Keeping you up to date on the progress of the Named Person scheme and the NO2NP campaign.
The first NO2NP roadshow of 2016 earlier this week attracted people of all ages eager to hear the latest news on the controversial state guardian scheme.
CARE for Scotland’s Parliamentary Officer Gordon Macdonald spoke about the background to the legislation. He explained how the final Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill had started out as two separate Bills, but the part that dealt with the Named Person scheme had never had a proper public consultation. Instead, once the two Bills were conjoined, a short consultation was heard on the enormous draft Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill and only one day of Parliamentary time was allowed to scrutinise the controversial scheme.
The provisions were therefore passed into law without either adequate public consultation or thorough parliamentary scrutiny, which is alarming given the fact that every single family in Scotland with children under 18 will now have a state guardian imposed on them without their request or consent.
Gordon went on to say that the Scottish Government wanted to enshrine the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law, however they have been very selective in the provisions they have adopted and all the ones that stress the importance of family life have been omitted.
Next to speak was Lesley Scott from The Young ME Sufferers Trust. She gave an overview of how the NO2NP campaign has forced a public debate on the issue and how this has brought out conflicting rationales from those supportive of the scheme for its basis and justification. The Government is saying it is about protecting vulnerable children, while some charities are saying it is about looking out for the wellbeing needs of all children. Lesley suggested it was actually “a dangerous conflation of the two”, brought about through the overarching GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) approach, which permeates all services and has revealed “the extent to which families are now under surveillance and assessment by the state”.
Lesley went on to say that the campaign’s legal challenge through the courts had forced the Government’s legal team to admit “that every child in Scotland is now viewed as being potentially vulnerable” and that all parents “must consequently be viewed as potentially neglectful or abusive”.
She went on to highlight some of the alarming provisions in the final version of the Government’s Statutory Guidance on the scheme, which places a duty to share wellbeing concerns, not only on the NHS and local authorities, but also on “the third sector and independent or grant-aided contractors”, including taxi drivers in the Scottish Borders, which made headlines recently.
Lesley concluded by saying that this legislation implies that “parenting is now considered as too onerous and difficult a path to navigate without compulsory support or intervention from the state”.
After a video was shown, Alison Preuss from home education charity Schoolhouse spoke about how the Named Person legislation leaves Scottish families “with less legal protection than their counterparts in the rest of the UK”.
Alison cited recent comments made by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to the effect that Named Persons should just go ahead and share information without telling the parents involved, simply because the threshold had now been lowered from significant harm to wellbeing concern.
However, this was not the view taken by former Commissioner Richard Thomas, who commented on a related issue during his tenure: “We live in a free society. We value our freedoms. Sometimes it is a step too far if people err on the side of the collection of data for the sake of collecting data, rather than on the ones we need to watch.”
Alison was able to reveal that Inverclyde had introduced its own form of GIRFEC, but adding two more “c’s” – Citizen and Community. ‘Nurturing Inverclyde’ is said to mean “working together to get it right for every child, citizen and community” and the approach is “based on the development of early intervention and preventative spend projects through partnership working.”
Alison argued that this is shorthand for mass data collection to identify those who may be straying from the path of “getting it right”-eousness. She finished by saying: “trust in professionals, from GPs to childminders, is being systematically destroyed as they are all expected to report any wellbeing (as opposed to welfare) concerns – or just mere suspicions – to the Named Person without you or your child even knowing about it. Parents are now all guilty until they prove their innocence”.
The evening finished with practical suggestions for getting involved in the campaign. There was a very lively Q&A, during which it became clear that the local Greenock Telegraph had run a couple of stories on the scheme and published some letters. A number of people indicated their willingness to help hand out leaflets this Saturday morning for our NO2NP Action Day in Greenock, so if you live in the area, why not join them? Email email@example.com for more information.
An extract from a talk by Alison Preuss of Home Education Forums, given at the Prestwick Roadshow on 8th December 2015.
Since it’s pantomime season, I thought I’d run through a few weel-kent lines (known as “messages” in government circles) from our favourite SHANARRI characters – audience participation is welcome!
Scottish Government: “Parents asked for a Named Person”
Audience: (All together now!) “Oh no they didn’t!”
