make sure all public bodies are revising their policies and practices to comply with the court ruling.”
If you’re a parent be vigilant and take note of leaflets and information you are being given by those working with your children. If they don’t refer to the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act they may be encouraging unlawful sharing of your family’s personal information.
You can write to the relevant authority to ask for materials to be withdrawn or if you have questions about a leaflet, email a copy to email@example.com.
The gloves are off! The gardening gloves that is!
You’ll probably remember hearing about the Named Person being a “Head Gardener”.
When the Children’s Parliament tried to explain the Named Person role to school children back in 2012, they encouraged them to imagine Scotland as a garden, with each child as a special plant growing within it. They were told that “all the adults in their lives” are “Gardeners”, and the Named Person is the “Head Gardener”.
You could imagine the reaction from parents when they heard that they were simply a Gardener in the life of their child when the Named Person was the Head Gardener.
But thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling ‘Head Gardeners’ have received a considerable demotion and had their tools confiscated.
Judges struck down the information-sharing provisions at the heart of the Named Person scheme. These very tools empowered Named Persons to grab and share confidential data at the lower threshold of “wellbeing concerns”, rather than the legally accepted threshold for child protection issues which is “risk of significant harm”.
The SHANARRI wellbeing wheel-barrow also failed its legislative MOT, with the Supreme Court criticising it as “notably vague” and not defined in the law.
Even if the Head Gardener refuses to give up the job title, the job description will have to be completely stripped down and rewritten to reflect the demotion.
As the Scottish Government looks to carry out what it describes as a “three-month period of intense engagement” we hope there will be plenty of weeding, ploughing, and pruning.
And maybe the Head Gardener will finally realise it’s time to retire altogether.
It’s not often you see a staunch supporter of the Named Person scheme putting his head above the parapet to question the details of the legislation.
So, credit to the Children and Young People’s Commissioner: although he often appears in the media to defend the scheme, he warned back in June that the information-sharing provisions contained in the Children and Young People Scotland Act had “caused us most concern”.
And that concern was certainly proved right by the Supreme Court judgment.
The Commissioner, Tam Baillie, who says his purpose is to “protect the rights of children and young people”, made the warning in a public statement in June.
Much of his statement is misguided in its understanding of the role of the Named Person as enacted by the legislation. For example a Named Person is not simply an “individual person available to parents” as he tries to claim.
The Supreme Court judgment explains that the Named Person legislation was “to establish new legal powers and duties, and new administrative arrangements, in relation to the sharing of information about children and young people, so as to create a focal point, in the form of named persons, for the pooling and sharing of such information, and the initiation of action to promote their wellbeing” (paragraph 15).
The Commissioner wrote in his statement: “The information sharing part of the Children and Young People Scotland Act (2014) caused us most concern, not least because we felt that not enough time had been afforded for considered reflection. We also felt that more time could have been given to listening to the views of children and young people.”
He recognised that information-sharing was key to the Named Person approach (the Supreme Court said it was “central”) and emphasised that it “must be done appropriately and with respect for the rights of the child”.
The Commissioner also had questions “around the threshold for sharing information”.
He said: “At the moment, the threshold amongst professionals is ‘risk of significant harm’. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 lowers this threshold to concern for a child’s ‘wellbeing’.
“A potential risk of this is that the Named Person and other adults may therefore choose to share information about the child that violates their right to privacy and we must guard against this.”
Paragraph 97 of the Supreme Court ruling confirmed this concern, stating: “The provisions of the Act appear to point toward a more relaxed approach to disclosure than is compatible with article 8.”
The judges warned that the wellbeing threshold “involves the use of very broad criteria which could trigger the sharing of information by a wide range of public bodies… and also the initiation of intrusive inquiries into a child’s wellbeing”.
They concluded: “In our view, the criteria in sections 23(3), 26(2) and 26(4) by themselves create too low a threshold for disclosure… and for the overriding of duties of confidentiality in relation to sensitive personal information.”
What a pity the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) didn’t see the need to express the same warnings. Instead, ICO officials expressed glee at the prospect of “lowering that trigger down to wellbeing”.
And official ICO guidance issued in 2013 said: “In many cases, a risk to wellbeing can be a strong indication that the child or young person could be at risk of harm if the immediate matter is not addressed. As GIRFEC is about early intervention and prevention it is very likely that information may need to be shared before a situation reaches crisis.
“In the GIRFEC approach, a child’s Named Person may have concerns about the child’s wellbeing, or other individuals or agencies may have concerns that they wish to share with the Named Person. While it is important to protect the rights of individuals, it is equally important to ensure that children are protected from risk of harm.”
“If there is any doubt about the wellbeing of the child and the decision is to share, the Data Protection Act should not be viewed as a barrier to proportionate sharing.”
Perhaps someone needs to remind the ICO of its self-declared purpose: “The ICO upholds information rights in the public interest, promotes openness by public bodies & data privacy for individuals.”
The Deputy First Minister has claimed the Supreme Court defeat “does not require current policy to change” and that it “vindicated” the Parliament vote for the Named Person legislation.
John Swinney made the remarks during a statement on Named Persons to the Scottish Parliament today.
Reacting to the statement, NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said:
“This would be laughable if it were not so offensive to the parents whose human rights were so cavalierly ignored in the drafting of the Named Person law.
“The Supreme Court said the kind of widespread, routine sharing of sensitive personal data that the Government wanted is unlawful and a breach of human rights and cannot go ahead. It said this data sharing was ‘central’ to the Named Person policy and its ruling blew it out of the water.
“So whatever the Deputy First Minister may claim, the Named Person scheme he ends up with in a year’s time will be very different from the policy he wanted.
“Instead of focusing on saving face, the Government should be apologising to parents for ignoring their human rights.
“We welcome the Deputy First Minister’s pledge to consult widely with professionals and parents, including people who do not agree with the Named Person.
“The consultation, and the acknowledgement that it will take a year to draw up and implement the new proposals, is an admission that they have to heavily rewrite key aspects of the Named Person policy.
“The ‘business as usual’ message which the Scottish Government had been sending out since the Named Person ruling was in danger of leading local authorities to carry on with unlawful sharing of private information on families.
“Having spent years encouraging the widespread illegal sharing of sensitive personal data, they should now be doing everything they can to put a stop to it.
“Parents who feared that Named Persons were sharing embarrassing personal information behind their backs have been frightened by the Government’s bluster about barrelling on with the Named Person.
“Today, Mr Swinney has made clear that data-sharing needs to comply with the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act. That is welcome.
“Will his Government now also launch an inquiry to discover what illegal data-sharing has already taken place, and announce what they are doing to stamp it out?”
Full statement on Named Person – Deputy First Minister, 8th September 2016
Named Persons with statutory powers to grab and to share confidential information about children and families across Scotland will not be rolled out today, following the successful Supreme Court challenge.
The Scottish Government’s plan to give every child in Scotland a Named Person to monitor their ‘wellbeing’ was due to come into force today. But the UK Supreme Court said the data sharing provisions at the heart of the scheme were a breach of human rights, and declared the legislation unlawful.
The ruling has blocked the scheme from being implemented nationwide today as planned, forcing the Scottish Government to go back to the legislative drawing board.
If a new version of the scheme is now introduced it will not be able to operate in the way the Scottish Government had originally intended.
A NO2NP spokesman said:
“Today would have been the day this intrusive big brother scheme was rolled out across Scotland, but instead it has been stopped.
“This is a victory for the many thousands of ordinary mums and dads who have been saying NO to Named Persons.”
“Every child from 0 to 18 would have been assigned a Named Person to monitor their ‘wellbeing’, according to a vague Government checklist.
“Practitioners working with children, including health, police, schools and social work, would have had a legal duty placed on them to share confidential information with a Named Person at the much lower threshold of ‘wellbeing concerns’.
“We’re delighted parents no longer have to worry about unjustified interference into their private family-life based on vague Government notions of ‘wellbeing’.
“The intrusive data sharing powers, which were central to this scheme, have been struck down by the court.
“The big brother scheme is history.
“Families can now live free from the fear of having their confidential information shared and stored without their knowledge or consent, or worry their case will be escalated unnecessarily.
“We are aware some local authorities are continuing to operate a form of Named Persons. There is nothing preventing local authorities running a non-statutory scheme, but service providers must make sure these schemes are compliant with existing laws.
“Supreme Court judgment makes clear that parents and families cannot be compelled to accept the advice or services of Named Persons and information cannot be shared in breach of the thresholds in the Data Protection Act.
“We are encouraging parents to submit Subject Access Requests to find out what information a local council or health board holds about their family. Local authorities which have been operating as if the Named Person legislation was in force, ought to be very concerned about facing legal actions from parents.”
While the Scottish Government has said it intends to push ahead with a revised version of the scheme, the truth is that there will have to be radical changes to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The information-sharing provisions, which the Supreme Court said were central to the scheme, have been ruled unlawful. The legislation has to be amended by the Scottish Parliament, and guidance will need to be redrafted too.
The Supreme Court will be keeping an eye on the revised proposals the Scottish Government brings forward – as will we.
Any amended statutory scheme will definitely not commence on 31st August, as John Swinney has confirmed.
It has been brought to our attention that some local authorities are continuing to operate a form of Named Person. There is nothing preventing authorities running a non-statutory Named Person scheme, as has been the case with the pilot schemes which have been operating over the past few years.
But service providers are constrained by the existing law, which includes the terms of the recent UK Supreme Court judgment.
1. Parents and families should not be compelled to accept the advice or services of the Named Person;
2. Information cannot be shared in breach of the thresholds in the Data Protection Act, which emphasises consent unless sharing is necessary for one of the reasons specified in that legislation – a test that “wellbeing” does not meet.
We have been aware for some time that some authorities in Scotland have been operating as if the Named Person legislation (including its specific data sharing provisions) was in force.
But after the decision of the Supreme Court, it should be easier for a family to raise a complaint or bring a claim against a public authority where data has been shared in line with the tests in the Named Person legislation rather than in compliance with the Data Protection Act.
This is because the UK’s highest court has declared the thresholds in the Named Person legislation to be unlawful.
To find out what information your local council or health board holds about you or your family, you can submit a subject access request. More information on making a subject access request can be found here.
Many have been asking what will happen when the 42 days proposed by the UK Supreme Court comes to an end and what exactly is the Section 102 order.
Section 102 is a mechanism that allows for the suspension of the effect of a court’s decision to strike down a piece of legislation while the problems with it are sorted out.
This is a rarely used constitutional power. Section 102 was intended to be used in cases where the court is proposing to declare a statutory provision which is already in force to be unlawful. In order to avoid resulting chaos from striking down the law, they give the executive a period in which to fix it, while allowing the unlawful law to remain in force and effect.
In this case, the law is not in effect and the UK Supreme Court has declared that it cannot be brought into effect. However, section 102 could allow the UK Supreme Court to keep a supervisory role in settling any replacement legislation.
The 42 days cited in the judgment are for the parties involved in the legal action to make submissions on whether or not the UK Supreme Court should use its section 102 power. At the conclusion of the submissions, the Court could maintain a supervisory role over the Scottish Government/Parliament, given them a period to change the law and guidance into what the Scottish Ministers think to be a Convention compatible form and then re-present this to the court for their approval.
It is certainly not expected that the necessary legislative/guidance changes will be presented to the court within the 42 day period mentioned in the judgment.
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.
A warning about information sharing practices has been issued to local authorities and health boards by the Scottish Government, following the Supreme Court ruling.
In a statement released at the weekend by the Scottish Government it was disclosed that Named Persons have been told to “take care to reiterate the voluntary nature of any advice, information, support or help offered”.
This latest development is in contrast to last week’s public response from Deputy First Minister John Swinney, in which he claimed a Government ‘victory’, despite the judgment rendering the Named Person legislation unlawful.
The statement also revealed that Swinney had begun talks with “senior figures from the public and third sectors including NHS, local authorities and Police Scotland to discuss our next steps”.
It said the Deputy First Minister had joined a conference call following the Supreme Court ruling, involving:
• Perth and Kinross Council
• NHS Dumfries and Galloway
• Highland Council
• Children in Scotland
• National Parent Forum Scotland
• Police Scotland
• Care Inspectorate
• Education Scotland
• Information Commissioner’s Office
• Social Work Scotland
• Health Scotland
Commenting on the news, a NO2NP spokesman said the group was “sad and disappointed” that Swinney was only consulting with “those who support his government’s policy”.
The spokesman said: “As the organisation which successfully challenged the policy through the courts, we would like a meeting with the minister to place our views on the record as to why he should scrap this scheme and the pilot projects. We believe our views chime with a significant and growing number of people in Scotland.”
Following the Supreme Court decision last week serious questions have been raised over the prospect of parents suing councils which have been operating pilot schemes.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said: “The point is there are local authorities that have been running Named Person pilot schemes on the expectation that this law would come into force. They have in practice been sharing data at the much lower level enshrined in the Named Person law.”
“So, those local authorities should be quaking in their boots, they should be worried, very worried, about parents making subject access requests and finding out data has been shared on them in breach of the data protection and human rights law. They should be worried parents are going to sue them.”
Judges at the UK Supreme Court have declared the Scottish Government’s ‘state snooper’ Named Person scheme to be illegal.
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.
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).
“…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.
“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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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?
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?
The UK Supreme Court has announced it will hand down its Named Person judgment on Thursday 28 July at 9:45am.
The judgment in the case, which is listed as “(1) The Christian Institute and others (Appellants) v The Lord Advocate (Respondent) (Scotland)”, will be streamed live on the Supreme Court website.
The fight to oppose the Scottish Government’s Named Person legislation continued to the UK Supreme Court after judges in Scotland’s highest court ruled last year that the legislation did not conflict with human rights or data protection laws.
A two-day hearing involving five judges took place in the Supreme Court on the 8th and 9th March.
“Her attitude was ignorant, judgemental, patronising, smug and self-righteous… And this was the person who would be responsible for our son’s “wellbeing”…”
His son was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s, but instead of receiving the support his family needed from the “professionals”, this is what the family was subjected to…
“As the son of two teachers (one of them a guidance teacher) I would like to think that the NP role will be filled with people possessing wisdom and common sense, at least applying the badly-defined legislation with discerning judgement. However, as the father of a child with additional support needs, I fear these qualities are not in abundance, and will be frustrated not enhanced by this legislation.
“Our son has recently been diagnosed with Asperger’s. This makes his behaviour challenging at times, making it all the more necessary for parents and school to work in partnership. However, his first headteacher (identified prematurely as his Named Person on one of the GIRFEC forms) ascribed his difficulties to “lack of parental consequences” (I fail to see how not punishing a child sufficiently could lead to them having fixations and literal thinking…) and placed an added strain on our relationship with our son as we dealt with not only his behaviour, but the ignorant condemnation arising from it.
“Her attitude was ignorant, judgemental, patronising, smug and self-righteous.. And this was the person who would be responsible for our son’s “wellbeing”… I note the school was recently participating in “Autism Awareness Week” – I hope the head teacher learned something.
“Another participant in the “Staged Intervention” meetings (beautifully described by one comment I’ve seen as “Six people telling you how rotten your kid is, but they’re there to help”) was the Educational Psychologist. I’m not sure if she had children herself, or had ever actually met any real children… at one point when there seemed like the vague hope of her actually getting involved, she said, “That would be an interesting wee research project for me!”.
“I’m glad she found our family’s mental health such fertile ground… This is the reality of “early intervention”[.] I should say, that amongst the “professionals” we’ve met there are those who will say “I’ve been there” or “My son gets a taxi to school” or “I know what it’s like to get the phone calls [from school]” which is a tremendous reassurance that the person you are dealing with will have some insight and wisdom.”
Referring to the GIRFEC and SHANARRI models of early intervention he said: “I find it extremely offensive that there is one process which is used for intervention regardless of whether it is for protection concerns, or because your child has, for example, a neuro-biological condition.
“But, back to the named person scheme. In contrast to our relationship with our son’s first Head Teacher, the one we had with his Health Visitor was extremely helpful. She was (and is) someone we could trust and rely upon for advice and referrals (e.g. to CAMHS – Oh, the waiting list is 6 months already – if there is to be a huge increase arising from the NP scheme because of all the early intervention)
“However, the NP scheme will undermine this sort of relationship with a trusted professional, requiring them to conduct multiple hour-long interrogations on such matters as family finance! That isn’t Daily Mail hyperbole, it’s in the plan here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0048/00487884.pdf”
First published on thirdforcenews.org.uk in the comments section of Named Person scheme: conform or else?,13th June 2016, by “A parent”
Nobody likes a nosy parker. It’s one of the big reasons why people don’t like the Named Person scheme – state officials with unprecedented powers to interfere in family life.
But what if you were the one being asked to do the snooping? How would you feel about being legally responsible for monitoring families? What if it was your job to become a Named Person?
Teachers and health visitors
If the Named Person law comes into force, thousands of teachers and health visitors across Scotland will become Named Persons. They will be expected to carry out their new role on top of their usual duties, with no extra pay. (Teachers’ unions and health visitor unions have expressed concerns.)
