BBC Question Time’s Dimbleby: Named Person scheme gets “stranger and stranger”

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.”