Only a small subset of families in Highland whose children had specific needs and disabilities and who had been serially fobbed off by “services” felt a single point of contact might be useful. So what happened next? A compulsory Named Person scheme was imposed on every child with no opt-out, allegedly “because parents wanted it”.
Scottish Government: “Nobody complained in Highland”
Audience: “Oh yes they did!”
Some parents and young people have spoken publicly about what happened to them as the result of inappropriate actions by professionals. The question is: what happened to these complaints?
Scottish Government: “The evidence from Highland showed GIRFEC to be a great success”
Audience: “Oh no it didn’t!”
The Highland pilot was nothing like what has been legislated for as it was small scale, voluntary and targeted, as opposed to compulsory and universal. When an equivalent scheme was adopted universally in the Isle of Man, it caused meltdown in social services due to an astronomical rise in referrals. It was quickly abandoned and its centralised database has since been declared illegal and switched off.
Scottish Government: “Engagement with the Named Person is not compulsory”
Audience: “But look out, he’s behind you!”
Although you may not need to engage with the appointed Named Person, the data held on your children and all other family members by the “services” you do engage with is fair game as they are obliged to pass it on, if there are any “wellbeing” concerns. As one parent said, her son’s teacher knew she was pregnant before he did.
Scottish Government: “There’s no need to take Named Person advice”
Audience: “He’s still behind you!”
The consequences are clearly set out if you don’t co-operate or have a different perception of an alleged “problem”. This is child protection jargon used by social workers dealing with children at risk of significant harm, but has been hijacked to accommodate a much lower intervention threshold based on wellbeing concerns defined by the government.
Scottish Government: “The majority of professionals and children’s charities supported the scheme.”
(This is where you get the chance to boo loudly!)
The loudest cheerleaders were vested interests who stand to benefit from providing monitoring or intervention services. They belong to the emerging “I Spy” generation of service providers, whose incomes depend on delivering government outcomes. Many of the “Cinderella” charities who are not funded (like Tymes Trust and Schoolhouse), parents’ groups like the SPTC and legal experts did not support the scheme, including CLAN Childlaw who have formally added their concerns about non-consensual data sharing to the legal challenge.
Scottish Government: “Joined up ‘services’ (and data) are good, ‘silo’ working is bad”
Once upon a time it was obligatory to undertake training to reach the required level of competence in, and certification for, a professional role such as teaching, midwifery, nursing or social work. These discrete professions are now disparaged as “silos” in the shared language of SHANARRI, where wheel-spinning is the only game in town and box-ticking the only qualification needed to assess wellbeing needs. So poor quality or downright dangerous decisions will be made by those without relevant professional assessment skills. We have already heard about teachers pontificating (sometimes dangerously) on health matters and housing officers proffering advice on education matters, with referrals being made on spurious grounds out of ignorance, arrogance or a combination of the two. No wonder child protection experts and the police are worried about the lack of focus on the most vulnerable children.
Scottish Government: “If it saves just one child.”
(This is the deadly serious pantomime finale)
When all else fails, the government and its cast of cheerleaders play the child protection card, but GIRFEC is not the answer when it comes to the deadly serious business of protecting vulnerable children which belongs with professionally qualified and trained social workers.
GIRFEC is actually having the opposite effect to that which was allegedly intended. It is deterring people from accessing services, since they know that their information is not going to be treated confidentially. Having dealt with a large number of parents who have had information gathered and later used as evidence against them, most are now exercising the right to remain silent. Booking in with the midwife used to be a happy experience, but is now an interrogation of every aspect of your life, including past relationships and family finances. And that is only the beginning of the intrusive data gathering which will continue throughout the child’s life.
I have recently been supporting a young mum who was being bullied by a multi-agency SHANARRI gang because she decided to home educate her child. Unknown to her, the Named Person had amassed huge amounts of hitherto confidential information on every family member and associated adult in a bid to trump up a whole raft of “concerns” about potential (not actual) risks to wellbeing in order to deny her choice. This included records on an estranged former partner, siblings and even a deceased relative, all presented at a hastily convened multi-agency meeting of complete strangers in the form of a report full of inaccuracies, hearsay and deeply personal information which left her feeling “violated” and “humiliated”. It became a bitter power struggle, with the education tail wagging the social work dog and insisting on assessment without grounds (essentially wasting the social worker’s valuable time). All because a Named Person happened not to approve of a parent’s lawful educational choice. So much for the helpful point of contact whose services you can supposedly decline.