If something goes wrong, they will no doubt take the blame – especially considering the burden of responsibility:
• The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is depending on teachers and health visitors to protect Scotland’s most vulnerable children. She said that “if it saves the life of one child, I think it’s worth it”.
• Aileen Campbell, the minister who steered the Named Person law through Parliament, said she was relying on the scheme to “stop and avoid the sort of horrible things that we have seen recently happening to children”.
• The Information Commissioner’s Office says Named Persons will be required to pull all the pieces together from information provided by health, education, social work and police.
It’s vitally important to identify and protect vulnerable children and good professionals are doing that all the time. But the threshold for Named Person monitoring and intervention has nothing to do with vulnerability. It is a universal service, meaning busy professionals will be expected to process large amounts of confidential data sent to them by all the agencies involved in a child’s life. Some will have to do this for hundreds of children.
You might remember, just before Christmas, a child protection training officer said that taxi drivers will have a legal duty to spy on child passengers and report to Named Persons.
Jim Terras said “if you’re contracted out for services to the local authority, you will have a duty, a legal duty, to assist the Named Person”.
GPs, dentists and hospital porters
Supreme Court judges have been told that GPs will need to tell Named Persons if a teenager was prescribed contraception, though parents would not have to be informed.
A dental practice in Aberdeen received an “aggressive” reaction when they refused to pass on confidential information to Named Persons. (They were reportedly told: “You don’t need parents’ permission any more because we are acting as Named Persons.”)
One of the Government’s top advisers, Alan Small, also provided a list of people who should be legally obliged to share information with Named Persons, including those working at sexual health clinics and hospital porters.
In case that’s not unnerving enough, apparently friends, family and work colleagues should also be involved in spying on one another.
In an official Named Person training exercise (based on the board game Cluedo) participants are invited to play the role of characters in the life of single mother ‘Jayne’ and her child ‘Melody’. As they play they are asked to identify the ‘seemingly innocuous’ information that should be passed on to Named Persons. These ‘indicators’ include the mother’s stress at work and if she enjoys a glass of wine.
Yes, it is sensible to be vigilant. And we should all try to be good neighbours. But the Named Person scheme actively encourages ordinary citizens to assess other people’s parenting against Government checklists.
So we’re all state snoopers now.
The Government has confirmed that it will delay the implementation of the Named Person scheme in the event that there is no ruling from the Supreme Court before the proposed 31 August roll-out date.
The Supreme Court rises for its summer recess on Friday 29 July – less than three weeks away. Lawyers approached the Government last Wednesday to request a stay on the implementation of the scheme if a decision was still pending ahead of the planned roll-out date.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney conceded that it “would not be prudent or responsible for government to commence legislation while a decision from the court is still pending”.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said: “Our lawyers contacted the Scottish Government earlier this week requesting an undertaking along these lines, so we are pleased they have done the right thing.
“The fact that the Scottish Government has been forced into a concession over this unpopular scheme is an acceptance of the reality that it could actually be struck down by the Supreme Court.
“To pursue the implementation of state guardians while that prospect hangs over the scheme would indeed be inappropriate. Mr Swinney has made the right call.”
MSPs warned controversial named person scheme could be delayed as Supreme Court holiday looms, The Herald, 12 July 2016
Legal bid could delay Named Person Scheme, says Scottish government, BBC News, 11 July 2016
NO2NP wrote to the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh highlighting a “series of contradictory and conflicting statements” made by MSPs who support the scheme.
Since the Named Person scheme was first mooted, it has been dogged by a series of embarrassing revelations and highly publicised gaffes. Despite the adverse publicity, the Scottish Government has ploughed on in the face of growing public opposition and media criticism.
Here are the Top Twelve Named Person blunders… so far:
1. Police: Stop
Police Scotland warn scheme could put kids at greater risk. It expressed concerns that children could be the victims of “further criminal acts” caused by the “significant time delay” created by the extra layers of unwieldy bureaucracy linked to the proposals. The warning was contained in an official submission on the guidance to how the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will operate.
2. Stasi in their eyes
Hundreds of taxi drivers ordered to become spies in the cab and pass on information as part of the ‘Big Brother’ scheme. The demand, made by an ex-police officer employed as a Scottish Borders Council child protection officer, was recorded. He stated that they have a legal duty to pass on information to assist the Named Person if children make comments while being driven by cabbies hired by the council.
A Scottish Government training tool based on the game Cluedo, called 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”.
4. Sowing suspicion
When the Named Person legislation was being considered in 2012, the Children’s Parliament spoke with over 100 children at schools across Scotland. To help pupils understand the Bill, they encouraged them to imagine Scotland as a garden, with each child as a special plant growing within it. They were told that “all the adults in their lives” are “Gardeners”, and the Named Person is the “Head Gardener”.
5. Back and Forth
Forth Valley NHS Trust tells parents all their kids’ medical information will routinely be sent to their Named Person – along with details of any missed appointments. The policy was amended after complaints from parents and adverse media publicity.
6. Not buying it
Scottish Government accused of trying to buy public support for the scheme after offering parents vouchers worth £25 to turn up to its Named Person promo.
7. TV Times
Government document about what a Named Person will monitor includes decisions about decorating their child’s bedroom and what the child is allowed to watch on TV.
8. Creepy questions
Who makes your tea? Is your home cosy? Do your parents make you feel special? What does your bedroom look like? Just some of the questions local councils want Named Persons to ask nursery kids. (And they plan to store all that confidential information on one giant council database.)
9. Coughing fit
Mother from the Borders told that she could be investigated for giving her sick child a dose of cough medicine. The woman had given her toddler a small amount of adult cough syrup because she had run out of baby medicine. After having second thoughts she rushed to hospital only to be told that her son would be fine as the dose was “well within limit”. However, nurses told her never to do it again, otherwise: “We would have had to refer you for investigation under the new Named Person laws”.
10. Head in the clouds
Scottish Government accused of living in “cloud cuckoo land” over bizarre graphics for teachers and health visitors responsible for implementing the project. The National Practice Model includes the ‘Wellbeing Wheel’, the ‘My World Triangle’ and the ‘Resilience Matrix’ to assess youngsters aged up to 18. The diagrams are used to examine eight aspects of every child’s life, known as the “SHANARRI” indicators – Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included. In total Named Persons are required to assess children on 529 indicators.
11. SHANARRI sing-a-long
Schools shell out £405-a-session from public funds to the Hopscotch Theatre Company which toured the country indoctrinating primary pupils with pro-Government propaganda about the “Getting it right for every child” policy – the foundation of the Named Person scheme.
12. Wellbeing wheels
Government attempts to measure ‘wellbeing’ – the key responsibility of Named Persons – require kids aged four to be asked if they can ride a bike. Officials will use this question as a way of monitoring if parents are bringing up their children in line with the Government’s ‘wellbeing indicators’.
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.”
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
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.
Crieff in West Perthshire was the latest stop for the NO2NP roadshow on Monday night and a good number turned out at the town’s Strathearn Artspace. (more…)
The more people hear about the Named Person scheme, the more unpopular it becomes.
In 2014 Police Scotland – the body responsible for policing across the length and breadth of Scotland – raised concerns that the Named Person approach may move focus away from high-risk children.
Minutes of a top level steering group, set up to oversee the introduction of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, recorded that Police Scotland had “raised issues surrounding ensuring high-risk children remained a focus”.
Lack of clarity
In July 2015, Police Scotland issued the following statement (emphasis added):
There is a lack of clarity as to the expectations, roles and responsibilities; therefore it is unknown at this time if current systems, models and process in [Police Scotland] can support this legislative change.
Police Scotland also said (emphasis added):
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.
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.
It is a very serious concern if Scotland’s police force has warned that the Named Person scheme could delay removing children from abusers because officials are spending time conducting ‘wellbeing’ assessments.
This warning must not be ignored. Yet the Scottish Government has been mute on the issue.
Confusingly, the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) appear to be fervent supporters of the scheme. As the Government frequently likes to remind us, the SPF think Named Persons will “help keep children safer”.
But Police Scotland’s warning about time delays to remove vulnerable children sounds like it would do the exact opposite.
It’s already extremely difficult to protect vulnerable children with the limited resources available. Widening the net to assess every child in Scotland – and every associated adult – will undoubtedly make resources even more scarce and further burden already overstretched services.
So the question remains: where do the police stand?
And for how long will the Government overlook the serious concerns raised by Police Scotland? If the Named Person scheme is exposing vulnerable children to further harm, it needs to be stopped. Now.
The word ‘wellbeing’ is a nice word.
You’ll hear it mentioned nearly every time someone talks about the Named Person scheme. That’s because ‘improving a child’s wellbeing’ is THE central concept of the Government’s plan.
Politicians have decided this is a foolproof master stroke of conceptual simplicity. They love it. Yet parents across Scotland are raising serious concerns.
Here are some reasons why the word ‘wellbeing’ is causing a stir.
• Wellbeing means happiness
From August 2016, every child in Scotland will be appointed a Named Person to oversee their wellbeing.
The trouble is, a Government-funded leaflet says “wellbeing is another word for how happy you are”. Elsewhere the Scottish Government say it can mean “a wider vision of happiness”. How can the state monitor the happiness of every child?
• Inappropriate scrutiny
The same guide says a Named Person will check that a child is respected, which includes being given a say in what they watch on TV and how their room is decorated.
Wellbeing is highly subjective. The Scottish Parent Teacher Council warned that there could be potential disagreement between Named Persons and parents over what’s best for a child.
• Confusing indicators
Graphics and charts have been produced to help flesh out the details:
– 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.
When Stewart Maxwell MSP was asked to define wellbeing, he berated his interrogator for asking such a “ridiculous” question – but he still wasn’t able to answer it.
• A stranger’s discretion
And yet, Named Persons will be able to act on wellbeing concerns as they consider best. This means state officials will have the power to speak to your child, including about very personal issues, and provide information or advice – all without requiring your consent.
In fact the entire Named Person scheme is predicated upon the understanding that information on ‘less critical concerns’ about a child’s wellbeing must be shared.
• Intrusive monitoring
One piece of Government guidance even says a Named Person has “responsibility for overall monitoring of the child’s wellbeing and outcomes”. Surely this is the role of a parent?
• Lowering the data sharing threshold
Let’s not forget that the current threshold for information sharing is “risk of significant harm”. Yet the Information Commissioner’s Office says the Named Person law is “lowering that trigger down to wellbeing”.
The idea that a scheme so controversial should hinge on a word so vague is bizarre and alarming in equal measure. No wonder so many parents are saying ‘No’ to Named Persons.
The sun was out in Kilmarnock on Saturday morning, when a team of local NO2NP volunteers took to the streets to get the word out.
Immediately they found that many people were still quite unaware of the intrusive scheme, which appoints a state guardian to every child and young person in Scotland under 18, regardless of whether they would want one or need one.
Mothers in particular were appalled, as the reality dawned on them of what a Named Person is able to do in terms of gathering and sharing sensitive information on families, and they were keen to sign our online petition, which is now at almost 32,000 signatures!
One local mum said she didn’t want “ony mair intervention”, while one man the team met had been able to secure dozens of signatures to the petition from his friends on Facebook – well done, sir! If you’re on Facebook, you can follow his example!
Another gentleman, whose wife had had a traumatic experience at the hands of a Named Person health visitor, was very happy to sign up as a volunteer – you can too, if you contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once again, people involved at the coal face of the scheme were not happy about it, including a teacher and a care worker. Health visitors said they would look at the NO2NP website and tell their colleagues. The team reminded them that over half of the health visitors in UNISON had said they thought it was a bad idea.
One trainee health visitor told us that at a recent debate about Named Persons (which formed part of their training), those who spoke against the scheme won! If Named Persons are saying no to Named Persons, the Scottish Government really must take notice!
Our next roadshow event is in Crieff on Monday 30th May – if you live in Perthshire, we hope to see you there!
The Dean Suite of Kilmarnock’s Park Hotel was full on Wednesday night for the latest stop for the NO2NP Roadshow. We even had a journalist and photographer from a national newspaper turn up! Word about our roadshow events is certainly getting around.
After a video was shown from last week’s Question Time in Aberdeen (where the Named Person was discussed), community paediatrician Dr Jenny Cunningham gave the first talk. She said that a child’s wellbeing (something nowhere defined in the legislation) is going to be assessed and judged, not by parents, but by health visitors, teachers and social workers.
Jenny continued: “The assumption is that parents are incapable of ensuring their children are safe and healthy and happy – and incapable of accessing the various services without the assistance of a third party.” She also expressed her concern about information sharing with various agencies and third parties and the creation of a central database: “Who controls it? Who can access it? What will happen to all the information on it?”
She finished by saying that the Named Person scheme “undermines, not supports, parental authority. Parenting is not some formulaic prescription of right and wrong practices: it’s all about parents’ relationship with their children”.
Next up was Dr Gordon Macdonald, CARE for Scotland’s Parliamentary Officer. He explained the reasons behind NO2NP’s opposition to the Named Person scheme, which are really threefold. First, it’s universal in its nature – it’s not just for a few vulnerable children and there is no opt-out – and no opt-in either. Secondly, it’s about the nebulous concept of wellbeing, not welfare (which is defined in law as significant risk of harm or neglect). Wellbeing is much harder to define, indeed there is no definition of it in the Act. And the third reason is the widespread data sharing that will take place, for which there is no opt-out. Despite Nicola Sturgeon’s assurances that the scheme is not mandatory, the data sharing aspect will be universal and compulsory, with no consent required for the sharing of personal and sensitive information.
Gordon’s children’s school recently sent him a letter which said: “It is our practice to share information”, which is far removed from the legal requirement of “strict necessity” for such information sharing. If parents refuse to cooperate, then that itself becomes problematic. Gordon went on to say that the ideology behind the scheme is that children’s groups see children as being fully autonomous, when in fact they are not.
Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust then spoke about the fact that children and young people must show progress in the eight areas of wellbeing (SHANARRI) in order to be assessed as doing well now and in the future. But even supporters of this scheme cannot find the words to explain the concept at the heart of the Named Person. Lesley went on to say that “in East Ayrshire you are part of the AYRshare model for health and social care collaboration.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran along with North, East and South Ayrshire Councils have access to shared files which are created by practitioners based on a child’s NHS number. ‘At the push of a button’ practitioners can ‘push’ information on to AYRshare. Police are also on AYRshare and there has apparently been a successful test in Dalmellington involving GPs, pharmacy, health visitors and education – this trial is being extended to Loudon.”
Lesley had referred to a chronology of a child’s life that health visitors will use and this timeline of ‘significant events’ is one of the documents that will be shared through systems like AYRshare. “But what is a ‘significant event’?”, Lesley asked. She then produced another ‘non-exhaustive’ guide from the Government, which includes:
• Positive or negative changes in family circumstances, e.g. housing, birth of a sibling, emotional wellbeing
• Childhood illnesses
• Dates of immunisations and screenings
• Physical and mental health and wellbeing of child, parents/carers
• In Perth and Kinross, parental non-engagement is also classed as a significant event
In other words, she concluded, anything and everything will be logged – and shared.
After showing a video about the history of the NO2NP campaign, Nigel Kenny suggested some ways in which people could be involved, before Dr Stuart Waiton from Abertay University hosted an extended Q&A.
Several people signed up as volunteers and a local team will be in Kilmarnock’s town centre this Saturday for our latest Action Day. If you live in the area, please come and say hello to them!
The latest episode of BBC’s Question Time was presented from Aberdeen on Thursday. The panel was asked by a member of the audience: “Is the Named Person scheme an unacceptable intrusion by the state into family life?”
Question Time presenter David Dimbleby commented: “I think this is a fascinating topic.” Attempting to explain the concept of Named Persons to English and Welsh viewers he said, “by law every family will have to name somebody outside the family to ‘look after, offer advice or support’ when asked, about every child”.
But Dimbleby was quickly interrupted by panellist Merryn Somerset Webb, MoneyWeek editor, who corrected him saying, “no, no, you don’t name them… the state names them for you, the state gives you a Named Person”, to which Dimbleby replied: “The state gives you one? …it gets stranger and stranger” – a comment that was greeted with applause from the audience.
Humza Yousaf MSP, the SNP’s Minister for Europe, tried to argue that Named Persons would only be able to give advice “when or if the parent needs it”, a claim previously expressed by the First Minister.
Yousaf claimed: “Some of the hyperbole around this, some of the misconceptions around this, are not only vacuous, but frankly put children’s lives in danger”.
A NO2NP spokesman said: “Parents who have read the guidance and made their own minds up about Named Persons don’t like being told their concerns are ‘vacuous’ and ‘hyperbole’. Parents in pilot scheme areas who have found out that their Named Person has been compiling dossiers on them behind their backs about trivial issues have every right to be concerned. Politicians need to respect the views of parents, not belittle them.
“The hyperbole isn’t coming from parents, it’s coming from the defenders of the scheme who are resorting to hyperbole because they know they are losing the argument. There was a huge reaction from the Question Time audience as soon as the Named Person was mentioned. People hate it. They hate state monitoring of parenting. They hate having their personal data shared at will. And they hate the way their relationships with health visitors and teachers are being poisoned by the new duties this legislation puts on them.
