Keeping you up to date on the progress of the Named Person scheme and the NO2NP campaign.
The Named Person scheme has suffered another major setback which could sink the entire scheme.
An expert group set up by Deputy First Minister John Swinney to try to salvage the scheme has failed to come up with any solutions, after almost two years of deliberation.
In late 2017 MSPs refused to back the Scottish Government’s proposed Named Person plans until they were given a detailed code of practice on how it would work.
Now, official minutes show the expert panel, set up to draft the code, has admitted defeat stating: “The remit was to produce a code of practice so we need to be clear and up front about the difficulties of that.”
The panel – launched in November 2017 – has now finally concluded that: “a statutory Code of Practice that must be applied in all situations is not the right thing to do at this time”.
It added that “it would not be desirable as the complexity of this would mean it would not be easy to understand or apply in practice”
That conclusion could spell the end of the road for the scheme. Holyrood’s education committee insisted on an authoritative code before they would even consider a new Named Person data sharing bill, drawn up after the UK Supreme Court declared the original scheme unlawful in 2016.
Simon Calvert of NO2NP, said: “This might just be the knock-out blow to the Scottish Government’s state snooper scheme.”
In 2016 Supreme Court judges ruled the central data sharing provisions of the Named person scheme were unlawful.
It also instructed the Scottish Government to ensure that any future version of the legislation made it plain that any advice from a named person was entirely optional for parents.
New proposals were drawn up, but Holyrood’s education and skills committee wrote to Mr Swinney saying they could not support the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill, which was designed to address the Supreme Court’s reservations. The Committee demanded a code of practice showing how private information on families would be shared by named persons, before it would consider progressing the bill.
The panel was set up after Mr Swinney’s own draft code was rejected by MSPs. But minutes of the panel’s meeting in March this year – only just published – reveal that stakeholders “had little appetite for further legislation”.
Mr Calvert said:
“Poor John Swinney has dug himself into a big hole over the hated named person scheme. After his Comical Ali-style denial of defeat in the Supreme Court in 2016, he said the scheme would be up and running by the end of that year. It was not. The following year he was forced to admit to MSPs that his own attempt to provide a draft code of practice was a ‘misjudgement’ that caused ‘confusion and uncertainty’.
“Then, instead of just dumping the state snooper plan, he called in advisers to try and come up with a new version.
“Mr Swinney promised they would ‘ develop a workable, comprehensive and user friendly code of practice’. They have, unsurprisingly, concluded that this is impossible.
“Time’s well and truly up now. This exercise in social engineering has finally hit the buffers and must be dumped. Where does Mr Swinney go now? No code. No legislation. No friends on this issue it would seem.”
Mr Calvert added: “The independent panel announced in November 2017 was meant to come up with that code. They’re telling Mr Swinney there should be no new code, which means no new information sharing law. This leaves us with a Named Person Lite, subject to the same laws and guidance on information sharing as everybody else.”
Judges ruled that the data-sharing provisions at the heart of the scheme would breach human rights and sent the Scottish Government back to the legislative drawing board.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said: “The new proposals confirm one of the most remarkable, ignominious and expensive U-turns in the history of the Scottish Government and a huge victory for mums, dads and children across the country and the 35,000-plus NO2NP supporters.
“They have now been forced to accept that their original draconian Big Brother proposals were an utter shambles from the start, representing an interference in family life and a fundamental breach of European human rights laws on privacy and information sharing.
“In effect they say the duty of a Named Person will be to consider whether sharing information is likely to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person. They must also then consider whether sharing that information would be compatible with data protection law, human rights law and the law of confidentiality.
“That’s a 100 per cent climbdown on their original plan of a statutory duty to share information about people’s private lives almost without restriction.
“If they’d only listened at the start, they could have saved huge amounts of time and money. They now have to retrain those who have already been trained to implement an unlawful scheme.”
A financial memorandum published alongside the new Bill suggests that the cost of retraining teachers and NHS staff will top £1m – and that is probably on the optimistic side.
In addition, crucially, the policy memorandum makes clear that the advice etc offered by a named person is voluntary and states:
“Children and young people, and their parents, can accept or reject advice, information, support and help offered by a Named Person under Part 4 of the 2014 Act… This freedom of choice must be made clear to them. Refusal to accept advice or services offered or refusal to co-operate with a child’s plan is not in itself to be taken as evidence of a risk of harm.”
The Deputy First Minister John Swinney, speaking today, said: “We must ensure that we get it right for every child”.
But it’s quite clear they didn’t get it right – and actually got it completely wrong.
When the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on the Named Person scheme back in July the Scottish Government did its best to play down the judgment. Deputy First Minister John Swinney tried to claim a victory, stating that with just a few tweaks the scheme would be ready for roll-out in a matter of few weeks.
It’s now seven months later and we are none the wiser.
Perhaps the Scottish Government is more aware of the judgment’s significance than it would like to let on in the media.
Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust submitted a Freedom of Information request in August asking to see legal advice which the Scottish Government’s QC James Wolffe provided to Ministers ahead of the Named Person Supreme Court hearing. After the initial request was rejected she challenged the decision by lodging a complaint with the Scottish Information Commissioner. This too was rejected but the response is rather revealing.
Scottish Government Ministers argued that the legal advice should not be disclosed because “the litigation in question has led to significant re-evaluation of some of the content of the Named Person scheme and has raised issues that are still very much live and are currently being considered following the court case.”
Change of audience, change of tune? Surely not…?!
Here are some further extracts from the Scottish Information Commissioner’s Decision Notice. [Emphasis added]
Public interest test – the Ministers’ views
24. The Ministers acknowledged that there is likely to be some public interest in the contribution that release of this information would make as part of open and transparent government and to inform public debate as to the reasonableness and appropriateness of the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme. They acknowledged that it has been a contentious issue.
25. However, the Ministers did not consider that these public interest arguments were sufficiently compelling to outweigh the public interest in maintaining the right to litigation privilege and legal advice privilege. The Ministers argued that it was in the public interest that they should be able to communicate with their legal advisers, fully and frankly, in confidence when preparing for and during court cases in order to be able to develop arguments, reach fully informed legal views, finalise their position in relation to legal points and generally defend their position robustly in an adversarial legal environment.
26. The Ministers noted that the litigation in question has led to significant re-evaluation of some of the content of the Named Person scheme and has raised issues that are still very much live and are currently being considered following the court case. They believed that it is clearly in the public interest that the Scottish Government, like any individual or organisation, can receive the most comprehensive and robust legal advice when preparing for and conducting litigation and dealing with the consequences of that litigation. The Ministers contended that it is in the public interest for that advice to remain confidential as its disclosure would have the effect of substantially prejudicing the Scottish Government’s ability to defend itself when subject to legal challenge by unfairly exposing internal legal exchanges to challenge.
The Commissioner’s conclusions are also worth noting.
38. In this case, the legal advice under consideration relates to legislation which affects every child (and parent) living in Scotland. Given this, it is clear that a large number of people would potentially be affected by the legal advice and the Commissioner is satisfied that this factor weighs in favour of disclosure in the public interest.
39. The Commissioner agrees with Mrs Scott that there is a strong public interest in the disclosure of information that would demonstrate the legal basis for the Scottish Government’s decision to defend a court case which incurred costs of some £500,000 of public funds. Furthermore, the Commissioner also agrees that there is a public interest in understanding why the Scottish Government contended that the 2014 Act was fully compliant with human rights legislation, when the Supreme Court took an opposing view.
40. The Commissioner has considered carefully the public interest arguments put forward by both parties. She accepts that there is a public interest in authorities being open to scrutiny and being accountable for their actions. The 2014 Act has been controversial and subject to significant public debate, and she considers that disclosing the advice would enable the general public to better understand the Scottish Government’s reasons and grounds for defending the court case. She accepts that disclosure of the legal advice obtained by the Scottish Government would contribute to transparency and accountability in understanding why the Scottish Government pursued its defence of a case which cost it (and the Scottish taxpayer) significant sums of money (while noting that the appeal was only partially successful, and that the Scottish Government successfully defended the appeal on other points).
42. The Commissioner is aware that the Scottish Government is currently establishing how to amend the 2014 Act to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling and that the legal advice that has been requested relates to a live issue. This suggests that the legal advice should be withheld.
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.
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.
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.
The lauded Highland Pathfinder pilot of the Scottish Government’s controversial Named Person scheme has been the subject of much criticism in recent days within the Highland region itself, so it was going to be interesting to see what those who live and work in the region’s second largest settlement thought about it.
Almost immediately, the team found people who worked in the public sector – teachers, social workers, care workers – who were all against the scheme, described this week by the region’s Deputy Council leader as “intrusive nonsense”. The team were given similar responses by the general public, with one man describing it as “sinister” and another saying: “They’ve got to decide whether they’re going to let parents be parents”.
One couple had decided to move from the city to the beautiful Highland town because they wanted to raise their children in the peace and quiet of a rural community. But they were very much against the idea of their children having a state guardian, who would constantly be scrutinising their parenting skills and noting down any failings.
One lady took a bunch of flyers to distribute around her own rural community which was great! If you’d like to help get the message out in your community, please get in touch with us at email@example.com
The team will be joined by some locals in Stornoway town centre this Saturday afternoon. If you live in Lewis, come and join them.
The weather was a bit ‘dreich’ on Saturday morning in Peterhead, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the volunteers who turned up to hand out flyers in the town centre. Thanks to all of them for coming along!
As with other parts of the country, the team found that many people are still completely unaware of the scheme. That just goes to show how important these Action Days are!
Time and time again, people could not believe that, come 31st August, every single child and young person in Scotland will have a state-appointed ‘Named Person’ responsible for their wellbeing. Reactions like “You’ve GOT to be joking!” were common, while one gentleman said: “My grandchildren have got parents, two sets of grandparents and aunts and uncles – there’s absolutely no need for a Named Person!” We think so too.
An entire family were happy to be photographed. Auntie had already signed the petition, but Mum, Dad and Gran were all happy to sign there and then. Thanks for your support folks!
A number of locals expressed their appreciation for what we were doing, for which the team were very grateful.
The NO2NP team are heading to the other side of the country this week, where they will host a roadshow event in Fort William on Thursday afternoon, with an Action Day in the town centre on Friday morning. If you live in the area, please come to one or both these events!