I’ll finish with a wee anecdote of my own. Last week an annual tax summary arrived through the post from HMRC addressed to my husband, reporting his earnings for 2014/15 as £38673.30 and the tax and NI he had paid as £9024.72. You may be wondering why I would be sharing this sort of personal data with a bunch of strangers after all I’ve had to say on the subject, but it may make sense when I tell you that my husband has been dead for more than two years. The data on the database is completely wrong! At least it wasn’t a tax demand, but it still caused distress.
Almost as much distress as the letter sent to him last year urging him to vote a particular way in the referendum by a campaign group illegally using details from an old electoral roll. They never even bothered to acknowledge my complaint, let alone apologise. I have yet to tackle HMRC, but sometimes it’s best to let sleeping data collectors lie, no matter how inaccurate their sources!
The data mountain is increasing exponentially, a bit like Jack’s beanstalk (which grew and grew from Jack McConnell’s original integrated services and early intervention beans). Let’s chop it down to size, kill the Giant Database State and take the Big Ugly Sisters SHANARRI and the Named Person with it!
The Prestwick meeting was packed on Tuesday night for the latest NO2NP Roadshow event. People from across South Ayrshire turned up to hear the NO2NP team bring them up to date with all that is happening with the legislation and the campaign.
Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute welcomed everyone and spoke of the breadth of the coalition of individuals and organisations that makes up the NO2NP campaign. What unites everyone is “our belief in the autonomy of the family and its independence from unnecessary state interference”.
He went on to explain about the legal challenge to the legislation, which is due to be heard by the Supreme Court on 8th March. He made reference to the human rights arguments under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to respect for private and family life) and data protection arguments and expressed the hope that the Supreme Court would strike down the legislation, as it is empowered to do.
Lesley Scott from TYMES (The Young ME Sufferers) Trust then spoke about the official report on the Highland Pathfinder Named Person pilot scheme, which Government politicians have been so positive about. However, on closer scrutiny, the report contains some revealing comments. It said that the small number of children involved in the Highland Pathfinder trial meant that any positive shifts tended to be exaggerated, and that it was not possible for them to determine the extent to which the services were getting it right for EACH child. Lesley remarked that when the needs of an individual child do not “fit” the GIRFEC template for “every” child, the parents’ right to act in accordance with the needs of their individual child is compromised.
After a video about the NO2NP campaign was shown, next up was Alison Preuss from homeschooling charity Schoolhouse. She spoke about the award-winning AYRshare model for health and social care collaboration, which boasts that it “provides effective, timely and secure sharing of information between organisations to help address concerns about the wellbeing and protection of children and young people”.
In other words, Alison said, children’s personal data as well as their parents’ can be shared ‘at the click of a mouse’ across three council boundaries in Ayrshire, as well as the NHS, and will soon become available across other systems running elsewhere. Alison remarked that this could be called ‘putting sharing before caring’ and reminded those gathered that they have no choice in the matter.
She went on to explain that the Government’s GIRFEC scheme “fundamentally changes the relationship between citizen and state by fatally compromising the right to individual privacy and family autonomy. The Scottish Government has decided what is right for every one of us and that is so very wrong on so many levels.”
The evening ended with the usual lively Q&A and some practical suggestions for ways in which people can get involved with the campaign – and a good number of people were happy to sign up as volunteers.
NO2NP supporters will be in Ayr town centre this Saturday handing out leaflets – if you live in the area and would like to join us, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Primary school children have been taught to sing along to politically correct Government mantras in a new theatre production, entitled ‘Rights of the Child’, which has been touring Scottish schools over the last few months.
Songs include ‘SHANARRI song’ and ‘We’ve got the Right’, which the theatre company describe as “a great way to teach your pupils the UN Convention on Rights of the Child and remember the Wellbeing Wheel (SHANARRI)”.
Watch the video
Glasgow-based Hopscotch Theatre Company said the tour was extended due to popularity and would reach approximately 28,800 children. Schools are paying £405 to host the production. There is expected to be a new run of shows after the Christmas break.