“It is an absolute outrage to accuse people who disagree with a particular Government policy of ‘putting children’s lives at risk’. People are allowed to have reasonable differences of opinion about the best way of protecting children without being accused of being complicit in child deaths. The fact is, many professionals and parents fear the Named Person approach will pull resources away from children who really need them, and stretch the safety net even thinner. Police Scotland themselves warned about this over a year ago and we haven’t heard a single word from the Government in response to their warnings.
“Humza Yousaf is defending a different scheme to the one his Government actually legislated for. It’s astonishing he doesn’t know that the legislation does not require parental consent. It allows the Named Person to act ‘where the Named Person considers it to be appropriate’. And the sharing of confidential data on families can take place without their knowledge, let alone their consent.
“Parents who were already engaging with services, like those whose children have special needs, asked the Government for a single point of contact, a Lead Professional, so they don’t have to talk to multiple agencies. Instead, what they got was a Named Person, someone with a legal duty to monitor them and legal power to grab their confidential data. That’s like asking for an accountant and getting an HMRC investigation instead.”
Lesley Scott, Scottish Officer for Tymes Trust and a regular NO2NP Roadshow speaker, spends a lot of her time delving deep into the chaotic detail of Government documents. She shares some of her latest findings involving a curious change to the implementation of Named Persons and some guidance suggesting a compulsory plan for every child – not just parents who ask for it or children who are identified as vulnerable.
Back in December 2010 the Scottish Government produced ‘Practice Briefing 1: The role of the Named Person’. This was the first of eight Practice Briefings that were written “to help practitioners and managers put Getting it right for every child into practice in their agencies”.
This document states that “During pregnancy and the early period following birth, the child’s Named Person will be the midwife assigned to the family.”
This mirrors the established practice model in the GIRFEC Pathfinder trialled in Highland which has the midwife as the Named Person until the baby is ten days old. This ‘Highland Practice Model’ has formed the basis of the success claimed around the GIRFEC approach – claims which have been used to push forward this legislation.
But a document called “RCN briefing and survey: Scottish Government consultation on implementing the Named Person” from March 2015 has an interesting adjustment noted on page 5. It declares that the “The Health Board should identify the prospective Named Person for the baby, as soon as reasonably practical and not later than 28 weeks gestation. In the vast majority of cases, this should be the health visitor. This proposal has changed from the Scottish Government’s original intention that the Named Person should be the midwife…” [bold added]
The Highland Council and NHS Highland also brought out a document in March 2015 called “Guidelines for Maternity Services Getting it Right for Every Mother and Child” that reflected this change. The document states: “The premise of GIRFEC is focused on the needs of a child”. It expands that, however, “within a maternity context the approach can be used as a model which provides the same principles and tools that can reflect the needs and risks to a woman and her baby.” ‘Baby’ the document clarifies, “includes an unborn baby during the antenatal and intranatal periods”.
The document notes that the Highland Practice Model “requires that each child should have a plan which considers their health and wellbeing” [bold added] and that this ‘plan’ is “developed by the named person…” This would seem to contradict claims that the Named Person will only advise and support those parents/children who ask for it – rather there is a requirement for each child to have a child’s plan which means state intervention to some degree. Further to that, the document then says that the “aim in Scotland … is for each pregnant woman to have a named midwife…” It then states that “the named midwife in Highland is able to undertake a named person role if required during pregnancy…” thereby seeking to draw a distinction between the ‘named midwife’ role and that of a ‘Named Person.’ Except – the document then goes into the detail of the duties of the ‘named midwife’, which look to be identical to those of a Named Person.
A ‘named midwife’, the document explains, is “responsible for undertaking risk assessment at each contact and ensuring each woman follows the correct [state-approved] pathway of care” through the application of the same GIRFEC ‘tools’ as the Named Person uses. When considering if additional support is needed, the ‘named midwife’ must ask themselves the same 5 GIRFEC questions as the Named Person and “If any concerns are raised by any other agency or service that has contact with the mother, which may have the potential to affect the wellbeing of her and her baby” then they are required to share these worries with the ‘named midwife’ – just as these agencies and services are required to share any worries with the Named Person.
If a wellbeing need is identified by the ‘named midwife’ through the assessment process they initiate an ‘Antenatal Plan: additional support for mother and unborn baby’ just as the Named Person initiates a ‘child’s plan’.
There is no difference between the duties and responsibilities of the ‘named midwife’ and those of the Named Person.
Local authorities and even the Scottish Government itself still have information for families online that cites the midwife as the Named Person until the baby is ten days old. Yet the shifting sand under the Named Person legislation has moved once more; and once more, families are left to guess at the truth.
Whether they are known as ‘named midwives’ or ‘Named Persons’, they are required to be agents of the SHANARRI/GIRFEC agenda.
An agenda that will erode and irreparably damage the trust between families and all who undertake to perform such duties on behalf of the state.
Tymes Trust Scottish Officer
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.
• 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.
It’s bad enough when the Government wastes public money… but it’s even worse wasting it on something the public hates.
So, we wonder how the Scottish people will receive the news that the Government has hatched plans to splash out taxpayers’ money on a Named Persons public relations campaign.
As opposition to the scheme mounts, under fire civil servants have been ordered to draw up emergency proposals in a desperate effort to counter fierce criticism. Parents, politicians, police and legal experts, as well as the health visitors and teachers who will be required to implement the legislation, have all issued warnings about the scheme.
An email sent by a Communications Manager has revealed plans to draw up a Parent Information Pack because “the Scottish Government is planning a coordinated national public information campaign”.
Simon Calvert, NO2NP spokesman, said:
“It looks like the Government has moved into full crisis mode. It has hit the panic button as ministers and civil servants realise they have lost the crucial trial this legislation has faced in the court of public opinion.
“As more people become aware of the serious implications of Named Persons for the privacy of ordinary families, they are rebelling in growing numbers. This scheme has been holed below the water line and is sinking fast.
“It’s now looking toxic for the Government.
“Taxpayers never like it when the Government uses their money to try to persuade them to support an unpopular policy.
“But it is particularly egregious when the policy is so counterproductive to protecting vulnerable children, so invasive of family privacy, and so poisonous to relationships between families and their teachers and health visitors who have been roped in to implement the scheme.
“It’s remarkable when there is so much pressure on public funds that the Scottish Government can find all this cash to spend on its Named Person project.
“The so-called Getting It Right For Every Child [GIRFEC] programme which includes the Named Person provisions has already had at least £61 million committed to it nationally – and millions more in local council and health board spending. Now there’s another bill on its way, this time to try to persuade families to drop their opposition to the scheme.
“The plan is now to throw more money at defending the indefensible. Because we all know that monitoring the happiness of every single child – which the Named Person law demands – will push vulnerable children even further back in the queue.”
Details of the information programme are contained in an email sent on April 25 from Francesca Vacca, Communications Manager at GIRFEC Children’s Rights and Wellbeing at the Scottish Government HQ in Edinburgh to colleagues involved in the Named Person scheme.
The roadshow team returned to the west of Scotland on Wednesday evening, when they held a well-attended meeting in Coatbridge. A good number of younger folk turned up for this one, including some secondary school children, who will of course all be assigned a Named Person.
Dr Jenny Cunningham, a local community paediatrician, challenged the First Minister’s contention that parents aren’t obliged to engage with the Named Person. She explained that the legislation makes it mandatory for every child to have a ‘state guardian’, and that children’s wellbeing will be “promoted, supported and safeguarded”, regardless.
Jenny went on to say that supporters of the scheme argue it’s about wellbeing, not child protection, yet when they are criticised, they always cite child protection as the reason why the scheme is necessary and accuse us of being against that! “Parental rights should not be treated so casually or dismissively” she went on. “They are one of the fundamental protections against state authority and tyranny over families – they’re the mark of a free society.”
Gordon Macdonald from CARE for Scotland then summarized why NO2NP is opposed to the Named Person scheme: it’s universal, not “opt in” (indeed, there are no opt outs); it conflates welfare issues (risk of significant harm) with vague “wellbeing concerns”; and there are very broad data sharing powers, which don’t require the consent of the parent. Indeed, Named Persons are discouraged from raising the issue of consent with parents, in case it damages trust between them! Just keep them in the dark, then?!
Next up was Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust, who took everyone through the detailed blueprint of young children’s lives that the Named Person will monitor with a view to ascertaining if any of the Government’s 222 risk indicators apply and whether the child should be put on a Child’s Plan, with the possibility of Compulsory Supervision Orders.
Lesley finished by saying: “The Named Person is not an entitlement; it is not simply a single point of contact. It employs a corruption of children’s rights to empower the state against parents, fatally undermining the autonomy of the family and handing the state free rein to intervene in family life whenever it feels it to be appropriate.”
There was an excellent Q&A at the end, when people asked who was going to monitor Named Persons’ activities (nothing seems to be in place for this, beyond a complaints procedure). A social worker spoke eloquently about his opposition to the scheme and said that many of his colleagues would also speak out, but were fearful for their careers if they did.
A good number of folk signed up as NO2NP volunteers and others were happy to share their views with our cameraman – watch out for our vox pop video coming soon!
The Scottish Government has issued advice to parents and families on the Named Person service including that “Your Named Person is there to help you and your child if you need them.” The ‘GIRFEC Q & A for parents and families’ pushes the idea that Named Persons are the key to making “sure children get the right help at the right time”.
The Named Person, we are told, “will be central to making the system work”. In trying to describe what a Named Person is, the Scottish Government explains that “The Act and supporting guidance sets out a clear set of steps for practitioners to follow to make sure the right information is shared at the right time, so that the right help is offered”.
“A Named Person”, it is explained, “will be available to listen, advise and help a child or young person and their parent(s), provide direct support or help them access other services.” Except of course if the Named Person has finished for the day and gone home – or it happens to be a weekend.
The Association of Scottish Principal Educational Psychologists developed Touchpoint Programmes at the end of 2014. These are “designed to be used by Strategic and Operational Managers tasked with the implementation of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014” to assist in preparing guidance for practitioners.
This document states that “there is no intention that the Named person service will be available out with working hours”. And yet the rationale persistently put forward for GIRFEC and the Named Person – indeed, the justification for it in the face of increasing opposition – is the potential for early intervention.
Given that the out-of-hours ‘service’ is only designed for “matters requiring urgent attention and action”, which are dealt with through existing Child Protection procedures, the Named Person is apparently not involved in such situations at all.
Recently the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, came out and said that its members would not fulfil the duties and functions of the Named Person service at weekends or during holidays.
So the Named Person service, even though it is apparently “central to making the system work” is only available within working hours. Detecting those early wellbeing concerns to initiate early intervention will all conveniently be picked up between 9am & 4pm, Monday to Friday.
The right time to access the right help is not decided by the needs of the child but rather the contractual working hours of the Named Person.
Named Persons – there ‘if you need them’ – except of course if it’s before 9am, or after 4pm, or on weekends or half term, Easter Break or Christmas or…
Until recently, Alex Cole-Hamilton, policy chief at Aberlour Child Care Trust was a staunch advocate of the Named Person scheme who was often wheeled out by the Government to defend it:
But reality, it seems, has caught up with him.
Facing countless parents on the doorsteps as he beats the streets of Edinburgh Western as a candidate for the Holyrood elections, he appears to have had something of a conversion.
The Daily Mail says he is calling for parents to be given power to reject their Named Person if the relationship breaks down. Apparently, if no concrete right is inserted in the Named Person scheme, he would advise his party, the Liberal Democrats, to reconsider its support.
Now, his proposal does not begin to address the heart of our concerns, but the very fact that he is talking about changing the Named Person scheme at all, and threatening to withdraw support, is a welcome turn around. After all, lots of people change their minds about the Named Person scheme once they understand what it really means in practice. That’s why more and more people are saying No to Named Persons.
Listen here to what Alex Cole-Hamilton said last year on BBC Radio Scotland in a debate with our own Lesley Scott of TYMES Trust.
The spring weather really couldn’t have been any better when an enthusiastic team of local NO2NP volunteers took to the streets of Broughty Ferry a couple of Saturdays ago to let folk know about the campaign.
From the very start, people were queuing up to add their names to the online petition and our volunteers found that people of every age, from all walks of life were opposed to the scheme. Young parents in particular were shocked at the intrusion into family life for no apparent reason or justification. One health visitor we met said she agreed with her colleagues in UNISON, who had responded critically about the scheme in the recent survey carried out by the union.
There were also teachers and a social worker who signed the petition and even a guidance teacher, who was “terrified” of what the new responsibilities of being a Named Person would mean for him. How could he monitor the wellbeing of 170 children week by week? How indeed…?
One of the many highlights of the morning was meeting a lady who had signed the petition a while ago and had been following the campaign on Facebook ever since. Not only was she happy to become a volunteer for door-to-door leafleting, but her husband signed the petition and the two of them put on NO2NP sweatshirts and got busy handing out flyers there and then! Thanks guys!
Next stop for an Action Day was Castle Douglas, where once again the spring sun was out. As the team gathered in one of the town’s cafes,a local photojournalist turned up to take pictures for The Galloway News.
Once out on the town’s main street, the team quickly discovered that locals were very much opposed to the invasive scheme. Words like “totalitarian” and “Big Brother” were among the responses they got, while one lady said: “As a responsible grandmother, I’m with you. It’s another piece of bureaucracy we don’t need.”
People from all walks of life, including a police officer, teachers and business folk, were shocked to hear about the scheme, and the fact that many were still unaware of it.
If those who have devised the Named Person scheme think it’s so great, why are they not telling everyone about how wonderful it is? Why so little publicity? One lady, who takes a keen interest in politics, said to us: “There’s nothing in recent years that has made me as angry as this has”. Could that be the reason?
Our next Action Day will be in Airdrie this Saturday morning – if you live in the area, do come and join us!
When you speak to people about the Named Person scheme, their concerns often boil down to one central point: it undermines the role of parents.
Despite clumsy attempts by politicians to reassure them, ordinary mums and dads remain alarmed by the prospect of a state guardian with legal responsibility for overseeing their own child’s happiness.
You would think, in light of these concerns, supporters of the scheme might avoid anything which conjures up notions of the ‘Nanny State’ or ‘Big Brother’.
But – alas – no…
When the Named Person legislation was being considered in 2012, the Children’s Parliament spoke with over 100 children at schools across Scotland.
To help pupils understand the Bill, they encouraged them to imagine Scotland as a garden, with each child as a special plant growing within it. They were told that “all the adults in their lives” are “Gardeners”, and the Named Person is the “Head Gardener”.
It’s a bizarre analogy. Yet the phrase was readily endorsed by the Government in its summary of children’s responses to the Bill. (By the way, some of the kids themselves weren’t easily fooled. Read their comments here.)
All adults ‘share the duty’
To quote directly from the Children’s Parliament consultation document:
The children identified that all adults – family members and professional people – have and share equally a duty to make sure all children are healthy, happy and safe.
“All adults…share equally”? What information were these children given to make them think the duty on a teacher or GP or friend – or Named Person – is ‘equal’ to that of their own parents?
Do you think a Named Person has equal responsibility with you to “make sure” your child is “healthy, happy and safe”?
When advocates of Named Persons talk in this kind of unguarded way, they confirm the suspicions of those who think the Named Person will become a kind of co-parent.
In fact, it’s worse than that. Because if parents are just one “gardener” among many, and the Named Person is the “Head Gardener”, its quite clear who is ultimately in charge.
The NO2NP Roadshow team has been really busy over the past week or so, clocking up three events in eight days (plus a great Action Day in between – more about that later in the week!). We’ve been responding to demand from various parts of the country to hold roadshow events in their area, so here’s a taste of what happened at these three venues:-
Their first stop was the picturesque Borders town of Melrose on Monday night last week, when a good number of locals turned up to hear from the team.
Gordon Macdonald, Parliamentary Officer for CARE for Scotland, spoke about the reasons for the NO2NP campaign and referred to comments made online by Jim Terras, a Scottish Borders Council Training and Development Officer for Child Protection. Terras had remarked that he didn’t think the Government should be basing their opinions on the views of “fringe groups” opposed to the Named Person scheme, “who don’t really represent the general public”.
Gordon went on to point out that in a recent ComRes Poll, 64% of the Scots polled considered that the scheme was “unduly intrusive” into family life and 80% considered that the focus of child protection resources should be on truly vulnerable children and not every child.
We were then delighted to welcome Professor John Raven from Edinburgh to speak about his 50 years of academic experience in the areas of family, education and sociology. He said that parents are children’s most important educators in terms of instilling all the most important values in life, so having a Named Person to dictate what this should look like was quite wrong.
One of the things the Professor had noticed over his long career was the deprofessionalization of teachers, doctors and social workers by Government, who have increasingly imposed their own agenda on these professions. And now even parenting has been “deprofessionalized” under this scheme – in line with what is happening across society.
There was a lively Q&A, during which one mum asked the moving question: “Do the same people who failed my children so abysmally now think they can tell me they know better?”
The team’s next stop was Broughty Ferry last Friday to address a packed meeting at the town’s YMCA.