Following the successful roadshow event in the town last week, a team of local NO2NP-ers were out on Saturday morning to let people know about the dangers of the Named Person scheme.
Before the team had even set out, they encountered people around them who were opposed to the intrusive scheme. A GP who was visiting the town with her family, told them that when she tried to refer one of her child patients to CAMHS, she was told there had to be a case conference meeting with the Named Person first. Inevitably this delayed help for the child and usurped the GP’s professional judgment.
Out on the streets the team discovered that many people were unaware of the Government’s universal state guardian scheme for all children and young people under 18. There were some memorable quotes:-
“They’re doing away with the need for parents at all – it’s like Brave New World!”
“This won’t make things any better – they need to be focussing on the vulnerable children instead.”
“It’s just not right. People need to fight this.”
“Come on, how are teachers going to find the time to do this when they are off with stress and our kids are taught by supply teachers half the time?”
One man came out of work especially to sign the petition, while others regularly approached the team for flyers.
Several people signed the petition – in fact, only one person all day appeared to be in favour of the scheme and even he agreed it shouldn’t be compulsory.
So the message was clear: Crieff says “No to Named Persons!”
Our next Action Day is in Peterhead this Saturday, 11 June. If you live in the area, why not join us? If you’d like to do so or if you’d like to help the campaign generally, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Last month MSP Stewart Maxwell confidently stated during a Named Person debate in the Scottish Parliament that “the named person has no powers to compel parents or children to do anything without their consent”.
But we wonder if Mr Maxwell has ever read the Named Person legislation or the accompanying 90-page guidance… Because if he had, he would struggle to find much about parental consent…
Named Persons are given vast functions including “advising”, “informing” and “discussing” at their own discretion – without the need for parental consent.
Here’s what the Act itself actually says the Named Person’s functions include:
Parental consent is never mentioned in the Act. And it’s pretty clear that it’s up to Named Persons to decide when and how they carry out their functions.
Does Mr Maxwell still think that the Named Person has no powers to compel parents?
Let’s see what the Scottish Government’s Statutory Guidance says…
It’s accepted even by the Scottish Government that “wellbeing” is an extremely subjective term. Many parents have been asking what would happen if a parent disagrees with what the state thinks is right for their child. Where does that leave the parent?
The functions of the Named Person…continued:
No sign of the need for parental consent here… Can you spot any?
During the Judicial Review of the legislation last year the Scottish Government QC admitted that if a teenager discovered she was pregnant whilst in hospital the Named Person would definitely be informed, but he wasn’t sure about the parents.
Still think that “the named person has no powers to compel parents or children to do anything without their consent”, as Maxwell stated? Okay, let’s look at one more function of the Named Person…sharing a child’s personal data:
Still no sign of “parental consent” here… Not only does the Named Person not need to seek parental consent, it looks like the Named Person only needs to discuss matters with parents if they deem it ‘appropriate’.
Looks to us like Named Persons have plenty of powers which do not require parental consent.
On the penultimate Saturday before Christmas, most people are out buying their Christmas presents, but after a well-attended roadshow in nearby Prestwick on Tuesday night, a dedicated group of local NO2NP volunteers were out and about on Ayr’s High Street. Their enthusiasm knew no bounds and they weren’t going to let a bit of rain stop them, as they handed out NO2NP leaflets and encouraged shoppers to sign the online petition, which now stands at well over 16,000!
Our volunteers were encouraged to learn that a number of locals were not only aware of the campaign, but had already signed the petition – indeed, one lady who had done so asked for some flyers to give to her friends, so they could sign too!
Another lady who spoke to the team was involved in social work and she and many of her colleagues, as well as many teachers she knows, were all against the Named Person scheme.
One local shop owner expressed her thanks for what the NO2NP team is doing, while many busy shoppers promised to sign the petition when they got home out of the rain!
The latest NO2NP Action Day showed that, come rain or shine, our supporters are still happy to be out on the streets, armed if necessary with their NO2NP brollies, to let people know about this unpopular and unnecessary scheme – as one of our volunteers put it: “a state guardian for every child in Scotland”. Yet again, we found on Saturday that, once people know what the Named Person scheme is about, they are opposed to it.
The NO2NP Roadshow will be taking a break now over Christmas and New Year, but we have several more events and Action Days planned for 2016 – watch out for one near you!
Leading sociologist and supporter of the NO2NP campaign, Dr Stuart Waiton, has strongly criticised the Named Person scheme and the Scottish Government’s GIRFEC approach.
He cautioned that “every single professional who comes into contact with children is being trained to be suspicious of parents”.
“Rather than using their common sense, their professional judgment and their basic humanity to recognise problems they are being educated to be risk averse, to think ‘safety’, and danger, and to intervene in a family’s life based on minor issues”, he added.
Dr Waiton, a senior lecturer at Abertay University, raised concerns that “the potential for gross interference” by Named Persons was “extraordinary”, and could “destroy” conventional rights to family privacy because the legislation makes a blanket assumption that all parents need state support.
His comments came as MSPs debated the Named Person scheme in Holyrood yesterday in response to a Conservative motion opposing it. Labour expressed some reservations around implementation, but largely endorsed the Government’s approach.
Liz Smith MSP, the Conservative’s Spokesperson on Culture, Sport and Young People, made the case to oppose the scheme, saying some police officers “feared by making it compulsory for every child, it will be much less possible to direct sufficient attention to those who need it most”.
Read more from Dr Stuart Waiton:
Submission to the Education and Culture Committee
NAMED PERSON LAW ‘DEGRADES THE VERY MEANING OF PRIVACY’
TESS ARTICLE: “UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL”
Video: Four key trends in society which have driven the Named Person plans
The Guardian newspaper reports that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is laughing off ‘big sister’ criticisms of the Named Person scheme.
Sturgeon tweeted “LOL” in response to a cartoon and article in the Spectator magazine depicting her as ‘big sister’ and referring prominently to the Named Person scheme.
A spokesman for NO2NP said the Named Person scheme was a “massive infringement of civil liberties, human rights, and involves a huge amount of data sharing”.
He stated: “There are several glaring problems with the Named Person scheme which the Scottish Government has so far failed to address or even admit.
“It is a mandated intrusion into family life and the grounds for intervention are set at the alarmingly low level of ‘wellbeing’ rather than welfare.”
He added: “There is also the disturbing prospect that appointing a state guardian for every child will massively overburden the social care system, leading to vulnerable children being missed.
“Identifying at risk children is already like looking for a needle in a haystack – the answer to the problem cannot be to make the haystack bigger.”
The Guardian also reported on our NO2NP volunteers handing out campaign leaflets to delegates going into the SNP Conference in Aberdeen, where the First Minister is due to speak for a second time tomorrow afternoon.
Nicola Sturgeon laughs off ‘big sister’ criticism of named person scheme
The Guardian, 15 October 2015
Kids aged four will be asked if they can ride a bike under the Government’s latest attempts to measure ‘wellbeing’.
Officials will use this question as a way to monitor if parents are bringing up their children in line with the Government’s ‘wellbeing indicators’. Named Persons must ensure that parents are meeting the state’s GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) targets.
But whatever you may think about cycling, why is it the business of the Government to enquire whether your four-year-old can ride a bike?
While many children may enjoy riding their bike, others will prefer swimming or football.
A NO2NP spokesman commented: “What if the child is a great swimmer but can’t ride a bike? Parenting approaches are as unique as a fingerprint, and they have to be, because every child is different.”
He said: “This kind of rigid, indicator-based assessment of parenting is typical of the Named Person scheme’s tickbox approach.”
Anne-Marie O’Leary of parenting website Netmums said: “Children do things when they are ready and there is no right age to be able to ride a bike.”
In defence, Cycling Scotland’s Keith Irving said: “Cycling is an essential life skill that all children should have the opportunity to learn and enjoy at school as well as at home.”
NO2NP volunteers took to the streets of Inverness on Saturday to find out what local people thought of the much vaunted Highlands Named Person pilot scheme.
The team found that many people were completely unaware of the scheme and when they were told what it would entail, they couldn’t sign the online petition against it fast enough!
Others already knew about the Named Person and needed no convincing that it was a bad thing. One couple thanked the team for taking a public stand on the matter, while others said they would be letting their grown up sons and daughters know, so they could sign the petition too.
As a result of the Inverness Action Day, hundreds of flyers were given out and our online petition has now passed 14,000 signatures. Thank you to all the volunteers who have taken part in an Action Day so far. There will be many more opportunities coming up so keep a look out for events in your area.
NO2NP volunteers across Scotland have also been posting thousands of leaflets through letter boxes and spreading the word about the Named Person scheme in local areas. If you would like to get involved in the campaign by doing some door-to-door leafleting or visiting local parent groups with leaflets email email@example.com to request copies.
Schools, social workers and police will be able to access children’s confidential medical records in a new integrated database established by NHS Dumfries and Galloway.
The move, which renews fresh fears over data sharing, has been described by the health board as a “pioneering achievement”.
Graham Gault, General Manager ICT at NHS Dumfries and Galloway, said: “We now have a powerful and sophisticated tool to link children from records and datasets that use NHS numbers, social care numbers, police references, education references and any other type of identifier.
“We can now share relevant health information with partner organisations, where appropriate, using proper information governance protocols, so that the best decisions can be made, and the safest and most effective care delivered for children.”
NextGate, the US-based IT specialists who designed the database to fit with the Scottish Government’s ‘Getting it right for every child’ guidelines, said: “This project represents a major move forward in Scotland for delivering joined-up services. Population health relies on accurate, timely, and aggregated information.”
But Simon Calvert, spokesman for NO2NP, warned: “This is the Big Brother state writ large. Don’t these people realise how creepy it is to be boasting about how easy they’ve made it for officials to access highly sensitive data on children?
“This is typical bureaucrat-megalomania, focusing on making life easier for officials and forgetting that they are dealing with confidential information on real people.
“Thousands of officials will soon have easy access to children’s data from social services, police, education, housing and elsewhere. This just adds to people’s feeling that their parenting is being monitored.
“Who will be able to access this information? What will they use it for? People will want to know why the person assessing your housing application needs to know about your child’s confidential health problems or how well they’re doing at school?”
Scottish health board to share health data with partner organisations, digitalbydefaultnews.co.uk, 21 September 2015
Child record access fears
Scottish Sunday Express, 27 September 2015
A large group of NO2NP volunteers gathered in Glasgow City Centre on Saturday morning to raise the profile of the campaign and encourage people to sign the online petition.