The play is described as the story of Ryan, a schoolboy who has no idea he has any rights, until he has a dream about being taken to the United Nations by rights campaigner Eglantyne Jebb to learn about the rights of children. Hopscotch concludes: “When he awakens, he understands the value of rights and returns to school determined to share his newfound knowledge.”
Hopscotch, which has received thousands of pounds of public money for the project, has also produced a 24-page teaching resource for schools to use in the classroom after children have watched the play.
The materials feature lesson plans designed to teach children the Scottish Government’s definition of wellbeing, but the nature of many of the lessons undermine parents and encourage children to think that love and care can be found in all adults.
For example, under one section entitled ‘Rabbits Rights’, children are asked to imagine they have a pet rabbit and to note down all its needs and who they think would be responsible for providing them. Children are then asked to think about their own needs and the people responsible for providing in their lives.
A NO2NP spokesman said: “There seems to be an astonishing lack of self-awareness from these people. This is not just bad art: it’s bad policy, bad education and poor safeguarding. What do they think they are doing encouraging children to see all adults as equally responsible for meeting their needs? Encouraging children to rely on strangers in the same way they rely on mum or dad makes them vulnerable.
“These people are damaging relationships between children and their parents with their right-on propaganda. People are already worried that the Named Person will undermine parents without this exercise in softening up children’s minds.
“This is achingly politically correct nonsense. When there are countries where girls are banned from going to school and boys are recruited as child soldiers, this attempt to use an international children’s rights convention to draw pupils into supporting unpopular Scottish Government policy is, frankly, repulsive.
“I’m sure touring Scottish schools with pro-Government propaganda is a great money-spinner. But whether it’s what tax-paying parents want is quite another thing. They say this will play to 28,000 children. I hope parents will tell schools they don’t want their children to have anything to do with it. Hopscotch should be told to hop it before they can do any more damage to family life.
“Who thought it was a good idea to teach children to sing the praises of Government policy? Don’t they realise how awful that looks? I think most parents would prefer their children to be singing nursery rhymes not Named Person mantras.”
Alison Preuss of Schoolhouse, a supporter of NO2NP, said: “Parents send their children to school to be educated, not indoctrinated, but here we have paid edutainers being welcomed into classrooms to promote GIRFEC propaganda and the belief among children that the Government respects children’s human rights when nothing could be further from the truth.
“The Government has chosen to ignore all of the ‘inconvenient’ rights afforded by the UNCRC in order to progress its own authoritarian agenda, where state dictated ‘life journeys’ and outcomes for every child are misrepresented as ‘wellbeing’ rights. Imposing a compulsory Named Person on every child and sharing their personal information without consent is a blatant infringement of the right to privacy, just one of the rights that don’t figure anywhere in the state’s pick and mix version of the convention.
“By singing from the SHANARRI song sheet, the Hopscotch Theatre Company may have found favour with the Government, and a lucrative income from schools while local arts groups fold due to lack of funding, but parents should be aware that this programme is one of social engineering, not education and certainly not children’s rights.”
Hopscotch, in response to a question about whether the play was designed to lay the ground for the Named Person scheme, confirmed by commenting: “Yes, this is everything we’re kind of hoping to achieve. It’s been so successful that we’re bringing it back for a three-week tour in February. We have schools on a waiting list.”
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”.
Thank you to everyone who came to the NO2NP roadshow meeting in Dingwall Town Hall last Wednesday (4 March).
A large crowd heard Lesley Scott (Tymes Trust) explain that the named person role has expanded beyond the idea of a single point of contact and usurps the natural rights of parents. She warned that the named person has lowered the threshold for intervention based on the ‘SHANARRI’ indicators and branded the scheme as “state mandated parenting” and an oppressive intrusion into family life.
The crowd also heard from Alison Preuss (Schoolhouse) who noted that the Isle of Man abandoned a similar scheme after a melt-down in social work, She said it was a scandal that resources were being diverted into a universal scheme.
On Monday 23 March the NO2NP roadshow returns to Glasgow for a meeting at the Hilton Glasgow Grosvenor Hotel in the West End where the audience will hear from Dr Stuart Waiton (Abertay Univeristy) and various others. The meeting will start at 7:30pm and is free and open to all. We hope to see you there.