The meeting was chaired by Dr Stuart Waiton, a Sociology lecturer from Abertay University, who recently said that Tayside had some of the strongest opposition to the Named Person scheme. The passionate audience certainly had plenty to say, with one lady asking “What about the really vulnerable children? What will happen to them? They’ll go right down the list and be lost in the process!”
Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust set out how the Universal Health Visiting Pathway, due to be introduced on 31 August, will be a massive invasion of privacy for every young family in Scotland. A huge amount of sensitive information will be shared about their personal details, all intended to “promote, support and safeguard” the wellbeing of every child. However, the term “wellbeing” is nowhere defined in either the legislation or the guidance. This point was made in a video clip Lesley showed from a Holyrood debate last year, where an MSP in favour of Named Persons refused to answer a question about the definition of wellbeing, but instead ridiculed his colleague for asking the question.
Lesley finished by saying: “Intervention is no longer about whether a child is at risk of significant harm, but rather whether the child is progressing in a manner the state regards as acceptable towards meeting outcomes set by the state.”
Alison Preuss from the Scottish Home Education Forum spoke about her background in elective home education and her experience in challenging breach of privacy law in various government schemes over the years.
She made reference to the GIRFEC Cluedo article that appeared in the press recently. The aim of the game (used in training) is to get professionals to determine parents’ capacity to provide “wellbeing” by data mining without consent “at even the lowest level of concern”, as opposed to on child protection grounds. Alison went on: “Privacy is being systematically demolished on the basis of mere suspicion, allowing the state to call up a single view of any citizen at the click of a mouse, to more easily identify those of us in need of remediation”.
Then on Monday this week, the team traveled south to Castle Douglas, at the heart of scenic Dumfries and Galloway. The Christian Institute’s Nigel Kenny explained that one of the ways the Scottish Government planned to ‘teach’ young children the principles of “wellbeing” was by way of a snakes and ladders type game called On the Trail with the Wellbeing Snail.
When Nigel explained that one of the cards for the game said that if you did not join the new after-school fencing club, you had to move back two spaces, one member of the audience asked us if we were making this up?! Not so, sadly. Others from the team mentioned the SHANARRI song and the GIRFEC Cluedo tool referred to earlier. The audience couldn’t believe that this was really happening! Nigel also pointed out that every named person would have to watch out for 222 risk indicators in each child or young person under their watch, which included: being under 5 years old, limited engagement by the parents and the parent having a different perception of the problem!
Alison Preuss said the acronym GIRFEC should really stand for Getting Information Recorded for Every Citizen. She pointed out that the principle of Named Persons was about being able to share sensitive data without the consent or even knowledge of the parents.
She highlighted datasharing concerns raised by a former UK Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas CBE, about an abandoned scheme similar to Named Persons, called ContactPoint. He said: “There are reasons why we need to promote better information sharing where children are at risk of harm, but whether the answer is to database every child in the country should be seriously questioned.”
Alison finished by quoting former US President Lyndon B Johnson, who once said: “You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered.” The Scottish Government failed to observe this principle, but NO2NP has been holding them to account throughout our campaign, highlighting the numerous problems with the legislation.
The NO2NP Team will be in Coatbridge on Wednesday next week. If you can join us, we look forward to meeting you!
Civil servants are infamous for trying to spin statistics. But even the most cunning Government official would struggle to ’emphasise the positives’ in recent public surveys about the Named Person scheme.
Last month, a ComRes poll commissioned by The Christian Institute found that almost two-thirds of Scots believe the Named Person is “an unacceptable intrusion into family life”. Only 24 per cent – less than one in four – think every child should have a state-appointed named person.
A YouGov poll commissioned by The Times, which asked a rather cuddly question about Named Persons who “look after the interests of each child”, still found that less than a third (32 per cent) of people support the scheme. Almost half (48 per cent) oppose it.
And of those who expressed an opinion in the recent Sunday Times Panelbase survey, 59 per cent said they are “broadly opposed” to the scheme, with only 41 per cent saying they are “broadly supportive”.
The stats vary slightly but the message is clear: when the public get a chance to have their say about the Named Person scheme, it’s obvious there is huge opposition.
So why is it that the Scottish Government’s website says:
“When we consulted about the Act, 72 per cent of respondents agreed with our proposal to provide a Named Person for every child and young person.”
The consultation on which they rely closed in September 2012. The ‘72 per cent’ were actually responding to the question:
“Do you agree with the proposal to provide a point of contact for children, young people and families through a universal approach to the Named Person role?”
Clearly the language of “point of contact” doesn’t begin to do justice to the powers Named Persons are going to have.
The forgotten 98 per cent
More recently, in June 2015, the Government published the outcome of a consultation on the guidance that accompanies the scheme.
The Government ‘summary’ of the consultation repeatedly highlights the views of “organisations”. By ignoring responses from members of the public they scrape together 55 per cent support for their Named Person guidance. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
But what is particularly shocking is that this required them to gloss over the fact that 98 per cent of responses from individuals (presumably including many parents) opposed it.
Look at this table produced by civil servants. The 98% is downplayed by the use of bold text.
That’s what they think of ordinary public opinion.
Who knows best?
Sadly Education Secretary Angela Constance recently confirmed this perception when, writing in The Sun on Sunday, she said that the scheme is “very widely supported by those best placed to know — namely, those groups who work directly with children and families”.
The Named Person is “very widely supported by those best placed to know — namely, those groups who work directly with children and families” – Education Secretary Angela Constance
You’ll never hear the Government claim widespread support from parents. And they’ll certainly never cite the 25,000 Scots who have signed the NO2NP petition. They prefer instead to invoke a handful of government-funded charities, some of whom will benefit from referrals made under the Named Person scheme.
But to say those charities are “best placed to know” beggars belief. Better placed than parents?
This is the kind of arrogance that makes parents so angry about the Named Person scheme.
Disclaimer: I’m about to ask you some ridiculous and inappropriate questions.
Cast your mind back to being nine years old. In the course of that year, how many cars did you steal? How many times were you arrested? On how many occasions did you use LSD, cocaine, ecstasy or heroin?
What about life as a 14-year-old. How many times had you been pregnant or got someone else pregnant? How many children had you given birth to or fathered? How often did you or your partner use a condom?
And what about your relationship with your parents. Did you feel close to your mum and dad? If you misbehaved, did they take away your TV privileges? Did anyone in your family ever argue or shout at each other?
Perth and Kinross Council asked all of these questions in a 2013 kids’ survey. As inappropriate as it may seem, school children were asked about their drinking habits, drug use, intimate sexual experiences and even family finances.
But rather than listening to concerns, and scrapping the survey format, a similar questionnaire (called ChildrenCount) was rolled out in Perth and Kinross, as well as in Renfrewshire, Angus, Dundee and North Ayrshire.
It included the following questions:
• When you have misbehaved do your parents listen to your side?
• How often do your parents tell you they’re proud of you for something you’ve done?
• Do you enjoy spending time with your father?
• How old were you when you first smoked cannabis?
• How many times in the past year have you sold illegal drugs?
As if that wasn’t bad enough, last month it was revealed that Scottish pupils will soon face new tests about their private lives. Children could be asked if they have a cosy home, whether their parents make them feel special, or who clothes them and cooks for them. All of their answers will be stored on a giant Government database.
As top social work consultant Maggie Melon said, the information could easily be “interpreted as evidence of child abuse or neglect”.
Aside from being grossly inappropriate and an obvious intrusion into private family life, the surveys are doubly concerning when viewed in the context of the impending introduction of a Named Person for every child, tasked with policing their ‘wellbeing’.
Parents should not be made to feel like their judgement is constantly under question. Nor should the state assume that it knows best.
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.
NO2NP: We agree
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”.
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?
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.
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”?
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”.
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.”
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”?
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”.
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.
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…
The sun was out on Wednesday morning. So too were a number of families visiting St Andrews for the school holidays.
Thanks to the great media coverage in recent weeks, many people are now up-to-speed with many of the concerns surrounding the scheme. Others who were unaware of the scheme were visibly shocked when they heard about it. “Terrible idea” and “whose hairbrained idea was that?” were among the comments made.
There was a constant flow of people of all ages and from all walks of life signing the petition on our tablet devices, including a retired policeman who had been involved in safeguarding children.
A few of the folk who signed were also happy to be photographed. Thanks everyone! And a big thank you to the superb team of volunteers, including a number of St Andrews students.
On Saturday morning we were back in Haddington on another sunny morning, as our volunteers gave out flyers in the historic town’s High Street.
Once again we met people from all walks of life, including many young families.
• A health visitor said that her colleagues in UNISON were quite right to have expressed their opposition to the Named Person in a recent survey.
• A local doctor was also alarmed to discover that doctor/patient confidentiality would have to be breached. If GPs were consulted by patients who were parents and their ailment might have an impact on the wellbeing of any child in the family, then the Named Person would have to be informed. The doctor rightly observed that this would damage the trust between doctors and their patients, who may no longer feel able to be transparent about their health.
• Another gentleman said that the scheme was an “insult” to all parents who are doing a great job in raising their children.
Our next roadshow event and Action Day will be in Broughty Ferry this Friday night and Saturday morning. If you live in the area, please come along and support us at one or both of these events!
No sooner had the team finished their roadshow event in St Andrews than they were across the Firth of Forth to Haddington on a beautiful, mild evening for one of the best attended meetings of the tour to date.
Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute kicked off the talks with details about the recent judicial review in the Supreme Court. He explained the right to respect for privacy and family life was top of the list of legal arguments, followed by data protection law. Confidential information should only be shared with an individual’s consent or if it is strictly necessary to do so. But the Named Person can share it if they simply consider it “appropriate” to fulfil their functions. Nigel said it would be some weeks before the ruling comes out.
Next, Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust lifted the lid on what the Named Person scheme would mean for pre-school age children. A thorough blueprint of government-appointed criteria and expected outcomes was met with gasps of disbelief. Unsurprisingly, there were howls of laughter when Lesley explained that one of the 222 risk indicators was “being under 5”. Lesley also passed round a children’s toy called a “cootie catcher”, which is intended to help youngsters understand the meaning of “wellbeing”.
Alison Preuss from the Scottish Home Education Forum then spoke about her many years of experience in dealing with various breaches of data protection laws and how statements made by the previous Information Commissioner have been ignored by his present Scottish counterpart. He believes that the widespread sharing of information by Named Persons across various agencies is proportionate and warranted, but this viewpoint was thoroughly challenged by Aidan O’Neill QC in the recent Supreme Court appeal.
There was an extended Q&A at the end of the evening, with some brilliant points made by members of the audience, some of which are highlighted below:
• “Who is going to teach our children about the dangers of surveillance by the state?”
• “The health visitor was so pushy about what she, as a Named Person, felt was best for my child. She was worse than a double glazing salesman!”
• “I’ve had experience of social workers and other professionals with my son, who has Asperger’s, and I found that everyone had a backlog of work. How then will they be able to find the time for all these new responsibilities? There’s no need for it.”
We will be back in Haddington this Saturday morning (9 April) to raise the campaign’s profile in the town centre. If you would like to join us, please get in touch via: email@example.com
The controversial Named Person scheme has received yet more criticism, and this time it’s from those who will be taking on the role of Named Persons when the law comes into force in August.
Health visitors, represented by the trade union UNISON Scotland, were asked what they thought of the new Named Person proposals and “the implication for their workloads”, in an online survey.
The survey, published earlier this year, revealed that more than half of health visitors – 52 per cent – do not think the Named Person scheme contained in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 “would be a good thing”.
Under the new legislation health visitors will act as Named Persons for children up to the age of five, but the survey contained a long list of deeply damaging criticisms of the scheme.
The health visitors’ fears included:
• being made “scapegoats” if a child is harmed
• facing legal action and being sued by parents
• being consumed by an “avalanche” of information
• having their relationships with parents damaged
• concerns the system will collapse due to extra work at a time of staff shortages
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said: “It doesn’t get any worse than this for a Government. We now have Named Persons themselves queuing up to attack the very scheme they have been tasked with carrying out.
“In the wake of this damning indictment, the Scottish Government should have the humility to listen to what the front-line professionals are saying and ignore the zealots who cooked up this policy and are anxious to defend their legacy.
“It is obvious that it cannot work and cannot be made to work. There are over 1 million children in Scotland. Every one of them is meant to have a Named Person actively monitoring their happiness according to Government targets. The system cannot cope. There are too few staff with too little training to cope with too much work and too many children.”
Health visitors pulled no punches with their views when they were polled by UNISON – which has 60,000 Scottish members.
“I think health visiting will be a dumping ground from other service as we will be the ‘named person’. There will be added responsibility with more isolation of the role”
“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.”
“This is already impacting my role as various agencies are contacting the HV team to request child’s planning meetings and also to report child protection issues which should in fact be highlighted to Social Work.”
“It will leave the health visiting service as scapegoats when children are harmed, not meeting their potential or when parents feel they are not getting what they are entitled to, such as nursery paces.”
Reflecting on the responses from members, the union said: “Very worryingly, the comments showed a workforce with low morale, facing increased responsibilities, feeling stretched to the limits. Not an opportune moment to add a completely new role to this workforce.”
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert added: “The Government cannot accuse their own Named Persons of being alarmist. They must take on board everything they say and bring the process of implementing this project to an end immediately.
“The police have warned about it, lawyers have warned about it, parents have warned about it and now the very people tasked with implementing the scheme have issued the gravest warnings yet.
“How much more evidence do they need?”
He commented: “In recent weeks opposition has grown and the national media has even mocked the policy with April Fool spoofs. It is clearly perceived by the public and the media as not fit for purpose. Its time is up.
“The state should protect the children that need protecting, and help the families who want help. But this universal surveillance scheme will just bury the needy cases even deeper, and burden already overworked health visitors and teachers beyond human limits.”
The Chair of Trustees and Executive Director Jane Colby of Tymes Trust attended the Supreme Court Appeal hearing in Westminster, 8-9 March 2016
I wanted to speak. I hadn’t anticipated that. I wanted to speak out, but as you know, it wasn’t that kind of hearing. And yet, an unexpected moment arrived when I really wanted to give evidence. Impossible of course. This was an Appeal to the Supreme Court, a war where the weapons are points of law, wielded by lawyers, before five Supreme Court Judges with minds (as was said of Miss Marple) like a bacon slicer.
The compulsory Named Person state guardian scheme. What it was, how it came to be what it was, and why it was illegal.
Why it was “mission creep”, a “service” morphed out of all recognition into a monstrous Jabberwock, gobbling up family rights and shredding their liberty to raise children in freedom.
Why it was not. And why sharing data without permission, without telling parents, was quite permissable.
Why it was not.
And that was where I wanted to speak. Data sharing? Information sharing? What data? What information?
The Supreme Court building is in every sense, awesome. A Gothic beauty designed, ironically, by a Scot, transformed inside into a glass and leather palace. Each nation of the United Kingdom is symbolised in national emblems formed in illuminated glass and coloured like jewels. Hanging high above us, high above the judges.
A really diverse group of students, locals, families and holidaymakers turned out on Monday night for the latest stop of the NO2NP roadshow in St Andrews. The historic university’s St Salvator’s Hall kindly provided one of their lecture theatres for the event, where speakers from the team brought everyone up to date with the campaign.
First up was Liz Smith, who spearheaded opposition to the Named Person scheme in the Scottish Parliament in 2014. She explained her two fundamental objections to the scheme, namely that it undermines parents and diverts resources away from truly vulnerable children. Liz, who is a former schoolteacher, warned that the scheme will foster a lack of trust between parents and schoolteachers.
Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust drew gasps from the audience when she explained the workings of a game for very young schoolchildren to show how the scheme will work. A little like snakes and ladders, it is called “On the Trail with the Wellbeing Snail” and aims to show children what “good wellbeing” looks like. A child moves forward two spaces if they tell their teacher they were sad because their friend had been unkind to them, but back two spaces if they did not join the new after-school fencing club!
She also displayed a series of alarming slides highlighting the extent of the blueprint planned for every child’s life under the scheme, which is due to come into force across Scotland on 31 August. Lesley finished by expressing concern that under the scheme the opinion of professionals will become paramount, whilst those of parents and families will be seen as problems to be fixed.
Next up was Alison Preuss from the Scottish Home Education Forum, who shared her thoughts about the recent Supreme Court appeal and her concerns about the ways she believes the sharing of data by Named Persons breaches UK data protection law. She said that under the Children Act, data may be shared if there is a welFARE risk, but under the Named Person scheme, data may be shared if there is a wellBEING concern.
Maureen Falconer from the Information Commissioner’s Office in Scotland had been heard to acknowledge in a video shown earlier in the meeting that the change from “significant harm” to “wellbeing” was a “lowering of the trigger” which, Alison added leaves Scots citizens, “with less protection than their counterparts in the rest of the UK.”
After Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute shared some practical points, there was an excellent Q&A, with many astute comments from the audience.
The team will be back in St Andrews for an Action Day on Wednesday morning, squeezing in another roadshow event in Haddington tonight. If you live in one of these areas, we hope to see you!
The Named Person scheme has received a lot of media attention recently. But not all of it is particularly enlightening. Take, for example, Dani Garavelli’s recent article in Scotland on Sunday criticising opponents of the Named Person scheme.