Interest in the Action Day came from people of all ages, even some young couples who weren’t yet parents. Dozens were very happy to sign the online petition and promised to tell their friends and family about it too.
Time and time again, people remarked that they couldn’t understand why the Scottish Government would want to introduce such a scheme. Some said it would be completely unworkable, while others said it smacked of Big Brother and was more fitting for countries like China or North Korea.
It was very clear to the team that Glasgow Says No to the Named Persons!
The next Action Day will be in Inverness on Saturday 10th October. If you’d like to come along and get involved, do get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And do keep letting your friends know about the online petition at www.no2np.org!
NO2NP recently hit out at the amount of money which has been spent on the Getting It Right For Every Child programme, the foundation of the Named Person scheme.
The results of a freedom of information request made in the last few weeks revealed the details of the costs involved, and they were breathtaking.
A spokesman for the campaign, said: “The Government has been quick to criticise the lack of funds available to them during the current economic climate in crucially important areas like health and education as well as law and order.
“But they have seen fit to squander a staggering £61 million of public money on the Named Person scheme.”
This figure would be equivalent to funding 450 front line social workers or 370 front line police officers.
It is hard to comprehend that the Government thinks this ill thought-out and flawed scheme is of more value than hundreds of extra social workers and police officers which could have been funded with the Named Person and GIRFEC budget over a four-year period.
“Now, that is something which really would have helped vulnerable children”, said NO2NP spokesman, Simon Calvert.
“Instead, this country is being presented with nothing less than a huge white elephant which is taking money away from vulnerable children. Appointing a state guardian for every single child is quite simply money down the drain. It’s totally unnecessary for the vast majority of families who neither need nor want a state official for their children.”
While spending this money on Named Persons for every child and young person under 18 – and there are more than one million of them – there is a real risk that the most vulnerable, those who are most in need of help, will be overlooked amid the welter of useless confidential information about ordinary families generated by the Named Person.
The scheme may be a well-intentioned attempt to prevent children who may be in need of help from ‘slipping through the net’. However, that safety net will only be stretched to breaking point as a result of this policy, raising the prospect that genuine child protection cases will fall through the holes. The authorities already possess all the powers they require to deal with cases of neglect or abuse.
We say consign this project to the legislative dustbin before any more public money is wasted.
The large Salisbury Suite at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh was nearly filled to capacity on Tuesday morning for the first NO2NP Roadshow event since the summer break.
Dr Stuart Waiton of Abertay University in Dundee opened the meeting by saying that the autonomy of the family was being undermined by social policy across the board, with an overemphasis on “early intervention” by professionals to sort out children’s problems.
Liz Smith MSP then spoke about the huge mailbag she had received from people concerned about the scheme, which she says destroys the trust between families and professionals that is essential in bringing up a child.
She said that the scheme was “repugnant” and a “badly mistaken policy” that “diminishes resources”. The volume of support for the NO2NP campaign is growing all the time, with almost 12,000 people having now signed the petition. The appeal of the campaign “goes well beyond party politics” and the breadth of political views of those involved in it was “a good thing”.
She also pointed out that the bureaucracy of running the scheme would be enormous and too difficult to put into practice. The scheme has been “mis-sold” by the Government and the responses that concerned citizens have received have been “inaccurate” and “patronising”, she said. The Government, who are telling people how to live their lives, has not been shown in a good light, she added. In closing, Liz urged people to get involved, as it is “such an important campaign”.
Next up was Lesley Scott, Scottish representative for The Young ME Sufferers (TYMES) Trust.
She picked apart the three main arguments that have been used by the Scottish Government to justify the scheme:
1. “We’re doing all we can to help vulnerable children”
2. “We’re just formalising what we’ve been doing for ages”
3. “And Parents have asked for it.”
Lesley pointed out, firstly, that the word “vulnerable” does not appear anywhere in the legislation or the Government’s guidance and that their own QC admitted in the recent appeal case heard in the Inner House that every child is seen as potentially vulnerable. The corollary of this is that every parent is therefore viewed as potentially negligent or abusive. This will have a significant impact on how parents will be viewed and treated. If children, parents and associated adults do not agree with all of the Named Person’s views, then they will be treated as “non-engaging”: the balance has shifted dangerously in favour of the state.
The next argument – that local authorities are simply formalising what they have already been doing – has not been reflected in the attitudes of the professionals tasked with administering it, only a minority of whom think they currently have the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of how to provide it.
And the contention that parents asked for the scheme is misleading at best, as parents with disabled children in the Highland region asked for a single, voluntary point of contact for accessing services. But that is not what they have got with the legislation and any success in the Highland Pathfinder has been shown to be down to other causes than the GIRFEC approach.
Lesley concluded by saying that the Government’s “disjointed excuses are shown to be a smokescreen and the true purpose of the legislation comes into view; it is a transfer of authority from your family to the state – an assault on the autonomous family unit”.
After a compelling new campaign video was shown, independent social work consultant Maggie Mellon spoke about her opposition to the scheme. She said that “parents are responsible for children’s upbringing, not services”, and that it is a very easy thing for professionals to display prejudice, when they don’t have the full picture. Civil servants have driven through this legislation but they haven’t thought through how dangerous it will be. People thought that they were getting a single point of contact, but that’s not what the legislation says. It doesn’t give parents or children the right to be consulted, as the Named Person is to take action “where he or she considers it to be appropriate to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person”.
Commenting on the enormity of the universal scheme, Maggie remarked that “you can’t get all the sand on the beach through a little sieve”. A head teacher of a primary school isn’t going to have the time or the knowledge to explain your child’s needs to a range of professionals. Maggie said that she is against the Named Person scheme because “it’s wrong and it will cause damage”.
She said we should use the threat of compulsion far less than we do. She commented: “There’s too much compulsion and not enough compassion”. The Act moves the threshold from “at risk of significant harm” to “any concern about anything that might present a risk to a child’s wellbeing”. Instead of addressing the real needs of children, it is sinister surveillance. It’s not a point of contact for families to access services, she said, but a point for those services to access children. It’s as if the state is saying “We’re central, you’re peripheral”.
Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute finished the formal session by taking everyone through the Action Packs that had been prepared for the meeting, before the usual lively Q&A finished off the meeting.
The next stop for the NO2NP Roadshow will be Glasgow on Monday 14th September at the Couper Institute, 86 Clarkston Road at 7.30pm – hope to see you there!
It’s so important that as many people as possible get to hear about the dangers of the Named Person scheme and the damaging effect it will have on families in Scotland.
There are so many ways in which you can take action but here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Talk to parents you know about the scheme and encourage them to sign the petition.
- Join the conversation on social media or parent forums to raise awareness about what the scheme involves and why you oppose it. Don’t forget to use #NO2NP.
- Write to your local newspaper setting out the key talking points – our ‘11 Reasons’ leaflet will help you.
- Door-to-door leafleting is a fantastic way to spread the word in your area. Just email email@example.com with the streets you plan to cover, the number of leaflets you need and the address we should send them to.
- Look out for a NO2NP Action Day near you and volunteer to be part of a street team raising awareness of the Named Person scheme.
Together we can have an even bigger impact and show the politicians how the ordinary people of Scotland really feel about the Named Person scheme.
The Scottish Government has released a video showing its highlights of the Fairer Scotland ‘conversations’. The Government’s report, however, sounds somewhat different to what has been reported elsewhere. (more…)
Around sixty locals turned out for the latest stop in Scottish Government Minister Alex Neil’s summer tour in Kilmarnock on Thursday. The lunchtime event was held in the town’s Centrestage Theatre and, in keeping with the venue, the opening item was a medley of traditional Scottish songs sung by a local male voice choir – not at all what those who had gathered were expecting.
The bemused audience were further surprised when it became clear that Mr Neil would not be present for the “conversation” that was to take place during the meeting, but instead, local individuals noted questions from each table.
Alex Neil returned after about 40 minutes to hear from each table the major concerns people had about community life in Scotland and what the Scottish government could do better. A retired businessman referred Mr Neil to the Scottish government’s publication, Creating A Fairer Scotland – What Matters To You? – a copy of which had been made available to everyone. The publication states: “The vast majority of children starting primary school don’t show any signs of social, emotional or behavioural difficulties” and the businessman wanted to know why, given that frank admission, the Scottish government has appointed a guardian for every single child and young person until they are 18.
Mr Neil explained that the scheme was intended to identify the many children he claims have been abused but have not yet been identified (thereby treating every parent as a potential child abuser) and he believed parents would be consulted on who their child’s Named Person was going to be (even though there is nothing at all said about this in either the Act or the draft guidance). The Minister confirmed when pressed that there would definitely be a review of the legislation within a year or two of its coming into force in August 2016.
At the end of the event, Mr Neil did finally address all those gathered and highlighted the many concerns he had heard raised about the Named Person scheme. He indicated that these would be “fed in” to the other feedback they were receiving from around the country and would hopefully be addressed in the coming days.
The meeting was finished with a rendition by some local teenagers of the song from the Joseph musical Any Dream Will Do, but perhaps there should be added to the title “provided your Named Person considers it promotes your wellbeing”.
It was revealed at the weekend that Scotland’s police force is concerned that children could be the victim of “further criminal acts” caused by “significant time delay” created by the extra layers of unwieldy bureaucracy linked to the Named Person proposals.
A NO2NP spokesman said a ministerial public statement is required “as soon as possible” to explain how many youngsters have been left in danger and for how long.
The Police Scotland warning is contained in an official police submission on the guidance to how the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will operate.
The submission states: “A potential risk has been identified that ‘wellbeing concern’ assessments are being carried out by a range of practitioners from organisations when there is actual information that a child has or is the victim of abuse and or neglect deemed as criminal acts.
And it continues: “This has resulted in a time delay, at times significant, during which time the children (or other children) are exposed to the potential of further criminal acts and the potential for evidential opportunities to be lost or compromised. Specific examples can be provided if required.”
The NO2NP spokesman said: “This submission essentially discredits the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”
He added: “The allegations made by Police Scotland could not be more serious. Rather than speeding up help for abused and neglected children, the extra layers of bureaucracy significantly delayed the reporting of criminal acts against the youngsters.