Maggie Mellon, an experienced registered social worker and independent consultant, sets the record straight and exposes the errors in Garavelli’s article.
Dani Garavelli’s piece in the Scotland on Sunday (Scare Tactics Put Children’s Lives at Risk, 13 March) criticises the campaign against the Named Person for ‘overblown rhetoric’, ‘emotive scare stories’ and hyperbolic statements rather than decent arguments. However, the boot is on the other foot, and her claims are rather let down by her own article, which is composed of rhetoric, scare stories and also badly thought-out hyperbole.
Dani Garavelli combined slurs with some very bad arguments. It seems that those of us who oppose the legislation are expected to have very thick skins in order to pursue our convictions. We are putting children at risk, and we only support parents’ rights and not children’s rights.
I have become used to expressions like ‘crazies’ ‘zoomers’ and ‘fruitloops’ being thrown around by supporters of Named Persons about those who try to warn of the dangers of this legislation. Iain McWhirter, writing in The Herald, had to preface his article stating very reasonable objections with the statement that he is not an evangelical or right-wing family values man.
I am not Christian, let alone evangelical, nor am I right wing. I did not home educate my children. I did not smack them. I am a strong supporter of every article of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. I have never been diagnosed as mentally ill. But if I had been, I would be chilled to read the insults, as they stink of exactly the kind of prejudice that may make life very difficult for children or families who are ‘different’ in any way – and of prejudice against people who put human rights ahead of supervision and surveillance, no matter how benevolent the intentions.
In claiming that opponents of the Act are ‘putting children at risk’ and that we are more concerned with parents’ rights than children’s rights, she is merely repeating unfounded slurs and criticisms that have been the hallmark of the defence of the Act, not of opponents of it.
I have written several well-thought-out criticisms of the legislation, and particularly of the lowered thresholds for intervention and information sharing – as have several others. The scaremongering over the last week or so has been all one way and the responses have been well-founded, without resort to rhetoric or slur.
Dani Garavelli repeats the claim being deployed by Government and supporters of the Named Person that children have died because of a failure to share information. There has not been a single child death inquiry which has found that children have died as a result of failure to share information.
Children who have died, in Scotland and in England and Wales too, have all been known to the authorities. Information was shared. Information sharing is not the issue. The very difficult thing to do is to correctly identify the level of risk, and to have the resources, relationships, skills and time to take the necessary action.
Using the threat of likely deaths of children to justify the imposition of Named Persons is therefore a totally fabricated scare story. Information can and should be shared about any child thought to have suffered or to be at risk of significant harm. This requires discrimination, sensitivity and a personal knowledge of, and relationship with, the parent and the child.
What the legislation requires instead is information sharing about any concern about a child’s ‘wellbeing’. Contrary to Garavelli’s assertion, the Government literature identifies these concerns as including choice in decorating bedrooms, TV programmes, and all sorts of other lifestyle issues. That’s what ‘wellbeing’ can encompass you see.
Garavelli offers a classic example of a badly thought out argument when she writes that ‘someone from Barnardo’s’ told her that ‘some doctors’ are not passing on information about children who present with repeated sexually transmitted diseases.
A sexually transmitted disease in any child under 16 years is a prime example of what is a child protection red warning sign of sexual abuse. Health professionals will be aware of that. If they fail to protect the child, or to inform others who can, then they need training and reminding of their responsibilities.
Instead, Garavelli and Barnardo’s think that this alleged failure on the part of a few doctors should mean that any teenager asking for the morning after pill should be reported to their Named Person. But – badly thought out argument alert – this will mean making teenagers reluctant to seek medical advice and help.
And parents too – if for example post-natal depression is thought to present a risk to a child that needs to be shared, and which might involve child protection and other intrusive assessments, parents are going to keep very quiet about it or any other problems.
And why should every Tom, Dick and Harry of a Named Person or teacher or social worker know about a young person’s private health concerns when parents are not even entitled to this information? What kind of country will this be when the state believes our children’s secrets are safe in their hands but not in ours?
The argument that alleged failure by a few health or other professionals to share information that they are supposed to share already necessarily means that nothing can be confidential for young people or parents is a classic bad argument.
What such an indiscriminate breach of confidentiality will cause is children and young people and parents being scared to seek advice and help.
That’s what I call a badly thought out argument. And also a serious risk to children and young people.
Read more by Maggie Mellon
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated her claim that the Named Person scheme is an ‘entitlement’ and ‘not an obligation’ when questioned in Holyrood today.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, she said: “Well as I have said and I’ll say again today, the Named Person scheme is an entitlement. I think it is a good and sensible entitlement. It is not an obligation. It helps children and families get the support they need from services, when they need it.”
She stated: “It does not in any way, shape or form replace or change the role of the parent or carer or undermine families.”
But just earlier this week her own Government published a response to a UN committee stating that “every child in Scotland will have a Named Person who will receive training in identifying, assessing and responding to their needs”.
And the Named Person legislation not only neglects to mention parental opt-out, but also completely misses the entire concept of parental consent.
Her own Government’s QC, Alistair Clarke, said during the Named Person legal challenge at the Court of Session that to allow an opt-out would “defeat the purpose of the scheme”.
The First Minister, responding to questions from Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Conservatives, told the chamber today: “The fact of the matter is that the children and parents are not legally obliged to use the Named Person service, or take up any of the advice or help that is offered to them”.
She added that, “parents are not legally obliged to use it because it is an entitlement not an obligation. I think that’s sensible, making sure it is there for everybody when they do need it, if they do need it, but not obliging anybody to use it if they feel they don’t need it.”
The First Minister was accused of sending “mixed messages” during an interview with BBC Scotland’s Political Editor Brian Taylor last week, when she said that the Named Person scheme was “not mandatory”.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of sending “mixed messages” in her claim that the Named Person scheme is “not mandatory”.
During an interview with BBC Scotland’s Political Editor Brian Taylor, the First Minister commented on the Named Person scheme, saying: “It’s not compulsory, it’s an entitlement, not an obligation. If the parent doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Named Person scheme they don’t have to… It’s not mandatory.”
There has been a backlash in the press and from the public urging the First Minister to clarify her statement, which contradicts the Government’s own QC, who told the Court of Session that to allow an opt-out would “defeat the purpose of the scheme”.
A NO2NP spokesman told the press: “If the First Minister thinks the Named Person scheme is ‘not mandatory’ then she has been very badly misled by her advisers.”
“When she realises how inaccurate the advice from officials has been I imagine heads will roll. They’ve made her look very silly because she may be the only person in Scotland who doesn’t know that the Named Person scheme contains no opt-outs and no provision for parental consent. It is, on any ordinary understanding of the word, mandatory.
“Given how unpopular the scheme is, it is highly convenient for the First Minister to say it’s not compulsory. Sadly it just doesn’t happen to be true.”
The phrase ‘opt out’ appears absolutely nowhere in the legislation. The concept of parental consent is also entirely absent.
A Named Person will be appointed for every child in Scotland. They will have legal power to obtain your confidential family data without your consent or knowledge. They will have a legal duty to monitor your child’s happiness whether you want them to or not, and power to bring in other agencies to deal with your child without your consent. If that’s not mandatory, what is?
The frightening reality is that refusal to engage with a Named Person could well be treated by the authorities as a red flag leading officials to escalate concerns about a family. This increases the likelihood that child protection powers will be invoked to allow coercive intervention in the life of the family. So telling a Named Person you want to be left alone to take care of your own family could be the very thing they use against you to justify intervention.
If the scheme was voluntary, it would be fine. Parents who want help would know where to go to get it. But the Named Person law is universal – appointing a Named Person, with all their powers, over every child, with no opt-out, no right to confidentiality, and no requirement for parental consent.
Dr Stuart Waiton, a sociologist at Abertay University, called on the First Minister to clarify her statement.
He commented: “Named persons are being trained in a particular way to measure children’s progress and development and it is going to be very difficult for parents to reject their ‘advice’ – many will fear that rejection could count against them.
“By bringing in a kind of parental support agency, and suggesting that there is a ‘rulebook’ for parenting that must be adhered to, the Scottish Government risks undermining the authority of parents.”
Following a great roadshow event in the town on Monday, a large group of local volunteers were out and about on Arbroath’s High Street on Saturday morning to get the message out – and what a great response they had!
The spring weather certainly made it easier to spend time chatting to local shoppers this Saturday, but nonetheless there was a near constant stream of folk wanting to sign the online petition. We had people queuing up to do so and others who had been reading the flyer at one end of the High Street had been convinced to sign the petition when they reached the other end!
People of all ages were keen to sign, but especially young mums and dads out with their toddlers. They were shocked at what the state guardian will be able to do, accessing their children’s medical records and sharing them with others – and possibly their own records as parents – and all without their knowledge or consent. One man the team spoke to said “You know who a child’s Named Person is? Their mum or their dad!”
A number of teachers and social workers the team met had grave reservations about the scheme, while one lady they met said it was “like Big Brother”.
Time and time again, people had not heard about the scheme, but when it was explained to them, they were very keen to sign the petition. Arbroath has strong community values and locals were shocked at how much the Named Person will undermine families. Others were appalled at the £61 million already spent on the scheme, which could have been better spent on more social workers, teachers or police officers.
The message from Saturday morning was loud and clear – Arbroath says “NO to Named Persons!”
The NO2NP roadshow will be taking a break over Easter, but we’ll be in St Andrews for the next roadshow event on Monday 4th April – we hope to see you then!
Judges hearing the Named Person legal challenge in the UK Supreme Court today have been told that doctors prescribing the contraceptive pill to teenage schoolgirls would have to inform the pupil’s head teacher under the Named Person legislation.
But the girl’s parents on the other hand would have no such right to know.
Aidan O’Neill QC, representing those opposing the scheme, told the five judges hearing the case that a GP would not be bound by any duty of confidentiality towards the girl.
Asked if a GP prescribing contraception to a teenager would have to tell the girl’s Named Person, likely to be a head teacher, Mr O’Neill said: “Yes and not be constrained by the duty of confidentiality.”
In the circumstances under the provisions he said: “There is no requirement to involve parents in these matters.”
And there was laughter from the bench when Mr O’Neill showed them Scottish Government guidance saying the Named Person would also have input into the diet of children as well as decisions on the decor for a child’s bedroom or the TV programmes they watch.
The QC said campaigners were objecting to the compulsory nature of the scheme which does not allow any opt-out for parents.
He told the judges they had a duty to “enforce and police” the limits of the Scottish Parliament.
He also said the Named Person scheme meant they would be given rights and duties to carry out functions normally carried out by parents adding: “It is going beyond the state’s role. The state is not the totality.
And he said the state “should not undermine the family”.
Asked by Baroness Hale what might happen if a Named Person expressed concern about parents smoking in the family home where there were children present, the QC said the Named Person could bring in health visitors and social workers with the matter possibly being escalated to a multi-agency matter and a child’s plan drawn up to deal with the matter.
Criticising the data sharing involved in the Named Person scheme where personal information is shared between different agencies, he expressed frustration at the confused wording of the legislation and said: “This has been doing my head in. It’s like wrestling with an octopus.”
Asked by one judge how they could best make sense of these details of the act he replied: “I don’t think there’s any guidance that can make sense of this.”
And he said the Scottish Parliament and those drafting the legislation had failed to consider European law in the process.
The legal challenge is being brought by a coalition of groups, spearheaded by The Christian Institute, CARE (Christian Action Research and Education), TYMES Trust and the Family Education Trust.
Clan Childlaw, a charity providing free legal advice to young people in Scotland, is intervening in support of the legal action.
Last year, judges from Scotland’s highest court ruled that the Named Person legislation did not conflict with human rights or data protection laws.
But NO2NP say Holyrood has exceeded its powers and breached European rules on data protection.
At the Supreme Court, five judges – Baroness Hale, Lord Wilson, Lord Reed, Lord Hughes and Lord Hodge – are considering legal submissions in a two-day hearing. Lord Reed and Lord Hodge are Scottish.
Before the hearing NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said: “We do not believe that the Scottish judges engaged properly with the arguments we put forward and that’s why we are going to the Supreme Court. There are massive issues at stake. This profoundly invasive and deeply unpopular law cannot be allowed to stand.”
The hearing will continue tomorrow at 10:30am and can be watched live on the Supreme Court website.
This morning proceedings will begin at the UK Supreme Court in London in the continued fight to oppose the Scottish Government’s Named Person legislation.
Last year judges in Scotland’s highest court ruled that the legislation did not conflict with human rights or data protection laws.
But groups and individuals involved in the NO2NP campaign appealed the decision, taking the case to the Supreme Court.
The hearing will last two days and be heard by five judges.
Watch the hearing live from 10:30am on the Supreme Court website.
There has been continued widespread media coverage on the Named Person issue in recent days, including articles in The Herald, The Scotsman, the Scottish Daily Mail, the Scottish Daily Express and on the front page of the Scottish Daily Telegraph.
As part of Declarationfest’s human rights conference at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts last week, the question of the impact of the Scottish Government’s controversial Named Person scheme on families’ right to privacy was discussed at a lunchtime seminar on Thursday.
A representative of the Scottish Government had been invited to represent the case for the increasingly controversial legislation in a panel discussion with NO2NP campaigner Maggie Mellon, but despite several weeks’ notice, no one from the Government was available.
Given the widespread criticism of the Named Person scheme in three national newspapers over the previous weekend, one would think the Scottish Government would have made every effort to ensure that its side would have been heard, but the Government seat remained empty.
This meant that Maggie, an independent social work consultant and commentator, had quite a lot of time to explain the many problems with the scheme, as well as giving the audience plenty of time to ask questions, which they were very glad to do.
Maggie kicked off by explaining that despite the benevolent intentions that the Government and its supporters claimed for the scheme, a central problem was the dominant focus on child protection rather than on family and community support. The legislation makes no mention of consultation with parents or with children who may be in need of support and help, but instead explicitly sets out the power of Named Persons to ‘do as they see fit’ in response to concerns that they or other professionals may have about a child. Therefore rather than being an optional support for children and parents available at their request, the Named Person scheme will instead monitor rather than support parents
One of the key points Maggie put across was that needs are now being used as a measurement of risk, and that the insistence on child protection has changed the whole relationship between services and families, from providing help and support to monitoring parenting with a view to risk management. While universalism in services such as education and health is welcome, the universal imposition of Named Persons as a child protection measure threatens the right to private and family life.
The focus on parenting need fits with what has become a convenient dogma in Governments north and south of the Scottish border – that it is poor parenting rather than poverty and inequality that is at the heart of unequal outcomes for children. This at a time when poverty is affecting many children and families and inequality is increasing. In addition there is a failure to recognise the importance of the unique strengths and roles of families for the wellbeing of children, instead assuming that professionals are better judges of what a child needs than families.
There was an extended Q&A, during which a broad range of issues were raised. These included:
• The failure to recognise the rights of children to privacy and to confidential advice;
• Whether Named Persons would be told of medical treatment of children including teenagers even where parents were not informed.
• How many Named Persons a child might have before the age of 18?
• How many Named Persons a family might have to deal with in addition to all the other professionals?
• The increasing use of pseudo neuroscience to justify the removal of infants at birth from mothers.
• The costs and consequences of the Named Person scheme compared to providing services currently being cut?
• Whether Named Persons would be held responsible for any child deaths or injuries?
• How teachers would be paid for giving up holidays and weekends?
• Who would be the Named Person in the long summer holidays?
• Why the scheme was supported in the first place? Did no party see any flaw in it?
Maggie explained that there was widespread opposition to the Named Person as the Bill was going through Holyrood and significantly, The Law Society of Scotland, the social work professional association and many others had been against the scheme, but the Government chose to rely on the enthusiastic support of some major children’s charities.
• Whether the scheme is optional as the Government has said.
Maggie explained that she believed that if parents said they did 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 – if parents then agreed to a Named Person this could be viewed as “disguised compliance” and also seen as evidence of risk. In effect nothing short of enthusiastic compliance by parents is expected. Spanish Inquisition state of affairs!
One audience member pointed out that the children’s rights charity Clan Childlaw was very concerned about the issue of vulnerable children being able to share confidential matters with professionals without that confidentiality being breached. Clan Childlaw have been allowed to intervene in NO2NP’s judicial review appeal at the Supreme Court next week and to address the court on their concerns.
From the sun on their backs and how often they smile to the state of family finances, your child will soon be scrutinised on 529 ‘risk and wellbeing’ indicators. And it’s all down to the SNP’s grotesquely intrusive Named Person Act…
By Dr Stuart Waiton, published in Scottish Daily Mail, 05 Mar 2016
About ten years ago I started writing a dystopian novel about a future world where everyone, from birth, was given a state-appointed ‘support worker’ to monitor their development. Now I find, with the creation of the Named Person in Scotland, I no longer need to imagine this scenario. By August, it will be a reality.
By then, every headteacher in our schools will become a Named Person. And every health visitor will likewise become a Named Person, visiting new mothers and fathers eight times in their child’s first year alone, to assess not only the health of the baby but the ‘healthiness’ of you as a parent and considering your financial situation.
Every professional who has any dealings with a child, or with an adult who has children, will be trained to inform the Named Person if they have any ‘concerns’.
But these are not concerns about a serious risk of neglect or abuse. These are concerns about ‘wellbeing’ – one of the most flexible and loose concepts imaginable, a definition so wide-ranging that it is possible to imagine state investigations of families based on almost anything.
From the sun on their backs to the food they eat, the new technologies they indulge in and especially their relationships with family and friends, almost every aspect of a child’s life is being re-imagined as a ‘risk’.
Instead of at-risk children being a small minority, the presumption – say critics – is that all children are at risk.
Parents themselves are increasingly regarded as one of the biggest risks to their own children, struggling as they are with what the architects of the Named Person scheme regard as the near-impossible burden of being a parent.
The training of professionals involved with the new system will include a working knowledge of the 221 risk indicators and the 308-long list of wellbeing indicators, which include questions about whether or not a child ‘smiles a lot’; does the child have a ‘good relationship with the family’ and do they ‘receive regular praise and encouragement’.
Bob Fraser, a health adviser working with a forerunner of the Named Person scheme, suggested that a lack of hope, love, or spirituality, provided by parents could – and perhaps should – be the basis for action.
This, he noted, would mean intervening with children who are ‘not just the usual suspects, not just for those we identify as those in need’.
Other attempts to explain to parents what the Named Person is all about ask questions such as: ‘Does the child get a say in things such as how their room is decorated and what they watch on TV?’
This is a fundamental change in the way children are considered by the state, one with profound implications for the family unit. The state’s remit will now extend beyond our front doors and into the very heart of the family, scrutinising the relationship between parent and child and intervening if it does not like what it sees.
Sharing information about you and your child is enshrined in the system. Concerns, no matter how apparently trivial, must be passed on and this imperative to share over-rides normal barriers of confidentiality. The driver for all this is a pivotal shift in the way we think.
For the sociologist Frank Furedi, what we are witnessing in British – and to some extent in Western – society is the emergence of an exaggerated ‘ risk consciousness’. This is most intense when children are involved.
Writer on parenting cultures Dr Jan Macvarish, of the University of Kent, argues that this risk consciousness surrounding children has been further assisted by the expanding category of ‘abuse’ and ‘neglect’.
‘Behaviour which would once have been regarded as within the range of family experiences, such as children becoming overweight or parents getting angry and using moderate chastisement, is now categorised with reference to ideas of risk, abuse or neglect.’
This expanding category of abuse can be seen clearly in relation to emotional issues, where tensions and difficulties are being recategorised as forms of abuse.
This has led to calls for a ‘Cinderella Law’ to punish parents regarded as inflicting emotional harm on their children.
Dr Ellie Lee, also from the University of Kent, is an important critic of our growing parenting industry.
She says the tendency to view the world and our experiences through the prism of risk has meant the idea of the ‘child at risk’, which once related to a very specific group of children, has become a category increasingly applied to all children.
So for many people, this new state guardian is seen as a menace, an authoritarian reflection of the expanding nanny state.
However, for those in favour, the Named Person is simply about providing better services and support to parents and children alike.
The point is, what it means to provide ‘services and support’ to parents and children means something very different from what it used to.
Author Professor Nigel Parton, an expert in social work services, has observed that over the past two decades the state and state professionals have changed their focus and understanding when dealing with children.
We are no longer talking about a child any more, he explains. Rather, we are now always considering the ‘at-risk child’.
The message to professionals has been clear: ‘Yes, we know you’re here to teach children or to heal them or to help the family access services. But in your line of duty, first of all you must understand that you must be safeguarding children.’ You must, first and foremost, ensure that every child is safe.
At one level this appears reasonable. Who wouldn’t be interested in a child’s safety?
The important point is to understand the significance of making safety the No.1 priority and of turning all professionals who deal with children into ‘safeguarders’ in a climate in which every aspect of a child’s upbringing presents a risk.
This expanding concern about risks within childcare professionals is that the risk management of children has become a political priority.
This has been assisted by the change in politics. Rather than conviction politics dealing with big ideas, we have moved towards a micro-managerial approach that shifts the focus of state attention away from big issues and ideas onto the minutiae of everyday life.
There is a tendency to understand social problems, and their solutions, entirely in terms of individual behaviour.
One example of this is the way it has become commonplace for our leaders to increasingly represent parenting as the ‘single most important cause of impaired life chances, outstripping any other factor’, as Dr Lee argues.
So children today are more likely to be looked at as being ‘at risk’ by our safeguarding professionals and what is understood to be a risk is expanding all the time.
Add in micro-managerial politicians increasingly concerned with the risk management of children’s lives and the outcome, Professor Parton argues, i s that the state becomes obsessed with prevention. Preventing harm becomes the default position of all ‘rightthinking’ modern governments.
Parents, too, are seen in a new way today and a good parent is understood to be one aware of all the potential risks and harms their children face. At the same time, parents are understood to be a potential risk – arguably the most important ‘risk factor’ in a child’s life.
This is one of the reasons David Cameron has argued that all parents should have parenting classes.
The importance of the family as a private institution where people take full responsibility for their children and where individuals learn what it means to be responsible is lost within this scenario.
The family, once a no-go area for government and professional involvement, disappears or is diminished. With the Named Person we see these trends being played out in a more extreme form. The role of the Named Person is to oversee the ‘wellbeing’ of all children, to share information with other prof essionals who must be trained to understand their role in overseeing their wellbeing.
Information sharing and potential intervention in a child and family’s life will be based on ‘wellbeing concerns’.
This is a major change from the previous benchmark for intervention based on evidence of ‘significant risk of harm’. The bar has been substantially lowered to allow and even encourage professionals of all descriptions to investigate, or share information about, families.
The whole basis of the Named Person is predicated upon the understanding that ‘information on less critical concerns about a child’s wellbeing must be shared’.
Health visitors who act as a Named Person, say official guidelines, must share information to support or safeguard a child’s wellbeing. They are obliged to pass on any and every issue, ‘even where there is a duty of confidentiality’. The watchword here is intervention.
The consultation document discussing the new Named Person Bill explained: ‘ We must intervene earlier to stop major problems developing in the future.’
This necessitates that professionals get involved in issues and areas of life previously understood to be beyond their remit.
For the Named Person to be effective, they must intervene in more minor issues more often.
Some believe teachers, for instance, won’t have time to do this – but if they do not, it contravenes their duties as a listed, legal Named Person.
Health visitors acting as Named Persons now have a wider ‘ health’ remit including breastfeeding benefit awareness and inquiries about family finances and money worries.
Even before a baby is born, core issues to be discussed will include promoting sensitive parenting, raising awareness about the value of talking, stroking and singing pre-birth and raising awareness about second-hand smoke.
The Scottish Government is not lying when it says the Named Person is about services and support for children and parents.
It is simply that the child they see is presumed to be a ‘child at risk’ and the ‘responsible’ parent is a risk manager who recognises the need – indeed ‘aspires’ – to have professional support.
Support and services are less about things we want and more about the responsible, riskaverse attitudes and behaviours the Government believes we should have.
And if you think safety nets are in place to make sure you don’t fall foul of a mistake or malicious report, think again.
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman Jim Martin has written to ministers to say the system f or complaints by unhappy parents is ‘ outdated and out of step with modern complaint handling’.
Our rights are being transformed from the right of privacy and autonomy to a right to receive support and surveillance from experts and risk managers to help us with the apparently impossible task of being a parent.
Stuart Waiton is senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University.
Read more by Dr Stuart Waiton:
Third Way Parenting and the Creation of the “Named Person” in Scotland: The End of Family Privacy and Autonomy?
SAGE OPEN, 26 February 2016
A massive thank you to the wonderful volunteers who braved a truly dreich Saturday morning in Aberdeen, where the rain was “dingin’ doon”, to hand out hundreds of flyers to shoppers on the Granite City’s busy Union Street. Well done!
After a good week for the campaign, with several newspapers and the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman raising concerns about the Named Person scheme, our Aberdeen volunteers were keen to build on this momentum by spreading the word on Scotland’s busiest high street.
The team gathered for a briefing in a local cafe and as they were leaving, a retired teacher asked us what we were about. When we told her, she said she was totally opposed to the scheme. A great start!
Once on the streets, it became clear that many Aberdonians were completely unaware of the intrusive state guardian scheme, although others knew about it and some had signed our petition already. Many who hadn’t, promised to do so once they got home, while others sheltered under our NO2NP umbrellas to sign the petition there and then.
Two grandmothers who signed the petition took away additional leaflets to give to their sons and daughters, so they could sign it as well. One man commented “I’ll tell you who Named Persons are – parents”, while another took some leaflets from us and started handing them out to passers by – he was so keen, he didn’t even wait to be signed up as a volunteer!
A headteacher said that she had already been given lots of paperwork that really wasn’t a headteacher’s job to do even before she became a Named Person, so she didn’t know how she would be able to find the time to fit in all the Named Person’s duties. We don’t know either!
After a busy couple of hours, the team returned to the cafe for some well-earned refreshments and as we went in, we overheard a young couple talking about the Named Person – the word had certainly got out! The cafe was happy to have a bundle of our flyers on their counter, so a big shout out to the Coffee House in Gaelic Lane for being onside!
The campaign is taking a break for a week, but we’ll be down the coast in Arbroath on Monday 14th March at The Webster Theatre at 7.30pm. If you live in Angus, we hope to see you there!
A charity that gives legal help to children and young people in Scotland will tell the UK Supreme Court next week that Named Persons legislation violates the rights of Scottish children.
Clan Childlaw will warn that health, education and social work will be given the power to share information about a child simply on the basis of ‘wellbeing’ concerns, rather than the previous higher threshold of being ‘at risk of significant harm’.
The children’s legal charity says this breaches article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights and makes it easier to share confidential information about children.
Clan Childlaw is intervening in the judicial review of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 which will be heard in the Supreme Court on the 8th and 9th March.
Alison Reid, Principal Solicitor at Clan, said: “The Act drops the threshold from the widely understood child protection test of “risk of significant harm” to a much lower one around concern for a child’s “wellbeing”, which involves a highly subjective judgment on the part of the Named Person and others as to whether to share information.
“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.”
She fears this could lead to some children failing to access the help they need.
Reid added: “We all want to make sure that children and young people in Scotland are protected and recognise that when child protection issues arise, these need to be shared appropriately amongst professionals. However, where there are no child protection concerns, a child, like anyone else, should be entitled to a level of confidentiality when accessing advice.”
Colin Hart, director of The Christian Institute, one of the organisations involved in bringing the legal challenge against the Named Person scheme, said: “We would endorse Clan Childlaw’s concerns. The named person scheme is all about the free flow of private information about children and about families in a way that to us is clearly illegal.”
He added: “Lowering the bar for information sharing to being about a child’s ‘wellbeing’ which merely means ‘happy’. If a Named Person’s own view is that it might lead to being happier, then the child won’t be able to object.”
Charity warns ‘named persons’ law may breach children’s rights to privacy, The Herald, 04 March 2016
There was a packed gathering in Aberdeen on Monday night for the latest stop of the NO2NP Roadshow. Folk from a wide range of backgrounds came to hear our panel share their concerns about the invasive Named Person scheme.
The opening speaker, an academic who wishes to remain anonymous, pointed out parallels between the desire of socialist states to control society, with the Named Person scheme and its all-encompassing influence over every aspect of family life. He said while the Named Person scheme was intended to catch the bad parents, the effect will be that everyone will actually be trapped by it.
The speaker spoke movingly of his own family’s experience at the hands of proto-Named Persons who had misunderstood issues with his own children, leading him to submit a Subject Access Request under the Data Protection Act to see what had been recorded about his children. He was shocked to discover a 60-page document and even more appalled to find that huge swathes of it had been redacted – blotted out in black, because allegedly these issues did not relate to him or his children!
He also spoke about the weaknesses of the complaints procedure, something that the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman has recently expressed concerns about too. He found that his complaint had only resulted in the conclusion that “professionals are entitled to make professional judgments” and his only recourse now would be to go to judicial review, something his solicitor said would cost him at least £15,000!
The speaker also expressed his concern for the health and teaching professionals who will be landed with this huge responsibility, with their careers on the line should anything go wrong on their watch. “They’re not trained to be police detectives”, he remarked, concluding that he hoped the NO2NP campaign would relieve these professionals of their anxiety by securing an end to the scheme!
Next up was Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust, who said that the Named Person legislation had introduced an “authoritarian and illiberal scheme”, which “poses a considerable threat to family autonomy.” Lesley went on to talk about the National Practice Model, which is the GIRFEC ‘toolkit’. It is used to assess the ‘wellbeing’ of every child in Scotland and enables practitioners to investigate and assess all associated adults.
However, no one is quite sure what ‘wellbeing’ really means. This was highlighted in a debate in the Scottish Parliament in December last year, when MSP Alex Johnstone asked SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell if he could define wellbeing. Lesley played a video of the exchange, during which Mr Maxwell berated Mr Johnstone for asking such a “ridiculous” question – yet he still wasn’t able to answer it!
Lesley went on to explain that the “wellbeing wheel” was based on the eight SHANARRI indicators, and it also had some 304 “outcome signifiers”. She went on to highlight the complete vagueness of what constituted a “wellbeing concern”, which the Government’s guidance says can be “any matter…arising from any factor”. Lesley then explained how a child’s life is mapped out using such tools as the My World Triangle, the Resilience-Vulnerability Matrix and the three-staged National Risk Framework, where 222 “risk indicators” include: being under 5 years old, illness within the extended family, experience of bereavement, parental resistance or limited engagement, or the parent having a different perception of the problem. Lesley concluded by saying: “This GIRFEC legislation is founded on universal suspicion. It pours doubt upon parents and families, eroding the autonomy and uniqueness of family life. In short, it relegates parents to little more than the registered keepers of their own children.”
Alison Preuss of the Scottish Home Educators Forum then showed a video of Maureen Falconer of the Information Commissioner’s Office, explaining in a tutorial before the legislation had been passed that the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill would “lower the trigger” not only for sharing information (down from “risk of significant harm” to “any wellbeing concern”) but also for child protection-like intervention. Alison suggested that Maureen seemed to put “sharing before caring”, in other words sharing data about families whenever Named Persons deemed it “appropriate”. This has been made possible because the Scottish Government passed ‘enabling’ legislation to make it legal to bypass the reserved UK-wide Data Protection Act, but only north of the border, “where children are apparently at disproportionate risk from their parents”, she said. Alison continued: “by lowering the threshold for state interference, every child and family member will be compulsorily databased and profiled so that dissenters can be easily identified and suitably ‘remediated’.” She went on: “The fact is that GIRFEC leaves Scots citizens with less legal protection than their counterparts in the rest of the UK when it comes to the use of their personal information.”
Alison held up a copy of the Mail on Sunday, which carried a major story in both its UK and Scottish editions about the covert psychological profiling of pupils in our schools and even nurseries. When she last looked, it had been shared 4300 times and there has been wall to wall outrage on social media.
Alison concluded by telling those gathered: “You should be aware that your children’s most personal thoughts and feelings are being interrogated in classrooms in the guise of ‘resilience testing’ without your knowledge, let alone consent.
Messing with young minds should not be the remit of school teachers, but has become routine with the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence which, not very coincidentally, shares the same “well-behaving” outcomes as GIRFEC. Children are being moulded into compliant citizens who can be more easily micro-managed through life. Any dissent will be quickly identified and quashed by a series of interventions to get them back on to their state approved path of ‘getting it right’-eousness”.
Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute then reminded the audience that our judicial review is due to be heard in the Supreme Court next Tuesday and Wednesday and, if successful, would “strike down” the legislation and nullify it before it comes into force in August. But the legal challenge is only one part of the campaign – the other part is grassroots public opposition to the unpopular scheme to let the Scottish Government know that its citizens are saying “NO to Named Persons” across the country. Several people signed up as volunteers, many of them committing themselves to join us on Saturday morning for our Action Day in the city centre. If you are free to help us raise the campaign’s profile in the Granite City, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Is your home cosy? Do your parents make you feel special? Who clothes you and cooks for you? These are just some of the questions nursery kids could be asked by Named Persons in surveys proposed by local councils.
And they plan to store all the harvested confidential information on one giant council database! Hang on a minute…!
Is it not obvious to all that this is fundamentally wrong and open to misuse?
Sample questions and potential answers are being used in Named Person training sessions to teach state officials how to subtly draw out information from children, interpret the answers, record it on a database and identify potentially ‘at risk’ kids.
One such system called “What I Think” has been developed for use with children from nursery up to age 8. Officials can select information from conversations with the child, and also drawings, photographs and recordings.
In the training Named Persons are encouraged to obtain information in a ‘natural’ way so that children don’t notice they are being questioned.
Sample scenarios designed to show Named Persons when a child could be deemed ‘at risk’, included a child not missing their mother when they stayed overnight at their granny’s, or a child being shouted at by their father after having an accident when playing alone in the park.
Maggie Mellon, a top social work consultant, Vice Chair of the British Association of Social Workers and former director of charity Children 1st, analysed the proposed system.