“‘Wellbeing’ assessments, which are at the heart of the entire Named Person scheme, have apparently caused delays that allowed abused children to be exposed to yet more abuse.
“Named Persons, unlike social workers, are not experts in handling child abuse cases. It is unfair on teachers and health visitors to burden them with this responsibility. This statement from the police shows that involving non-experts in serious cases of abuse and neglect risks losing key evidence, allowing child abusers to avoid justice.
“This damning piece of new evidence gives the lie to the Government’s main defence for the Named Person scheme. The incompetent Named Person policy will not protect abused and neglected children – it will expose them to even more danger.
He continued: “The police offered the Government specific examples where following the Named Person policy actually delayed reports of child abuse and neglect. The public must be told immediately if the Government has asked for that evidence and if not, why not.
“The minister must make a public statement at the earliest possible opportunity about any and all cases where Named Person pilot schemes have resulted in delays reporting child abuse and neglect.
“This latest shocking development confirms that the Named Person policy is going to be a disaster: a disaster for abused and neglected children and a disaster for good Scottish families.
“The time has come for the Government to admit it has made a huge mistake and scrap the whole scheme.
The NO2NP spokesman added: “The Government will point to the fact that Police Scotland say they support the Named Person scheme. But what else are they going to say? The police can’t lobby against a key government policy. But they have essentially discredited the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”
Police warnings over state guardians, Scottish Sunday Express, 19 July 2015
Police abuse warning over SNP state guardian plan, Scottish Sunday Telegraph, 19 July 2015
Police Scotland submission, 2015 (See page 2)
A senior member of the SNP Government has come face to face with critics of the Named Person plans. (more…)
Writing in the Sunday Express the Scottish Conservative Spokeswoman for Young People has warned that the Scottish Government’s Named Person plans “will not work”.
Liz Smith MSP said many parents and professionals are likening it to “the totalitarian imagery in George Orwell’s famous book, 1984”.
She acknowledged the Scottish Government’s motivation to tackle “appalling abuse which is suffered by some children”, but asserted that “you do not do that by insisting that all children between the ages of zero and 18 have a state guardian”, and branded the policy “both sinister and hugely misguided”.
The article stated: “For a start, what is implicit in this proposal to have a Named Person for every child is the assumption that the state, rather than parents and families, has the primary obligation to look after children. That is entirely the wrong way round.
“If there are thousands of parents across Scotland doing a thoroughly good job – and there are – then what right does the Scottish Government have to tell them that the state knows better? What on earth is the point of insisting that these families have a Named Person on the same basis as those families who face genuine problems? I do not believe that anyone can work out the logic of this thinking.”
She continued: “Secondly, by insisting every child has a Named Person, the Scottish Government will, by definition, dilute the resources which are available to help those children in genuine need. Is the Scottish Government really suggesting that an 18-year-old couple who are very successfully bringing up a toddler are in need of three Named Persons when there are some children out there who desperately need our help?
“Little wonder that local authorities, who are already under considerable financial pressure, are throwing up their hands in horror at what this might mean for them”, she declared.
The MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife noted that the recent controversial Hampden event, where organisers were accused of bribing parents to turn up, was a recognition that the policy was in “big trouble” and an attempt to persuade parents that there was nothing to worry about.
“So it is little wonder that large numbers of parents are starting to rebel and those who are supposed to operate and oversee the policy are voicing serious concerns. Whether it is the police, our lawyers, groups of teachers or health visitors, a number of professional bodies have said that they don’t think the scheme can really work in practice.
“They say it will be impossible to avoid controversial sharing of confidential data and confusion over the lines of family responsibilities.”
Suggesting that better options were possible, she concluded: “The Named Person policy is intrusive, unnecessary and the accompanying guidance is nothing more than bureaucratic gobbledygook.
“Perhaps this is why some MSPs, who initially backed the legislation, are now coming out of the woodwork, having second thoughts because they now understand the implications of this terrible legislation.
“They can see the growing fury amongst parents who will simply not accept that they need to be told how to bring up their own children and they can recognise the alarm bells amongst professional organisations.
“The best thing the Scottish Government can do now is scrap it all together – before George Orwell’s famous book becomes a reality.”
Source: Scottish Sunday Express, 12 July 2015
Hugh Henry MSP for Renfrewshire South has become the latest voice to question the controversial Named Person scheme.
Henry says he is concerned about overburdening schools which are not set up to take the extra workload, as well as the financial implications for councils.
Henry said: “I do have concerns about the way in which the SNP government is introducing the Named Persons Policy.
“There could be significant financial implications for councils and I am worried that children that have no need for a named person will have one imposed upon them.
He added: “I fail to see how in large schools staff will have sufficient time or knowledge to make this work properly.
“The Scottish Government should listen to parents and others who are calling for a rethink,” urged Henry.
His comments are just the latest in a mounting chorus of criticism. In recent weeks concerns have been expressed by Police Scotland, EIS (the country’s largest teaching union), children’s panel members, sociologists, activists of all parties and newspaper editors.
This is on top of the Law Society, the Faculty of Advocates, Child Clan Law, the Scottish Association of Social Workers, the British Association of Adoption and Fostering, the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council and many others who have been expressing concerns for some time.
A recent study into child protection strategies revealed that a rise in referrals did not result in a matching rise in detected cases of child abuse.
Researchers from Bristol Law School at the University of the West of England (UWE) said they found a “311 percent increase in referrals over the 22 years studied, but no corresponding increase in the detection of child abuse”.
A UWE press release stated: “The results raise questions about the policy towards year on year increased referrals and the resultant pressure on social workers and Children’s Services Departments to make decisions about which cases should continue onto assessment and beyond, and which should not.”
One of the researchers, Dr Lauren Devine, said: “We can see that the mixing of referrals for support services with referrals for suspected child abuse is problematic. We recommend fewer low-level assessments and wider availability of universal support services.”
The evidence briefing, entitled ‘Child protection and assessment’, stated: “Assessment can cause significant stress for affected families and difficulties for social workers, in cases of wrong decisions and failure to uncover serious child abuse.”
It continued: “Policies have tended towards over-referral and assessment, in an attempt to reduce the number of cases that are missed.”
But according to the research, the growth in referrals has not seen a similar increase in the number of child abuse cases detected.
Commenting on the figures from the 22-year study of referrals in England, the evidence briefing explained: “The data shows that the vast majority of families simply need support services – and many families do not even reach the support threshold.
“There is increased pressure on agencies to refer children, but it’s not properly recognised by professionals working with families or by policymakers that the consequences for families of the referral can be negative.”
The researchers made a number of recommendations, including: “The assessment of need for early intervention should be a simplified, consensual and less intrusive process, unless there are clear grounds for suspecting child abuse.”
Even those supporting the Named Person scheme are failing to coherently answer basic queries about the plans.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Alan Small, Chair of Fife Child Protection Committee, faced questions from presenter Kaye Adams about the catch-all, intrusive nature of the legislation.
Attempting to defend the scheme, Small said people understand that “at times” families need somebody to turn to, but Adams pointed out that it is unclear to what extent the Named Person will have the power or inclination to interfere or pry into family life.
When asked if a parent can hang up the phone on the Named Person and say they’re not interested, Small responded with an unconvincing “No. Er… Yes and No”. Hesitating, he said “it all needs to be taken into context with the needs of the child”.
This caused Adams to ask: “But who decides the needs of the child?”
To which Small asserted that it would be public services and the Named Person who decide.
Adams continued to probe asking: “And where’s the parent in that?”
Avoiding the question, Small instead spoke about “proportionality”, which he says is an important word to be used when discussing the scheme, but he was unable to explain what the word actually meant when pressed by Adams.
Adams said: “Define for me proportionality.”
Small replied: “I actually don’t think there is a definition suitable for proportionality… er… proportionality is fairly well understood in public services…”
A columnist for the Scottish Daily mail has written extensively on why the Named Person plans are unwise, unlawful and unfounded.
John MacLeod said: “Many fear that the named person could have too much power. Others wonder about implications under the Data Protection Act or the terms of confidence. How much might lawfully be kept from parents?”
He continued: “just one of the details that makes the named persons scheme such thoroughly bad law is how it ensnares every child in the country, not just those already known to be at risk or of which, in that weasel term, ‘social services are aware’.
“Indeed, a strong argument in itself against the plan is how it will dangerously overstretch public resources and officials: that truly vulnerable, seriously abused youngsters will be overlooked amid a tsunami of moans.”
MacLeod also referred to a similar programme to Named Person which was launched on the Isle of Man in 2010 where, “the world and his wife were invited to report even the slightest concern to children’s social care”.
He noted that: “It rapidly grew hard to retain or recruit staff as they buckled under a preposterous new workload. Families, meanwhile, resented needless intervention.
“A Tynwald committee in time pronounced that over-referral threatens the protection of children at significant risk of harm because of the difficulty of finding a needle in such a large haystack.”
The columnist also drew attention to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which “asserts that citizens have a right to a “private and family life… the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”.
He added: “By its very enacting, the new law undermines parental authority and the privacy of the home – to say nothing of clear EU law on data confidentiality and how freely sensitive information may be passed around the public sector.”
“The overwhelming majority of Scotland’s carers and parents do a perfectly good job of raising their children and the Scottish Government’s ongoing insistence that ‘the new scheme is very little different to what happens already’ immediately begs the question: why change it?”
MacLeod concluded that, “untold Scottish Government energy has been vested in this chilling new scheme – founded on the premise that you, as parents, may well be evil or at least grossly incompetent; that you must be monitored in time for the state to stop you.”
Sociologist and Scotsman columnist Tiffany Jenkin has called for the Named Person scheme to be scrapped.
Writing in a comment piece for the Scotsman over the weekend, she said: “The named person scheme is an unprecedented and damaging intervention into family life that will direct help away from those most in need. It should be scrapped.”
She said: “Lumping parental responsibilities on state agencies will mitigate against children’s interests being served”.
Remarking on the process of childrearing, she said: “Most parents raise their children the same way: according to their own beliefs, hopes and dreams, with all the idiosyncrasies that accompany them, under the pressured, day-to-day realities of their busy lives – but they all do it with love. The nature of domestic life is that it is messy, but even when people get things a little wrong, and that’s not hard, everyone is trying to do their best.”
Jenkins asserted: “What everyone needs is to be allowed to get on with it. To be trusted to do a reasonable job, and not blamed for problems that are nothing, or not much, to do with childrearing.”