She told the Mail On Sunday: “The well-being indicators in this tool are clearly being used as a test of parents. They are not really about the child’s view, as there is no attempt to measure the child’s happiness or creativity.
“The examples given imply the nursery or school is a neutral place staffed by experts and the home is a hotbed of risk. In fact, most parents can tell you the stories that children bring home of shouting nursery workers, horrible, scary teachers and mean other children. Sometimes they just need to be heard and comforted and encouraged to see the other person’s point of view, although sometimes there is a need to act.
“But”, she commented, “parents don’t get to write down these people’s names and put them on a national database for other parents to have a good read, and add their own damning stories. Parents have to think very carefully about how to respond to what children say and how not to make things worse with a teacher who clearly does not like their child.
Maggie stated: “The examples given also encourage the teacher and key worker to record very positive things about themselves and not about parents. Would the key worker record that the child told them: ‘I hate you, you are mean’? Bias in key workers might be against parents who are poor, black, single, gay or posh… there is no warning of this in the guidance.
She warned: “The fact that these actually very biased and partial anecdotes will be going on a national database is extremely worrying and should make everyone sit up and say ‘No’. Overall, this is a crude tool with no validity – but it will be used and the information interpreted as evidence of child abuse or neglect.”
Dr Stuart Waiton, senior sociology lecturer at Abertay University, said: “A major problem with the Named Person professionals is that they appear to have lost any sense of the family as an important private institution for society. Trust, loyalty and privacy in their warped eyes are transformed into secrets being hidden ‘behind closed doors’.
He added: “Once we see every child as vulnerable and every family as potentially toxic, the result is that professionals see less of a problem with interfering in the private lives of children and parents.”
A NO2NP spokesman described the situation as ‘creepy’, and warned: “Psychologically manipulating youngsters so you can squeeze confidential information out of them is fundamentally wrong – but to store all this information on a giant council database is astonishingly foolhardy.
He added: “Parents are going to have to tell schools and local authorities to stop spying on their children. It really is beyond time that the Scottish Government called a halt to this whole charade before they do any more damage. It’s Orwellian, it’s immoral and it has to stop.”
The Public Services Ombudsman Jim Martin, who is responsible for overseeing the Named Person scheme, has written to MSPs expressing concerns about its complaints procedure.
In a letter to MSPs he stated it would be negligent of him not to mention his reservations about the system set up to deal with conflicts which arise between parents and Named Persons.
Martin told MSPs that the way the Government introduced the regulatory system was not flexible enough to adjust if changes are needed in the way complaints are dealt with.
A Scotland On Sunday comment piece raised the important question, “how much faith can parents be expected to have in the named person scheme if even the public servant who will have responsibility for dealing with any clashes that may arise between parents and the authorities has reservations?”
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said: “The Named Person scheme may win the award for the most calamitous scheme the Scottish Government has ever dreamed up.
He added: “We already know that named persons will accumulate and share secret family data almost at will. And the scheme is so burdensome that the teachers and health visitors who are meant to take on the role are running away in droves. And the police say it can put abused children at even greater risk. Lawyers are against it. Social workers are against it. Parents are against it. Now we get confirmation that the complaints system has been botched. Surely this must be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?”
Martin’s letter to MSPs said: “My one concern is about the use of a regulation to set out the details of the process … Regulations do not change quickly and we have found issues in other areas where procedures set out by regulation have become outdated and out of step with modern complaint handling and, generally, the move has been to move away from this approach.”
He added: “I felt it would be remiss of me not to note that this particular legislative approach of creating the detail of complaints processes through regulations is now out of line with other areas in the public sector and we would recommend it should not be used as a model in the future unless there were compelling reasons to do so.”
Scotland On Sunday expressed sympathy for those opposed to the Named Person scheme.
In a leader comment the newspaper stated: “The concerns of those who feel uncomfortable about this new legislation are understandable.
“Named persons – in most cases teachers or health workers – will face potentially career-ending consequences if they fail to spot problems affecting a child for whose welfare they will have legal responsibility. Equally, the risk of overzealous action from named persons is a legitimate fear.”
The newspaper remarked: “There are also issues about what standard named persons are to apply. What one individual might feel is an acceptable way to bring up a child may, to another, seem quite wrong.”
It continued: “Most children already have guardians – their parents – and we sympathise with those who believe the state has no place in their families”.
“It is important to remember that mechanisms to ensure that children at risk are identified have existed for decades. Social work departments do much to assist in cases where children are believed to be in danger.”
The newspaper also commented that the concerns of those who fear the Named Person legislation will divert resources from those who need it most should not be dismissed.
Watchdog voices fresh concerns over ‘named person’ scheme, The Scotsman, 27 February 2016
Leader: Concern grows over ‘named person’ law, The Scotsman, 27 February 2016
Last year the Institute of Ideas, as part of their Election 2015 State of the Nation debates, asked a mix of commentators to suggest the one law or policy – existing or proposed – they would like to scrap.
Dr Stuart Waiton was one such commentator and he took the opportunity to talk about why he would scrap the Scottish Government’s Named Person legislation. Read the full article below.
By Dr Stuart Waiton
Scotland’s ‘named person’ legislation means constant intrusion into family life.
In Scotland, we have a new law that means every child from birth (in fact, before birth) will be given a state-appointed guardian – a ‘named person’ – to oversee his or her interests – in particular to oversee their ‘wellbeing’ and to ensure they are ‘safe’.
What is interesting about this new legislation is the extent to which the role of the parent is being confused with state employees – health visitors, then nursery staff, then senior teachers – who are taking on a much more substantial ‘caring’ role regarding children.
Indeed, the process of this legislation coming into being is telling in itself. The Children and Young People Act, for example, had over 50 mentions of ‘corporate parents’ but only one mention of ‘family’ or ‘families’. Elsewhere, we have found that research being carried out in schools to assist the development of the ‘named person’ system has not adopted the usual research benchmark of asking parents for ‘active consent’ before their children fill out surveys.
Consequently, many parents have had no idea that this research is taking place – with their children being asked a range of intrusive questions about their lives and relationships with their parents. Again, it is telling that some of these surveys have asked children outrageous questions and appear to have little or no regard for the appropriateness of what they are doing. So for example, one survey aimed at 12-year-olds asked: ‘Have you ever had anal sex?’
Similarly, a concern has recently been raised by an Aberdeen parent about her 13-year-old daughter being called for an interview with a nurse where she was quizzed about the nature of the relationship with her mother and father. It is yet to be made clear if this was a one-off interview, but I have been informed that every child of this age group will be interviewed in this way. If this is true, it is possible that this initiative could begin to become a significant problem for the SNP government, as this universal ‘service’ begins to hit middle-class parents who are perhaps more likely to find this type of state scrutiny – something that poorer sections of society are, unfortunately, more accustomed to – unacceptable.
The key problem with the ‘named person’ initiative is that it encourages the named individual to have a legal responsibility for the ‘wellbeing’ of children. Previously an investigation into a child and a family’s life would be initiated only if it was felt that a child was at ‘significant risk of harm’. Now ‘concerns’ about ‘wellbeing’ have become a broader and more subjective basis for investigation and sharing of information (including medical information) about a child.
Wellbeing itself is, in a typically procedural way, broken down into eight different categories, covering whether a child is Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included. These categories themselves come with a plethora of explanations about what to look out for. So now, everything from how respected a child is by their carers to how much responsibility they are given by them becomes a concern of professionals.
How this will all pan out in practice is unclear, but if the early signs are anything to go by, the ‘named person’ initiative is particularly intrusive and irresponsible, even by the standards of the intrusive, clumsy, bureaucratic modern state in the UK. It would be far better to scrap the whole thing and give parents and caregivers the autonomy they deserve to raise children.
Stuart Waiton is a sociology and criminology lecturer at Abertay University and a supporter of NO2NP.
The fair city of Perth was the latest destination for a NO2NP Action Day this weekend, where another group of local volunteers took the campaign’s message to Saturday shoppers.
It was encouraging to find that a few people already knew about the campaign and had signed the petition, but time and time again, those who were unaware of the scheme were appalled by it. One gentleman said “it’ll blow up in their faces – who will watch the watchers?”, while a young mum described it as “intrusive”.
A number of shoppers were happy to be photographed after signing the petition, which was great – thanks, everyone!
Teachers that we spoke to were opposed to the scheme, with one of them saying that they were not trained to be Named Persons, but teachers, so they should be allowed to teach – not become state guardians.
Another couple who signed the petition were appalled to learn that, as grandparents, they were “associated adults” of their grandchildren, with the possibility that personal data about them could easily be shared with several agencies without their knowledge or consent.
And one lady offered to become a NO2NP volunteer! Is this becoming a trend of our Action Days?!?
The NO2NP Roadshow is taking a break for a week but will be in Aberdeen at Skene House, Rosemount Viaduct on Monday 29th February at 7.30pm – we hope to see a good turnout of local supporters then!
Big thank you to all the folk who braved the elements of Perth to take part in our latest Roadshow event in the Salutation Hotel.
Sociologist Dr Stuart Waiton kicked off proceedings by sharing his concerns about society’s shift in attitude towards the family. Parenting is now viewed as a “skill based activity” where parents are encouraged to learn from ‘experts’, he said. There is no understanding of the family unit or moral autonomy, he warned.
Next up was Liz Smith who said that as an MSP, she has been approached by a large number of people about this issue. She stated two main reasons for opposing the scheme. Firstly, she expressed “a fundamental objection to the state telling families how they should bring up their child” and questioned the assumption that ‘the state knows best’. She added that the scheme undermines trust in the Government and dictates what parents should be doing. Secondly, she stressed that “it takes away resources from the children who need it most”.
Liz reinforced to the audience that this will be happening. She said in August your children or grandchildren will each have a Named Person. She also emphasised that this issue transcends party politics – it is about the nature of the family and is one of the “most dangerous” things to happen in terms of policy.
Lesley Scott then went on to talk about the definition of ‘wellbeing’, showing several videos to illustrate her point. Wellbeing is now the ‘measure’ by which we are all being judged and if found wanting you can expect intervention from the state, she cautioned.
She said not only should you expect it, you must welcome it because there is no way in which you can decline the state’s interference! The Government’s policy guidance for risk indicators was also ridiculed. This included risk indicator sheets used for assessing risk and the impact that risk factors may have on the safety and wellbeing of the child. The three areas of risk are Generic, Matrix & Resistance, which have between them 222 risk indicators! The audience was amused by this!
The Christian Institute’s Callum Webster talked about the widespread public anger in relation to the scheme and how the campaign seeks to make people aware of the Government’s plans. He urged people to sign the NO2NP petition, and encouraged them to deliver leaflets and even consider co-ordinating a team of volunteers. Conversations ‘at the school gate’ and social media are also a useful way to spread the word about the scheme. He also encouraged people to get in touch with their MSP and attend the Action Day this Saturday. If you live in the area and would like to join us, get in touch on email@example.com
Stuart Waiton chaired an informative Q&A session. One person asked about medical confidentiality, which Liz described as the ‘sinister’ side of the scheme. She also made reference to the taxi drivers story. Another question was raised about what happens to children below the age of 18 who leave school. Stuart commented on how common sense is being undermined. The role of the police in the process was questioned, and the extra work that would be created for them. Liz underlined the point that the scheme will lead to vulnerable children being missed and also mentioned the recent revelations that councils were struggling to recruit head teachers.
Ever wondered what personal information public bodies have recorded about you or your children? How a conversation with a doctor or teacher has been summarised in a report?
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.
The recording and sharing of sensitive information has already been on the increase since the introduction of Named Person pilot schemes, and this is expected to grow as the scheme is rolled out across Scotland in August this year.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has stated that the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which contains the Named Person provisions, will lower the threshold for data sharing to ‘wellbeing’, making it easier for agencies to share sensitive information about you or your children.
Practitioners will no longer have to show there is a ‘risk of significant harm’ to a child, but can pass on private information if they think there is simply a ‘wellbeing’ concern, which we all know can be highly subjective.
MAKE A SUBJECT ACCESS REQUEST
Follow this link to the ICO’s official guide, where you will find all the information you need and letter templates to make the process as easy as possible:
Find out how to make a Subject Access Request
TIP: Organisations have a 40-day deadline to respond to requests. It is a good idea to keep a detailed paper-trail of any correspondence if you need to chase a request or lodge a complaint.
If the reply to your Subject Access Request discloses information which alarms you and you think it may help the campaign against Named Persons, contact us by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
We understand any information you share with us may be extremely sensitive and will be treated confidentially. We won’t use any information without your explicit consent.
There was rain, there was sleet, a cold eastern wind and even some snow – but none of that deterred our intrepid team of volunteers, whose enthusiasm knew no bounds!
As the team were getting ready to leave the cafe where they were being briefed, a man came up to say he had signed the petition and was delighted we were in Dunfermline that day. He took some NO2NP flyers to give to his friends. A great start!
Our volunteers discovered that a number of other locals were aware of our campaign, but many were still completely unaware of the Named Person scheme and what it will mean for every young family in Scotland.
A local solicitor expressed his support for the campaign, as did a lady who worked for the Scottish Parliament. Others who had taken a leaflet wanted to sign the petition once they had read it.
The highlight of the morning was a young man who approached the team to ask how he could become a NO2NP volunteer! He said many of his friends were also very concerned about the issue and would want to become volunteers too – great news!
Would you like to become a NO2NP volunteer? If so, please contact us on email@example.com.
The roadshow moves north to Perth tomorrow, where there will be an event at the Salutation Hotel, 30-34 South Street, Perth at 7.30pm – hope to see you there!
A council leader and the head of a major trade union have blamed the Named Person legislation for the struggle to recruit head teachers in some areas.
The Press and Journal found that local councils have been struggling to recruit teachers and subsequently spent more than £30 million on classroom supply staff in three years. It was revealed that across Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Council there were 187 teaching vacancies, including 39 head teacher roles.
Jenny Laing, leader of Aberdeen City Council, commenting on Named Persons, said: “The legislation may be putting people off becoming head teachers at primary school, because in this role you are the state guardian for all the pupils at the school.
“It means you have to take legal responsibility for every child in the school – if anything goes wrong you are the guardian of that child and have to bring in all the relevant bodies to address the problem.
“The salary for primary school teachers is not much higher than in other roles. People don’t want added responsibility for not much more money, so the Scottish Government has to look at the national pay structure.”
Greg Dempster, General Secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, remarked: “The named person puts an obligation for a head teacher to be the core point of contact for any issue of wellbeing or other concerns within the school. They have to set in chain meetings with other agencies if any issue to do with wellbeing arises.”
A Press and Journal comment piece on the news stated: “It is a galling task and one wonders why such a specialist child protection role is being foisted on teachers, who have enough to do as it is. There has been fierce criticism of this nanny state intervention in school and family life.
“Teachers are capable of raising their suspicions now, without additional formal responsibility – and there are enough child protection specialists in social services, hospitals and the police to provide this role effectively, if they do their jobs properly.”
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said he was unsurprised by the news and said that of course the “draconian” Named Person policy would deter people from applying for jobs.
He commented: “This is hardly a surprise and it is worrying that a senior local government politician and a respected trade union leader are now highlighting problems in the Aberdeen area which will doubtless be replicated throughout the country.
“With so many of the professionals who are supposed to make this scheme work so concerned, you have to ask what will it take for the Scottish Government to finally admit the scheme is doomed and scrap it once and for all.”
The latest stop for the NO2NP Roadshow on Tuesday night was the Pitbauchlie House Hotel in Dunfermline, where a good number of local folk came out to listen to our panel of speakers share their concerns about the scheme.
Fresh from a Holyrood debate, Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith opened the evening’s talks by saying that she has never had as large a mailbag in her time as an MSP than on this issue. She said her opposition to the scheme was based on two fundamental objections: firstly, it is quite simply wrong to undermine parents with a universal scheme like this; and secondly, the fact that it will inevitably take away scarce resources from truly vulnerable children is quite simply inexcusable. The expense of the scheme across Scotland will be huge, she continued, and added that “the more people learn what is being demanded of families, the more they are in open rebellion against it.”
Liz then explained the passage of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill through Parliament and, while she had proposed around 40 amendments to it, Labour MSPs only supported her amendment to reduce the upper age limit for Named Persons from 18 down to 16. The SNP had whipped their MSPs to vote against all amendments, so they narrowly defeated that particular amendment by their Parliamentary majority. Despite having enthusiastically voted for the Named Person scheme, the MSPs in favour of it have now “gone very quiet”, she said.
The full extent of its reach into families is only now becoming apparent, as schools and health visitors are starting to explain its ramifications. Liz finished by saying that the scheme was “dangerous, really dangerous” and urged everyone to spread the message of the NO2NP campaign as much as they could.