But she says this, “it would seem, is impossible”
She explained that, “in the last few decades, the family and the early years of a child’s life have been identified, in political circles, as the breeding ground for social problems. The family is fingered as the place where everything goes wrong: poor educational attainment, obesity, joblessness, stress, addiction, criminality, if not intentionally so, then accidentally so, according to policymakers.”
Jenkins warned: “Policymakers pose early intervention into a child’s life as the solution to any problem that might arise later. It is a flawed approach that has negative consequences: social solutions to such problems are neglected – structural issues are ignored; and the family has become the focus of intervention, intervention that seems to know no end.”
She said the assumptions behind this kind of approach “will cause more harm than good”.
Commenting on the Named Person scheme, she warned: “So every single child will have a named person – someone who is not their mum or dad, a member of their extended family, or in their circle of friends – to watch over them, and watch over their parents.
Jenkins highlighted: “Up until this scheme, professionals involved in children’s lives had to have a reason to be there: education, health or serious concerns about abuse. Up until this law, state intervention required justification – no longer is this the case.”
Source: Tiffany Jenkins: Named person law is troubling, The Scotsman, 03 July 2015
Herald Scotland social affairs correspondent, Stephen Naysmith, has described the Named Person scheme as “a presentational fiasco”.
Naysmith highlights the Government’s failure to answer simple questions such as: “Will the scheme divert resources away from those who need them most? What happens if a named person thinks a child needs intervention but social workers think there is no need (or resources)? How will it help, teachers and health visitors already look out for children in their care?”
He stresses that “not being able to explain – clearly – why a universal named person scheme will be able to help families better or sooner than existing arrangements has been a disaster.”
Naysmith concluded: “Maybe the legislation is bad to the bone, or maybe it just needs to be better communicated. But ministers’ current favoured explanation – “you never know when someone’s going to need help” – just doesn’t cut it.”
He also commented on the recently revealed consultation responses to the Government’s guidance on how the Named Person scheme would work in practice.
Naysmith said: “The report on the Government’s guidelines was generous to a fault. For example it found 38% of organisations said examples in the guidance hadn’t been helpful, while 63% had. This is recorded as ‘in general, organisations found the examples… helpful’.
“Yet opaque jargon and a lack of detail have left the public suspicious. Even organisations repeatedly told researchers the guidance was complex, repetitive and left them none the wiser.”
Source: Named persons turning into a PR disaster for ministers, Herald Scotland, 06 July 2015
A Children’s Panel Member in Falkirk, which has been operating the ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’ (GIRFEC) approach for some time, has written to The Scotsman criticising the Named Person plans.
“My objections are as stated by many others, in the area of unnecessary state intervention into family life”, wrote David Donaldson.
He continued: “On a practical note, most government department’s administration is slow moving and woefully inefficient, with the obvious recent example of the police being unable to indicate numbers of stop and searches and blaming it on a “clunky’ computer.
“What chance, therefore, is there of an effective system of monitoring every child in Scotland up to the age of 18?
Donaldson raised concern that families in crisis, which “require a speedy, effective response from the relevant services”, will fall into the “black hole” of Government administration.
He said: “At present, Children’s Hearings receive reports from and attendance by Social Services, health visitors, and teachers, along with many other organisations such as Barnardo’s and Spark of Genius, as well as local ¬authority intensive crisis services.
“Many of these people who will be ‘Named Persons’ are already actively involved with families and doing excellent work. Families in crisis require a speedy, effective response from the relevant services but there is the real likelihood they will fall into the “black hole” that will be Government administration.
He asserted: “We do not need GIRFEC but what we do need is ‘Get It Right For Every Vulnerable Child’ and there are, unfortunately, still too many of them.
“If the Scottish Government has £40 million to invest it would be much better spent in bolstering the existing services which are often overstretched and swimming against the tide”.
Source: Scotsman Letters: Guard against ‘named person’ notion, The Scotsman, 06 July 2015
In a comment piece, the editor for the Scottish Daily Telegraph, Alan Cochrane, added his voice to criticism of the Named Person scheme.
Referring to the plans, Cochrane said that the Scottish Government is “making a rod for its own back”.
“That it deserves a caning there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever”, he added.
He continued: “This is, arguably, one of the most unpopular measures I can ever remember any government seeking to impose on its citizens – so much so that it is not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that it risks generating a massive level of civil disobedience in that many parents will simply refuse to comply with what’s about to be implemented.”
Cochrane went on to criticise supporters of the Named Person scheme who write off parental concerns as “pure scare-mongering”.
He said “that is unlikely to reassure many parents who object to the idea that some outside party, no matter their qualifications or good intentions, can have a say on the upbringing of their children”.
He described the wide reaching plans as an example of “wrong-headed universality when what’s needed is specific and targeted action to protect those children who are most at risk”.
Cochrane said that he suspects First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will soon have to “take a direct interest” in the plans.
He concluded: “If she’s wise, she’ll cut her losses consign it straight to the waste bin.”
Pressure has been mounting on the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme this week, with a succession of media stories reporting serious concerns about the plans.
Teachers worry about increased workload as named person for pupils
Herald Scotland, 03 July 2015
Minister falters over SNP “state snoopers” plan
Scottish Daily Mail, 03 July 2015
Child plan could make risk harder to spot, police warn
The Times, 03 July 2015
Scottish Government under pressure over ‘state guardian’ plan
Scottish Daily Telegraph, 02 July 2015
Ken Macintosh demands review of Named Person plans
The Scotsman, 02 July 2015
Police Scotland criticise SNP Named Person plans
The Scotsman, 02 July 2015
Outrage over £100k PR bill to promote ‘state snoopers’
Scottish Daily Mail, 01 July 2015
Confusion over plans to appoint ‘named person’ for every child in Scotland
Herald Scotland, 01 July 2015
Herald View — Getting it right for youngsters
Herald Scotland, 01 July 2015
Named person plans clarity sought
Press and Journal, 01 July 2015
Listen: Callers flood BBC with opposition to Named Person plans
No2NP, 03 July 2015
Callers have inundated the BBC with opposition to the Named Person scheme, as the Government is criticised for not knowing the reality of its own proposals.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert and Lesley Scott of ME children’s charity TYMES Trust – a supporter of NO2NP – also spoke out on BBC Radio Scotland on Thursday.
One caller told Kaye Adams that the scheme would undermine the family and “smacks of Big Brother”.
In the words of another concerned caller, if finding vulnerable children is like looking for a needle in a haystack, the Named Person plans are like making the haystack bigger.
The fact that parents will have no choice as to whether their children have a Named Person was highlighted by yet another caller.
The Daily Mail criticised Fiona McLeod’s appearance on the show, saying she “failed to answer simple questions” about the plans.
Speaking after the programme, a spokesman for NO2NP said: “It was striking that the scheme the Minister was defending is not the same as the scheme her Government has actually legislated for.
“She thinks the Named Person is just someone parents and kids can ask for help.
“But the Named Person is legally empowered to monitor parents and children, to share their confidential data, and to put services in place, all without parental consent and even in defiance of parental wishes.
“The Government actually put out a leaflet for parents saying the Named Person is there to monitor children’s happiness.
“It said this means the Named Person will check ‘Your child gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV’, ‘You trust your child to do the right thing’. This is an outrageous invasion of private family life.
“If you give a government official the duties of a parent, they will act like a parent. They will escalate issues that should be left to parents.
“Social workers desks are going to be overflowing with reports from Named Persons of all kinds of tittle tattle that should be beneath their notice.
“That means children who are neglected or abused are going to be even more likely to be overlooked because social services are going to be overwhelmed with Named Person reports about kids who weren’t allowed to watch their favourite TV programme.”
Teachers, who are due to become Named Persons for their pupils, have voiced concerns about the increased workload the scheme will bring.
Herald Scotland reported a letter it had seen from the Scottish Government asking schools if their “existing on-call arrangements outside term time for senior staff could ensure the ‘continuity’ of the named person service”.
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.
An EIS spokeswoman said: “While we await the publication of final statutory guidance on the role of the named person which comes into effect in August 2016, there is the problem that in schools across the country, different things are being said about how the named person service will operate. Teachers are becoming increasingly concerned about the demands likely to be made of them which will have implications for workload and potentially for conditions of service.
“The level of support the named person will be expected to provide is not yet clear and may vary greatly from case to case. For this reason, the default position should not be assumed that a school should always be expected to provide the named person irrespective of its capacity and resources.”
NO2NP spokesman, Simon Calvert, said: “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.”
Ken Macintosh MSP, who is a father of six, says the Named Person scheme will put the most vulnerable children at further risk.
Adding his voice to mounting criticism of the legislation Macintosh said the scheme will make it “harder” to help children who are most vulnerable.
“My biggest worry is that this measure will take the focus of social workers and other practitioners away from at-risk children, which will ultimately make it harder to monitor and support those who really do need this kind of involvement”, said Macintosh, who is a Scottish Labour Leadership candidate.
“I am certainly not going to lay claim to being a perfect parent, but is this really the best use of taxpayers’ money and teachers’ time?
He added: “The national news is filled too often by stories of neglect and abuse, and the all too horrific consequences with children dying at the hands of their own parents.
“At the same time, it is difficult to see how appointing a Named Person to look after for example each of my six children will do anything to improve child protection or to prevent such deaths occurring again.
“At the very least we need to clarify what this additional duty as a Named Person will mean.”
Source: Ken Macintosh demands review of Named Person plans, 02 July 2015
Scotland’s national police force has warned about a “lack of clarity” in the Named Person plans and highlighted complications surrounding the sharing of sensitive information.
Police Scotland said the new law would also have “cost implications” and raised fears about the forces capacity to cope with the demands of overseeing the scheme.
Chief Superintendent Alan Waddell, one of the forces most senior police officers, raised the concerns in a formal submission to the Scottish Police Authority’s corporate risk register.
Waddell said there may not be “efficient or secure systems” in place to “manage wellbeing concerns” and also warned that such “significant change for all authorities including Police Scotland” could make it harder to identify at risk children.
He added that Police Scotland’s “confidence and reputation may be negatively impacted” due to the lack of clarity about what the force’s role would be in presiding over the scheme.
Waddell said: “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 PSoS [Police Scotland] can support this legislative change.”