Next up was Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust, who said there seemed to be some confusion in the minds of the judges who heard the appeal of our Judicial Review last September. They had said in their judgment that ‘A Named Person is not assigned to a child or young person as such but “made available, in relation to” him or her.’ This statement, Lesley explained, carries the inference that the Named Person “provision” represents one-way traffic, that it is always parents and families who will approach the Named Person for assistance and support if they need it; however, during a discussion about the scheme on Radio Scotland’s Kaye Adams Programme last October, a teacher who is already a Named Person in Highland stated that “absolutely” she can “be pro-active” and go to each family. When challenged about what she would do if a family did not want her involvement, she replied “then it would be my job to convince them that I’m there to help, that we were working together as a unit.”
Lesley went on to say that, while there is no accepted, universally used definition of ‘wellbeing’, if the Named Person’s statutory duties hinge upon assessing it, questions must arise over which definition will be used in practice. She then showed a video clip of an exchange in a recent Holyrood debate, where SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell was challenged to define ‘wellbeing’, but simply ridiculed the question and did not give any kind of answer!
To highlight the difficulty, Lesley said that “researchers in the field of ‘wellbeing’ concede that ‘it is a contested concept’ with ‘a wide variety of definitions’”. Yet, she went on, wellbeing is now the ‘measure’ by which we are all being judged and if found wanting we “can expect intervention from the state.”
Gordon Macdonald from CARE then summarised the campaign’s three main objections to the Named Person scheme: it is universal and not in any way either optional or focussed on truly vulnerable children; the concepts of welfare and wellbeing are conflated, so that the scheme is about far more than identifying and helping vulnerable children; and the current threshold for sharing data without consent has been lowered from “strictly necessary” to “appropriate to fulfil the Named Person’s responsibilities”.
Gordon went on to explain how the legislation had been an attempt to enshrine the principles of the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), but that this had been done in a very selective way that omitted reference to the importance of parents and families for a child’s wellbeing.
Gordon went on to say that the fact the final Bill had been a joining of a children’s services bill and a children’s rights bill was reflected in things like the SHANARRI indicators, where child protection issues (Safe, Healthy) were conflated with children’s rights issues (Respected, Included) and general wellbeing issues (Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Responsible).
Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute then shared some practical points, before an in depth Q&A, where mothers in the audience expressed outrage that this was happening and that parents were basically being kept in the dark about the true nature of the intrusive scheme. Several people signed up to be volunteers and we already have commitments to deliver thousands of NO2NP flyers around Dunfermline to get the message out. Thanks to everyone for helping us in this way!
Some of these volunteers will be in Dunfermline town centre this Saturday to encourage local folk to sign the online petition – if you live in the area and would like to join them, get in touch with us on firstname.lastname@example.org
A cold February Saturday morning didn’t deter the hardy NO2NP volunteers who came out to let Falkirk’s shoppers know why the Named Person scheme is a worrying development for every family in Scotland.
Time and time again, our volunteers found that people were completely unaware of the scheme, which shows how important it is for all of us to do what we can to let our friends and contacts know! If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, let your friends know, using #NO2NP or no2np.org. And if not, let them know when you next see them.
Once local folk were told about the scheme, they were horrified and couldn’t believe that the Government would interfere so much in family life. One man said “It’s like the Government thinks that parents are too lazy or too dumb to do their job, so they bring this in! Why?!?”
One teacher we met was completely against it, saying she had enough work to do preparing for and giving lessons, without an additional mountain of bureaucracy to be added to her workload, while a retired local Government officer said that there was no need for such a scheme.
Many of those who took the leaflets either signed the petition or promised to do so when they got home (it really was cold!), while others took additional leaflets to pass to family members.
The NO2NP Roadshow crosses the River Forth to Dunfermline tomorrow for its next stop at the Pitbauchlie House Hotel at 7.30pm – if you live in the area, please come and join us and invite your friends too!
Alex Massie, Scotland Editor of The Spectator and a regular columnist in The Times, has raised concerns about the “dubious philosophy” influencing the Named Person scheme.
Massie, in a comment piece for The Times, said: “Giving every child in Scotland a named person responsible for, at least to some degree, their welfare subtly changes the social contract between the state and its citizens. It redefines the game.”
Whilst acknowledging that most parents “may never have any dealings with their child’s named person”, he commented, “but that is not entirely relevant”.
He said: “The point is that the state now operates, officially, on the presumption that every child might be at risk, because you can never be too sure, or too safe.
“If there is no immediate presumption of guilt, there remains the presumption that you could be guilty. So better to be safe than sorry”.
“That”, Massie states, “is a much larger change in philosophy than the government is prepared to admit”.
He said: “The government is at pains to assure us that the legislation is largely symbolic; a reiteration of “best practice” methods and unlikely to have much, if any, impact on the vast majority of parents. It will hardly be noticed. In which case, you may ask, is it really worth pursuing?”
Affirming the importance of “symbolism”, he remarks: “The message sent to the citizens by their government is not a trivial concern. It tells us something about our society”.
Massie says the message the Government is sending in this instance is that it “does not trust the people”.
“The named person provision, it seems, crosses an important line”, he asserts.
Massie continues: “The existing safety net that is supposed to check vulnerable children is as valuable as it is depressingly necessary. No one of sense wishes to see it removed.”
But he emphasises: “There remains a difference, however, between a safety net and a surveillance system. I am sure ministers and children’s charities are sincere when they insist that the named person provision is well intentioned and, as much as anything else, box-ticking. Nevertheless, it is also something else, and that something else is more sinister.
Seemingly unconvinced by the Named Person proposals, Massie says: “You need not be a libertarian in a tinfoil hat — though I have my moments in that regard — to feel a frisson of unease about this. Equally, you need not be a fervent believer in the laws of slippery slopes to appreciate that once implemented, the duties required of the named person are more likely to grow with time than be trimmed by prudence”.
He adds: “Of course, the idea is justified by the age-old claim that ‘if it saves one vulnerable life’ then it will be worth it. This too is well intentioned, but it misses the point. No one wishes to endanger at-risk children, but it’s justified to think that there is already a large and complex system designed to minimise those risks. But sometimes, appallingly, that system proves insufficient.
Massie concluded: “If you consider the odds, and human nature, then the designated role in schools will prove insufficient in the future. The named person proposal is, like other government initiatives such as the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, likely to prove both heavy handed and inadequate. That’s bad enough but not nearly as bad as its philosophical shortcomings. It is the government’s society, you see, and you just live here”.
Massie was commenting off the back of the recent news that a teacher who served as a Named Person for 200 pupils had been struck off the teaching register after being found guilty of child sex offences.
Original article “State guardians for an untrustworthy society”, published: Tuesday, 02 February 2016, The Times
A big thank you to all those who braved Storm Henry to come to the latest NO2NP roadshow event in Falkirk on Monday night!
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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 email@example.com.
A teacher who served as a Named Person for 200 pupils has been struck off the teaching register after being found guilty of child sex offences.
Dayna Dickson-Boath was appointed one of the first Named Persons in Scotland, but could now be banned from working with children for the rest of her life.
She had held a senior position at a secondary school in Moray, but yesterday consented to being struck off by the General Teaching Council for Scotland on the charge that, between 8 August 2014 and 10 September 2014, she “did send, by means of a public electronic communications network, messages to another person that were grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, in that you did converse regarding the sexual abuse of children.”
Hugh Paton, convener of the panel, said: “The registrant should be removed from the register in view of the facts admitted. The panel has also decided that it is appropriate that the registrant’s name is referred to Scottish Government ministers for consideration in connection with inclusion on the list of those barred from working with children and vulnerable young adults.”
He said: “The panel decided to do so because …the respondent engaged in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature involving a children or protected adult.”
Dickson-Boath was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register and ordered to undergo treatment when she was convicted in Elgin Sheriff Court last August.
Commenting after the news broke last year, NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, called on the Scottish Government to tell parents what additional steps it is taking to vet Named Persons.
He said: “Given their greatly increased involvement in the personal lives of children, there clearly ought to be greatly increased background checks to make sure they cannot abuse that position of trust.”
A Scottish Daily Mail editorial, at the time, asked – “Who guards against state guardians?” and said the Scottish Government should “use the case of Dickson-Boath to pause for thought on this new law”. It went on question if the Scottish Government would accept responsibility if “a Named Person was later found to be an abuser”.
The editorial concluded: “The best people to make decisions on behalf of children are parents. The state has no place in dictating how families should live their lives. Parents of children at Moray had no veto when Dickson-Boath was appointed their Named Person; they had no choice but to accept her into their lives.”
‘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’.”
A dedicated group of NO2NP volunteers were out in Greenock town centre on Saturday morning to share their concerns about the Named Person scheme with local shoppers.
Those who had attended the roadshow event the previous Monday had heard about Inverclyde Council’s “Getting it Right for Every Child, Citizen and Community” scheme and local residents on Saturday were shocked to learn of the level of state interference that was being proposed. One man responded “Let them try it!”, while many others said they were completely unaware of what was happening, but were very happy to support our opposition to the scheme. Many took additional flyers to pass on to their children and in some cases grandchildren.
Teachers that we met were also opposed to the scheme, which they saw as completely unworkable. One mother with an adopted child was concerned that Named Persons might turn against parents as soon as there was the slightest concern raised about wellbeing issues. She believed the role of the state should be to genuinely support parents when they need it, whereas this scheme is Big Brother policing ordinary Scottish parents, as they do their best to raise their children, and bulldozing in whenever things are not deemed to be perfect.
Dozens of local folk signed the online petition, which has now passed 17,000 signatures! Why not join others in Inverclyde by signing the petition and saying NO to Named Persons!
The next stop for the NO2NP roadshow is the Best Western Park Hotel in Falkirk on Monday 1st February at 7.30pm. If you live in the area, we hope to see you there!
One of Scotland’s biggest health boards, NHS Lothian, is facing serious staff shortages and admits it is unlikely to be able to meet the extra demands of the Named Person scheme when it is rolled out later this year.
Nursing leaders have raised “significant concerns” warning that “health visitors – who will be the named person for children under five – are already under serious pressure”.
It is reported that the health board is unlikely to have enough staff until at least 2018/19 because of an existing 19 per cent vacancy rate, which increases to 44 per cent in Midlothian, according to recent board papers.
Chief executive Tim Davison told a board meeting last month: “If we simply can’t get enough health visitors then we may have to look at how the service might look like in future, where people from other places might assist with child health.”
Royal College of Nursing Scotland associate director Norman Provan, commented: “NHS Lothian is experiencing great difficulties recruiting enough now, let alone the additional health visitors they will need to implement the named person role and the recently introduced new health visitor pathway.”
Mr Provan added: “What the board cannot and must not do is ask the current workforce to take on more to meet the requirements of the named person legislation without sufficient resources to do this safely.”
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said: “NHS Lothian say it will be impossible to meet the massive demands of the new scheme for two or three years at the earliest without pulling health visitors from other areas which, presumably, will be just as overstretched.
“No-one doubts the good intentions of the government, or of health visitors, but the Named Person scheme is a bureaucratic, data-harvesting nightmare which will go badly wrong.”
We’re pleased to announce new NO2NP Roadshows for 2016. Our teams of speakers will visit Greenock (18 January), Falkirk (01 February) and Dunfermline (09 February) in the next couple of months.
Come and hear experts share about the many concerns surrounding the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme. Hope you can make it! Please visit our Roadshow page for more information.
GREENOCK ● MONDAY 18 JANUARY ● 7:30PM – 9PM
Holiday Inn Express, Cartsburn West, Greenock, PA15 1AE
FALKIRK ● MONDAY 01 FEBRUARY ● 7:30PM – 9PM
Camelon Suite, Best Western Park Hotel, Camelon Road, Falkirk, FK1 5RY
DUNFERMLINE ● TUESDAY 09 FEBRUARY ● 7:30PM – 9PM
Pitbauchlie House Hotel, Aberdour Road, Dunfermline, KY11 4PB
Download a NO2NP Roadshow flyer to share with friends
‘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.”
Scottish Daily Mail, 28th December 2015
A number of Scotland’s health boards have admitted to a severe shortage of sufficiently trained health visitors, raising serious questions over the Named Person scheme – due to be rolled out next year.
Under the scheme health visitors will act as a Named Person for 0–5s, but one of Scotland’s biggest health boards, NHS Lothian, said it was so short-staffed that each health visitor would be a Named Person for up to 350 children.
A report by Sally Egan, NHS Lothian associate director of strategic planning, states: “There is a national shortage of qualified health visitors and an extensive training programme is under way across all NHS boards.
“Despite best efforts, NHS Lothian will not have trained sufficient health visitors by 2016 and will not be at full health visitor capacity until 2018/19 at the earliest.”
NHS Grampian conceded it had to deal with an “initial shortfall” of health visitors, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it was “ongoing” in its training and recruitment of extra staff.
NO2NP’s Simon Calvert, commenting on NHS Lothian, said, it “doesn’t have the resources to meet the huge demands of the law which requires a Named Person to monitor every single child. That’s a big job. Too big. The scheme is doomed to fail – and doomed to ruin some families’ lives in the process”.
The Scottish Government’s £41.6 million Universal Health Visiting Pathway in Scotland: Pre-Birth to Pre-School programme released in October sets out plans for health visitors to make 11 home visits in the first 4-5 years of a child’s life – with some visits lasting up to 90 minutes.
Health visitors are expected to monitor not just the health and development of a baby, but also a range of personal details about their parents, including finances and mental health.
One wonders how the Scottish Government expects our NHS to manage the vast extra workload created by the Named Person scheme when they are already overburdened.
A Mail on Sunday comment piece said the scheme is “in crisis a year before its planned implementation”, asserting: “Rather than making vulnerable children safer, the situation will overburden a health service already stretched to breaking point.”
It said that the Named Person legislation “smacks of politicians doing something for the sake of doing something rather than because it is right”.
The newspaper warned: “There are systems in place to identify children at risk of abuse and neglect. Demanding that NHS, social work and school staff spread themselves more thinly by snooping on children who are perfectly healthy and happy makes no sense whatsoever and may do more damage than good.”
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.”
Jenny Hjul wrote: “Whatever your political persuasion, the Named Persons legislation introduces a level of state control over Scots’ lives that we should all be questioning.
She warned: “It authorises the invasion of privacy according to a government checklist, which is administered by a stranger approved by another government checklist.
“It sanctions intrusion into every aspect of a child’s life, from interfering in personal issues to checking if children get a say in how their room is decorated and what they watch on TV.
“And if a child fails to meet the expectations of its Big Brother watchdog, that individual has the authority to discuss its young charge with the NHS, the police, social workers and various government bodies.”
The NO2NP campaign shares these and many other concerns about the legislation. Download our leaflet ’11 Reasons to say NO to the Named Person scheme’ in our resources section to find out more.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The NO2NP campaign is calling on the Scottish Government to tell parents what additional steps it will take to vet Named Persons, in light of revelations that one of Scotland’s first official Named Persons has been found guilty of child sex offences.
Dayna Dickson-Boath held a senior position at a secondary school in Moray and served as a Named Person for 200 pupils but she has now been placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register and ordered to undergo treatment.
Sheriff John Halley, sentencing Dickson-Boath, said: “You have been convicted of a very serious offence which has consequences on your professional and personal life. It is very serious and highly concerning.”
Simon Calvert, NO2NP spokesman, said: “It has to be hoped that the local authority has begun an internal inquiry into how such a person could ever have been given such a powerful role in the lives of children.
“The Scottish Government must tell parents what additional steps it is taking to vet Named Persons. Given their greatly increased involvement in the personal lives of children, there clearly ought to be greatly increased background checks to make sure they cannot abuse that position of trust.’
A Scottish Daily Mail editorial, in response to the Dickson-Boath revelations, asked the very poignant question – “Who guards against state guardians?” It said the Scottish Government should “use the case of Dickson-Boath to pause for thought on this new law”, and asked: “If a Named Person was later found to be an abuser, would the Scottish Government accept responsibility?”
The editorial concluded: “The best people to make decisions on behalf of children are parents. The state has no place in dictating how families should live their lives. Parents of children at Moray had no veto when Dickson-Boath was appointed their Named Person; they had no choice but to accept her into their lives.”
“Those parents will be horrified to learn of Dickson-Boath’s crimes. The rest of us might wonder how the Scottish Government will prevent further such cases when this wrong-headed policy becomes law across the country next year.”
Alison Preuss, of the Schoolhouse Home Education Association – a supporter of NO2NP, said: “We have long been warning about the risks to children from predatory Named Persons and this case should serve as a serious wake-up call to the Scottish Government.
“A compulsory scheme which has no opt-out and permits the gathering and sharing of children’s sensitive personal data across multiple agencies without consent is obviously going to attract the wrong sort of people for the wrong reasons. Parents and young people are already reporting inappropriately intrusive behaviour by Named Persons, but their concerns are not being taken seriously.”
Daily Mail reporter, Mark Howarth, cited the Scottish Parent Teacher Council which has insisted that the scheme offers ‘no benefit to the majority of children, whose Named Person is already in place – their parent or carer’.
He said: “Ironically, the legislation aimed towards safeguarding children could make it harder to spot genuine abuse. By widening resources to cover all children, including those who are happy and thriving, attention could be diverted away from children who are genuinely in need.
He also pointed to comments from Chief Superintendent Alan Waddell who said that the scheme could have an effect on Police Scotland’s “ability to accurately assess vulnerability”.
"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."