Commenting on the issue of sharing of sensitive information he said: “Police Scotland does not currently have a consistent process on how such risk and concerns are identified, triaged managed and shared.
“In the absence of a national functioning Named Person Service, there is a concern that partners do not have efficient or secure systems in place to receive and manage such notifications.”
Waddell also highlighted the inconsistency that youngsters will have Named Persons until they are 18, but then many will be dealt with by adult courts as opposed to the children’s hearing system.
Waddell said: “This is a significant change for all authorities, including PS and requires a review of all interdependent policies and processes which impact/refer to children and young people to ensure cognisance of legislative change.”
The officer leading on public protection issues, Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, stressed that the force did not oppose the legislation and that they were looking at ways of overcoming complications detailed in the risk register.
NO2NP supporter, Liz Smith MSP, said the intervention from Police Scotland showed the force was “very sceptical” about the Named Person scheme.
She said it was extremely concerning and telling that “the very organisations who are supposed to make the policy work are now very sceptical that it can work in practice”.
“It’s just another example of why the Named Person nonsense which is peddled by the Scottish Government flies in the face of common sense.
“It is very clear now that the SNP scheme lacks guidance and showcases just how sinister the policy is with the named person having too much power.”
Police highlight ‘concerns’ over how to implement SNPs controversial Named Persons scheme, 02 July 2015
Police Scotland criticise SNP Named Person plans, 02 July 2015
An editorial in a newspaper that supports the Named Person scheme has expressed concerns about the plans and called on the Scottish Government to revisit the threshold for the Named Person.
In a leader comment accompanying a front page article, Herald Scotland concluded: “Above all the change in the threshold for intervention from the more appropriate “risk of serious harm” to the vague “concern over welfare” should be reconsidered.
The paper said it had consistently supported the Named Person scheme “but as always with well-intended laws the devil lies in the detail or, more usually, the legislative guidelines”.
In the editorial it said “we report with concern today the findings which show that the consultation over the guidelines issued on the legislation shows that even among the organisations directly involved only 55% describe these as clear”.
It stated: “Among health boards, royal colleges, local authorities and third sector bodies, almost half do not believe the guidelines are adequate. The issues are not minor – clarity over the named person (NP) role, around when parents can be excluded from decisions, what happens when the relationship between the NP and family breaks down, these are all big questions.
The paper also said there had been a “failure to clarify the terms of intervention”, pointed out “pragmatic concerns” such as the extra workload on “already hard-pressed health visitors and head teachers”, and raised questions about human rights concerns for parents.
NO2NP spokesman said the consultation responses indicated the growing strength of public opinion against the proposals and added:
“The fact is, when the public get a chance to have their say about the Named Person, it becomes very clear they don’t like it. Parents hijacked the recent government PR event at Hampden and hammered civil servants with awkward questions about the Named Person. Now it looks like parents have hijacked this consultation to start a fight back against the Named Person scheme. On some questions, these individuals are almost unanimous in their disagreement with the Government. The Government analysis tries to sweep these figures under the rug but there is not getting away from it: the public do not like the Named Person.
“What is clear from the consultation is that people are afraid. Afraid of unnecessary and unwarranted breaches of their family privacy. Afraid the Named Person will be unaccountable. The Government analysis countenances “clarifying the circumstances” in which the Named Person can “exclude” parents from decision making. We are not talking about ‘at risk’ children where, of course, social services can make decisions over the heads of abusive or neglectful parents. No. The job of the Named Person is to monitor and enforce children’s happiness according to a Government checklist. The official information leaflet for parents says the Named Person can intervene in decisions about decorating a child’s bedroom or what they watch on TV. Is that the kind of decision from which parents might be “excluded”?
“And how can the Government still talk as if there is any scope for an “opt out” when their own lawyer told the Court of Session that allowing families to opt out would “defeat the purpose of the scheme”. There is no opt out in the legislation so how can there be one in the guidance?
“The Government document repeatedly highlights ‘organisational’ responses and ignores members of the public in order to scrape together 55% support for their Named Person guidance. But 98% of responses from individuals opposed it. Governments are infamous for trying to spin statistics but this is shocking.
Herald View — Getting it right for youngsters
The Scottish Daily Mail has revealed that the Scottish Government spent more than £100,000 on PR for the Named Person plans in recent weeks.
Taxpayers have paid the price for a series of events designed to promote the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) scheme.
Around 600 people attended three regional events in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth, and the GETLive event at Hampden, where parents received £25 gift vouchers, as well as travel costs and catering.
A NO2NP spokesman described the move as a “fortune at a time of grim austerity”.
He added: “It’s an absolute outrage a government which is pleading poverty… can find this eye-watering amount of public funds to spend on PR for their own unpopular policy of state guardians.”
Around ninety parents, children and young people gathered at Hampden Park in Glasgow last Saturday to hear the Scottish government explain what their ‘named person’ scheme is all about.
The wheels appear to have fallen off the PR wagon though, as parent after parent took Phil Raines, Head of the Scottish Government’s Child Protection Policy Team, by surprise with their ‘off-message’ feedback.
• Why had the Government ploughed ahead with this scheme given the opposition?
• Why there had been no consultations with parents before now?
• Why was Highland Council‘s Bill Alexander’s word accepted on the success of the Pathfinder, when it had clearly not worked for many?
To his credit, Mr Raines accepted they had got it wrong and there was a lot more they need to think about. But if he thought his attempt to dress up GIRFEC as being about support, not intervention (although the concept of “early intervention” is referred to frequently in the Government’s draft guidance), would put parent’s minds at rest, he was mistaken – the questions kept coming.
• How are the professionals involved going to be trained?
• How will they be taught to work together across agencies using a common language, particularly when they are currently so bad at it?
They raised the issue of too many people being involved in sharing information and pointed out that this would only get worse when the legislation comes into force next year. (No comment from Phil Raines at this point, but he was seen taking copious notes.)
Further questions were asked about the funding of the scheme and managing complaints.
• How will it be maintained?
• Where is the money coming from now? Where will it come from in the future?
But there was no action plan for the future in terms of funding – not even a plan for a plan!
• How will a Named Person and any complaints against them be reviewed and monitored and who will do the monitoring?
• Who will train the monitors?
• Where do families fit in when there is a breakdown between the monitor and the Named Person?
Lots of good questions, but no answers except: “we have to re-think; we have realised it’s a larger issue than we had thought”.
But these determined parents weren’t finished yet.
They insisted that no local authority should launch or roll-out any aspect of the scheme on their own timetable. There must be only one launch date, the programmes already being rolled out by authorities such as Perth & Kinross and Forth Valley, must be pushed back. Everyone must stop the roll out until parental agreement has been reached – it can’t be launched before that.
By this time the ‘ideas’ board at the front had so many post-it notes on it, they were falling off! No wonder it will be three months or more before they write all this up for the participants.
Next it was the turn of the GIRFEC Guide, distributed to delegates before the event, to get short shrift. You may recall from a previous NO2NP blog that this is the information pack which stated that the named person would ensure that children have “what they need to have a good life”, including a say in how their bedroom is decorated and what they watch on TV.
Several parents were extremely angry as they pointed out that the illustration for a ‘safe place’ in the guide of a modern, semi-detached two-storey home did not reflect the reality for many. Was the Government saying that those parents who brought up their children on the 14th floor of a tower block were not providing a safe place for their children?
How, they asked, could such a broad statement about what a ‘safe’ place was go out to parents? How will a named person be expected to judge a family as being in a ‘safe’ place? How realistic is it to define ‘safe’ or ‘happy’ or ‘feel good’ anyway. Answer? ‘We’ll go back and look at the imaging being used’. In other words – we’ll do some window dressing rather than sort out the real problem.
And that was the recurring theme. At the end of the day parents were left with the clear impression that when it comes to GIRFEC there are plenty of questions but precious little in the way of answers.
The Arran Suite at the Holiday Inn, East Kilbride, was filled to capacity for the latest NO2NP Roadshow event before the summer break.
Community paediatrician Dr Jenny Cunningham told those gathered that concerns about the scheme were far more than questioning a different health model or budgeting constraints: it is about scrutinising families and undermining parental autonomy, which is the basis for a democratic society, she said.
She went on to explain that the role of the community paediatrician has been redefined by this legislation. While previously 80% of her work was about various disabilities in children, and only 20% about vulnerable children, now 70-80% of her work has to do with assessing vulnerability through the SHANARRI ‘wellbeing’ indicators.
SHANARRI stands for; safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.
She finished by saying that she and many of her colleagues were very concerned about the new obligation to share confidential information.
Next up was Lesley Scott of TYMES Trust, who said she had watched a video on South Lanarkshire Council’s website about young children and the importance of good attachment. Yet nothing was said about parents and children or families.
Lesley went on to explain – and display – the 13 pages of “outcome signifiers” to wellbeing that the University of Edinburgh had drawn up. South Lanarkshire Council had also produced 398 pages of guidance for named persons and Lesley queried whether everyone would interpret it the same way. The guidance estimates that 20-30% of children and young people will require additional input from state agencies.
Lesley expressed her concern that there is no facility for parents or children to disagree with the Named Person’s professional assessment of what is “needed” and parents will have no control over the ever-changing standard of parenting to which they will be held.
There was a very lively and extended Q&A, where several people questioned whether Named Persons knew anything about the real world of parenting, especially when some of them may have no children of their own.
The NO2NP Roadshow will be taking a break for a few weeks over the summer, but do watch out for further events we have planned for later in the year!
In the meantime, a big thank you to everyone who has come to these Roadshows – please continue to tell your friends about the campaign and encourage them to sign the petition.
Parents will be told at a training day today that their children will be monitored by state officials who will “check every child has what they need to have a good life”.
Organisers behind the ‘GetLive GIRFEC Event For Parents’ were accused of bribing parents into supporting the Named Person scheme when it was revealed they were offering £25 vouchers and free travel and refreshments, along with free childcare, to attend the event.
In a leaflet, ‘An Easy Read Guide To… Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC)’, sent to delegates ahead of today’s event, the state benchmark of a “good life” is set out for parents in detail.
GIRFEC is the policy behind the Named Person scheme.
Explaining its SHANARRI “wellbeing” indicators, the booklet tells parents there are “8 things every child needs to have a good life”.
SHANARRI stands for; safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.
The leaflet instructs parents about what they should and should not do in order to fulfil these Government parenting standards. It makes clear that the job of the Named Person – and other officials like social workers and doctors – is to check parents are complying with these standards.
It states: “People who work with your child will check…”
– “Your child gets praise when they do well”
– “Your child does activities they like to do”
– “Your child gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV”
– “You trust your child to do the right thing”
– “Your child can be part of a group like Scouts, Brownies or a football group if they want to”
The leaflet also says state officials will check which people are around your child, where your child lives and what is going on in your child’s life. They will even “think about what is good about your child’s environment”, and “think about what could be better”.
A spokesman for NO2NP said: “We have warned all along that the Named Person scheme would undermine parents’ responsibility for their own children and allow state officials unprecedented powers to interfere with family life.
“This leaflet confirms that the Named Person is intended to take a highly intrusive role in ordinary family life. It’s effectively an admission that critics of the scheme have been right all along. “
“The list of things the Named Person – and doctors, nurses, teachers social workers – ‘will check’ is outrageous. It is exactly the kind of invasive behaviour we’ve been warning about.
“For example, if a child doesn’t like the colour scheme or wants to watch films containing horrendous violence or sex scenes, the child can complain to the Named Person who then adjudicates on the family’s decisions about décor and who holds the TV remote control. It is absolutely outrageous.
“In the past the Scottish Government and their officials have attempted to dismiss opponents of this scheme for exaggerating its impact.
“Clearly, we were right all along and they have been trying to keep us all in the dark about what they really intend.
“Unless parents wake up quickly to what the Named Person is really about and make their voices heard, many of them will face a level of state monitoring of the minutiae of parenting that is unprecedented in our history.
“This is not about protecting vulnerable children. It is not about helping families who want help. It is about policing parenting according to a state ‘happiness’ index. Families cannot thrive under that kind of ‘big brother’ scrutiny.”
There was a good turnout at the Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries on Wednesday night for the latest stop of the NO2NP Roadshow.
Those present heard Gordon Macdonald from CARE for Scotland explain why the universality of the Named Person scheme was both unhelpful and unnecessary. He said that it had been introduced into the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill quite late in the day and MSPs hadn’t had much opportunity to scrutinise it. However, many were now having second thoughts about it.
He went on to say that there is a view in Holyrood that the state has primary responsibility for children, but he said it was “the job of the state to support the nation’s parents, not the job of parents to support the state”.
The next speaker was Lesley Scott of TYMES Trust, who started by saying she had not come across a single parent who had asked for the Named Person scheme. None of the young parents present said they had asked for it either.
Lesley also mentioned the new ‘super database’. The Scottish Government plans to introduce this in conjunction with the Named Person scheme, and it will have every child’s full medical information included in it.
Lesley finished by explaining that NHS Dumfries and Galloway has stated that a child will have a Named Person from its conception.
There was a very lively Q&A, during which the unworkable nature of the scheme was highlighted.
The final NO2NP Roadshow event before the summer break will take place at the Holiday Inn, Stewartfield Way in East Kilbride next Monday, 22nd June, at 7.30pm, when paediatrician Dr Jenny Cunningham will be one of the speakers – do plan to come and let your friends know about it too!
Snapshot of Dumfries Roadshow
The latest addition to the Scottish Government’s parenting toolbox comes in the form of a tidy tick list. The one-size-fits-all Government guide to bringing up happy and healthy children was branded ‘sinister’ in the Mail On Sunday, which broke the news at the weekend.
The paper reported that concerns may be raised over a child’s ‘well-being’ if it was found that a filling was required at the dentist, if the child was found to be disruptive at school, or if the child didn’t fancy helping with voluntary work.
The checklist is part of the controversial Named Person scheme and designed to help the state official ‘monitor’ and ‘assess’ children as they grow up.
Some other ‘indicators’ which could trigger an investigation involving social workers includes a child’s failure to display ‘positive attitudes to others’ sexuality’, failure by the child to display general optimism, or if he or she is seen to commit sporting fouls.
This is a worryingly broad list of potential ‘indicators’, with a threshold so low and so vague that most ordinary parents could find themselves ‘under investigation’.
Parenting cannot simply be made into a state-sanctioned formula or equation. Every family is different. Parents hold a diverse range of views determining what they believe is best for their children.
And every child is unique, with their own gifts and temperaments. The majority of regular mums and dads recognise this and try to care for each child with a personal understanding that only loving parents can do.
Parenting is so much more than a tick box exercise.
NO2NP supporter, Liz Smith MSP, said: “This checklist is a sinister example of how Named Persons would work. Some examples on the checklist simply cannot or should not be measured.
“The vast majority of parents across Scotland do a thoroughly good job of bringing up their children and therefore have no need nor any wish to have a Named Person for their children.”
But a spokesman for the Scottish Government defended the checklist and insisted: “This guide is a tool for professionals – senior teachers or health workers. It is a list of issues that might be taken into account when considering the well-being of a child or young person.”
SOURCE: Scottish Mail On Sunday, 14 June 2015
During last week’s appeal hearing against the Named Person law, the Scottish Government’s QC told the court that if a young girl was in hospital and discovered to be pregnant then the Named Person would definitely be contacted…but didn’t seem to know whether the parents would be informed.
Alistair Clark QC, representing the Scottish Government, was meant to be defending the scheme but instead managed to present a convincing case as to why the Named Person would be damaging for families.
Clark’s comments regarding teenage pregnancy reveal one of the major flaws with the Named Person scheme – it would bypass parents.
As we reported earlier in the week Clark also told judges during the hearing that the scheme was needed because every child in Scotland was deemed to be “potentially vulnerable”.
This greatly undermines ordinary Scottish families and is chilling stuff from the Scottish Government’s QC.
Any Government scheme which puts parents in second place after the state in relation to their own children is flawed from the outset.
Aidan O’Neill QC, representing those bringing the legal challenge, said the Named Person would be “a state functionary who has the power to interfere in the lives of every child in Scotland and in family life…the power to come between the child and their parents”.
He added that the Named Person’s powers to obtain and share confidential data on families without consent or veto constituted further interference.
The judges are currently considering their verdict, which is expected to take several weeks.
The Named Person provisions are contained in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament last year. The scheme is due to be rolled out across Scotland in 2016. Some areas of Scotland already have a non-statutory Named Person pilot scheme in operation but they do not have the full range of legal powers contained in the Act.
Last week’s appeal hearing rehearsed many concerning reasons why the Named Person scheme is not compatible with a free and democratic society, but perhaps the most revealing and worrying comment came from the Scottish Government’s QC.
Pressed by Lord Malcolm on why every child needed to have a Named Person, when not all of them were at risk, Alistair Clark QC, representing the Scottish Government, stated that every child was deemed to be “potentially vulnerable”.
Mr Clark’s words expose the thinking behind these intrusive plans.
A NO2NP spokesman said: “The assumption that all Scottish children are potentially vulnerable is patronising to all ordinary parents trying to do their best to bring up their children.
“The Scottish Government is saying to normal mums and dads that they all need the state to be a co-parent to stop them leaving their child potentially vulnerable.
“This unwarranted intrusion into family life is undermining and unnecessary.”
During the appeal hearing last week Aidan O’Neill QC, representing those bringing the legal challenge against the Named Person, addressed conflict between respect for the family and responsibility for the protection of children from harm.
He said there was no pressing social need requiring interference in the lives of every family and said: “The overwhelming majority of children are not neglected and the Named Person scheme subverts family life and supplants parents.”
He said: “We accept there is a legitimate state interest in the protection of the vulnerable, but this is not just dealing with the vulnerable, it’s dealing with all children.
“Most families do not need the state to get involved. Some parents – a tiny minority – do cause harm to their children but that does not justify appointing a named person to every child.”
Mr O’Neill pointed out that the Named Person scheme had been drawn up to promote children’s ‘wellbeing’ – a concept which, according to the Government, can include everything from mental health to a “wider vision of happiness”. He responded, “That’s what parents do and have done through the ages. It’s not the state’s job.
Mr O’Neill raised the concern that the central assumption behind the scheme is that “the state knows best”.
The Scottish Government is offering parents a £25 gift voucher, transport costs and free refreshments if they attend an event to find out how the Named Person scheme will work.
Parents will even be offered free childcare during the event.
The Scottish Government has been criticised for trying to buy public approval of the controversial scheme.
Organisers have hired Hampden for the planned event on 20th June.
A NO2NP spokesman commented: “Having lost the argument over their Big Brother plans in the court of public opinion we now find ourselves confronted with a Scottish Government attempting to buy approval for their discredited state guardian scheme.”
He added: “They can dress it up any way they like by calling it an information exercise or an advice session providing guidance for families.
“But the bottom line is that they are now using public funds in an effort to secure approval with this rather cynical attempt to bribe people into supporting the GIRFEC principles which underpin the Named Person proposals.
“Surely the money would be far better spent on funding social workers who are actually working with vulnerable children and needy families.
“No Government should be using taxpayers money in this way to try to buy support for their policies. Especially not one as unpopular and intrusive as the Named Person scheme.”
Campaigners opposing the Named Person scheme are back in court today for an appeal hearing after their legal challenge was rejected last year.
Lord Pentland rejected arguments that MSPs had exceeded their powers, breaching human rights rules and data protection laws, in a Judicial Review aimed at having the legislation overturned.
Now three judges will consider the proposals again.
The legal action is being brought by The Christian Institute, CARE, TYMES Trust and the Family Education Trust, with the support of academics and individual parents, all of which support the NO2NP campaign.
Community Law Advice Network (Clan Childlaw), a charity that provides legal help for children, also raised concerns about the scheme and announced it will intervene in the case.
Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute, said: “We’re asking the court to make a ruling that the imposition of a Named Person on every child in Scotland is unconstitutional and a breach of the right to a private family life.
He said they wanted the “court to look behind the Government’s rhetoric and see how this is not about protecting vulnerable children. It is about making the state a co-parent, with power to second-guess and over-ride parenting decisions about what makes a child happy. It’s Government-approved-parenting writ large”.
He added: “The trigger for intervention by the Named Person is not where there is a ‘risk of harm’. The threshold at which the Named Person can intervene in the lives of Scottish families is merely the ‘promotion of well-being’.
“The Named Person is, in effect, legally empowered to police the happiness of Scottish children. He can access and share their confidential medical data, their school records, he can question children and give them advice and supply services to them without their parents’ consent – all on the basis of what he thinks is most likely to make them happy. That is an outrage. Thousands of people across Scotland know it is an outrage, and that’s why they’ll all be hoping our judicial review succeeds.”
A senior Roman Catholic Archbishop in Scotland has warned that the Named Person scheme will lead to “unwarranted interference in family life”.
Archbishop Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said: “The common good of society depends on the stability of family life. We share the widely expressed reservations of many who fear some provisions of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act could permit unwarranted interference in family life due to the broad nature of the powers of the ‘named persons service’’ and the low threshold set for triggering the sharing of information about children among state agencies.
“While recognising the good intentions behind such efforts, we hope the Government will act in a proportionate and focused way, with due respect to the autonomy and privacy of the family.”
Source: Scottish Daily Mail, 1 Jun 2015
Media coverage of the NO2NP petition launch and Action Day
‘Named person’ opponents step up campaign
The Scotsman, 31 May 2015
‘Named person’ opponents campaign
The Courier, 31 May 2015
‘Named person’ opponents campaign
Press and Journal, 31 May 2015
‘Named person’ critics step up campaign
BBC News, 31 May 2015
Fresh campaign to fight ‘state guardian’ scheme
The Sunday Times (£), 31 May 2015
Campaign against ‘named person’ plan steps up ahead of court ruling
STV, 31 May 2015
Protesters gathering names against named persons law in Dundee
The Courier, 30 May 2015
We are pleased to announce more NO2NP Roadshows coming up in May and June.
Supporters from across Scotland often contact our team requesting a NO2NP Roadshow in their area and we do our best to try and make it happen.
Let us know if you would like one in your area by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s still surprising how many people are unaware of the Named Person legislation. Help us spread the word by telling people about the Roadshows. Experts will be sharing about the background to the plans and concerns surrounding the scheme.
DOWNLOAD AND SHARE THE FLYER
A mother has been warned by medical staff that she could have been referred to a Named Person for giving her son what was deemed a safe dose of cough medicine.
In a letter to The Scotsman she said even though paediatric nurses told her that her son was fine, and the dose was well within limit, she was warned, “never, ever do this again. We would have had to refer you for investigation under the new Named Person laws”.
She wrote to the newspaper to express her concern about the scheme.
She explained: “When I was ill as child my mother halved aspirins and mashed them with honey, and doled out quarter-spoons of adult cough syrup. She took pains with medicine. We all survived.
“Some weeks back, I did the same. At 2am, I’d given my toddler a quarter-measure of adult cough syrup (I’d run out of baby syrup). Immediately, I regretted it, panicked and drove my son to A&E at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose, fearing a paracetamol overdose.
“’He’s fine’, the paediatric nurses told me. ‘The dose was well within limit.’ But, they said, never, ever do this again. ‘We would have had to refer you for investigation under the new Named Person laws,’ they warned me, carefully”.
She said: “The idea I might now ‘face investigation’ or scrutiny over a safe dose of cough syrup? It horrifies me. Parents must be made aware of what the Named Person policy means. It means state surveillance of us as parents.
“Parents, not the state, are best placed to bring up their children”, she concluded.
Letter to The Scotsman submitted by: C Sharwood-Smith, Kirk Yetholm
The campaign saw strong support in Elgin last night as concerned parents and individuals, with some traveling quite a distance, turned out for the latest NO2NP Roadshow.
Nigel Kenny of The Christian Institute explained that the campaign was made up of a broad coalition of organisations and individuals from academia, charities, education, medicine, politics and social work. He said all those involved have a shared concern for the importance and autonomy of the family in raising the next generation.
Videos were shown, the first explaining the background to the campaign, and the second from First Minister’s Questions last week, when NO2NP supporter Liz Smith MSP challenged Nicola Sturgeon over Clan (Community Law Advice Network) Childlaw’s concerns about data sharing.
Lesley Scott from Tymes Trust then spoke about the blueprint for every child’s life that has been planned under the GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) model, including the Wellbeing Wheel, the My World Triangle and the Resilience Matrix. She pointed out that Edinburgh University had identified no fewer than 304 outcomes that could arise from the SHANARRI “wellbeing” indicators.
Nigel finished off the talks with an update on the judicial review appeal (due to be heard in Edinburgh on 3rd and 4th June) and some tips on how people can get involved with the campaign.
There was a lively and extended Q&A at the end, where people expressed their deep concerns about the negative impact that the scheme will have on families, schools and society at large.
The NO2NP Roadshow will be stopping off at Falkirk next on Wednesday 27th May, when we’ll be at the Best Western Park Hotel in Camelon Road at 7.30pm. Hope to see you there if you live in and around the area!
The latest NO2NP Roadshow event was held in the Aberdeen Arts Centre on Monday (11th May), where one local woman’s run in with an emanation of the Named Person scheme at her daughter’s school was raised during Q&A as a matter of concern. Even more concern was expressed when it was revealed that a GP would be obliged to share confidential patient details about, for example, a mother’s struggle with depression with her child’s Named Person.
After a video was shown about the judicial review in the Court of Session, Abertay University sociology lecturer Dr Stuart Waiton spoke about the disjuncture between the people and the powerful and how, over the past century, children were no longer being seen in the context of their families and government was increasingly seeing its role as one of “risk management”.
Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust then made reference to the quote in a recent newspaper article by Acting Minister for Children and Young People that the Named Person legislation “is about making sure that we are doing everything in our power to protect vulnerable children.” Lesley then pointed out that the word ‘vulnerable’ does not appear anywhere in the legislation or in the draft statutory guidance. Instead, she said “this legislation is about measuring the wellbeing of each and every child.”
Some practical points on how people can be involved in helping the NO2NP campaign were then shared by Nigel Kenny of The Christian Institute, before a lively Q&A, always one of the high points of these Roadshows.
Our next event is in Elgin this coming Monday (18th May) at the Laighmoray Hotel, Maisondieu Road, Elgin, IV30 1QR at 7.30pm – please do come along and find out more about the campaign.
This week, the long-awaited judicial review of the Named Person provisions of the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act is being heard at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. With the law having been passed by the Scottish Parliament earlier in the year, the only route left to stop the implementation of the scheme is via the courts.
Several of the organisations who are supporting the NO2NP campaign are spear-heading the legal action, namely The Christian Institute, Tymes Trust, CARE and Family Education Trust.
Leading human rights lawyer Aidan O’Neill QC is representing the petitioners in court. He has previously stated that “the blanket nature of this [named person] provision constitutes a disproportionate and unjustified interference with the right to respect for individual families’ private and family life”.
The case this week is focusing on four key legal arguments:
- Data protection: The compatibility of the Named Person legislation with data protection rules.
- Privacy: Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) entitles people to a private and family life.
- Education: Parents have a right to have their children educated in accordance with their beliefs.
- Religious liberty: Article 9 of ECHR protects the religious freedom of parents and children.
Following the successful launch of the NO2NP campaign at a packed meeting in Edinburgh in June, we are delighted to announce a series of regional road show events over the coming weeks. The dates are:
GLASGOW – Thursday 21 August
DUNDEE – Wednesday 27 August
STIRLING – Friday 29 August
INVERNESS – Wednesday 1 October
Events will feature contributions from a range of experts such as Dr Stuart Waiton (Abertay University), Maggie Mellon (social work consultant/writer), Liz Smith MSP and Dr Jenny Cunningham (Community paediatrician). All events will include a time of discussion where attendees can put their questions to the speakers.
Entry is free and the events are open to all. Please come along to one or more of the dates and spread the word.
Full details of times and venues are available here.
The Named Person issue was debated extensively on BBC Sunday Politics Scotland over the weekend, with presenter Gordon Brewer putting pressure on the Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell, to explain the need for this intrusive proposal.
Watch the clip
The Director of The Christian Institute, which is part of the NO2NP campaign, also took part in the discussion saying the Named Person scheme would make it much more difficult to target resources at vulnerable children.
Other guests on the show included Gavin Brown, a Conservative MSP, opposed to the legislation.
Lesley Scott, who represents a charity providing support services for families with children suffering from ME and whose own son suffers from ME, was also interviewed on the show about her concerns over the Named Person scheme. You can watch an interview she did with NO2NP here.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, which is preparing to mount a Judicial Review, said: “The Scottish Government has passed a Bill which gives huge powers to Named Persons to advise and talk to children without their parents even knowing about it and without their consent. And it seems to me a sledge hammer to crack a nut.”
“The same state bodies will be involved in looking for all these families where there’s no issue at all, so instead of actually finding that needle in the haystack they are actually making that haystack much bigger. And that’s going to make it much more difficult to find the vulnerable children”.
MSPs have approved the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act.
They believe it will make children safer.
But the legislation means that EVERY child in Scotland – more than ONE MILLION – will each have a named professional appointed as a ‘guardian’ by the state – without the approval of their parents.
This person will oversee their interests and can intervene without the knowledge or consent of their parents. But many oppose the plan and the growing campaign against state guardians includes:
*parents concerned about their rights and privacy
*Christians who fear that their faith and beliefs will act as a trigger for state intervention
*MSPs and academics who believe that the safety of at risk children will be jeapordised by stretching resources so far.
The blanket nature of this law degrades the integrity of the family and diminishes the work of the vast majority of parents. It encourages suspicion among professionals about the dangers parents represent to their children.
Until now, families could be investigated if a child was at ‘significant risk of harm’.
Now that has changed – the definition for intervention has been dramatically lowered from ‘welfare’ to ‘wellbeing’.
It now embraces concerns about happiness, mental health, quality of life, economic status, health, educational achievement, levels of respect for the child and others.
These catch-all terms pose potential dangers allowing many more children facing minor difficulties to come on to the radar of state guardians – like health workers, nursery workers and teachers.
This threatens family life and the right of families to privacy by allowing the state unbridled access to every living room in the land.
The law also poses a threat to relationships between parents and professionals, and leads to unnecessary and destructive interventions.
And the few children at genuine risk of harm?
They may find themselves ignored along the way.
This legislation undermines parents and parental authority. It implies parents are a potential threat to their children. Further, there are major concerns about the ability of state guardians being allowed access to data from many sources, without the consent of parents.
The vast majority of parents want nothing more than what is best for their children.
They are the best defenders of their own children and do not need state appointed guardians or monitors.
They want nothing to do with the new system.
That’s why so many are saying “NO2NP”.