Liz Smith MSP: ‘Named Person scheme is both sinister and hugely misguided’

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

Named Person a risk to vulnerable children

Last Wednesday night (21st January) the NO2NP roadshow resumed for the first meeting of the new year at Howden Park Centre in Livingston, West Lothian – the constituency of the new Education Secretary, Angela Constance, whom those present were urged to contact.

The main speaker of the night was Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust, who represent young ME sufferers. She said that the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act fails to allow for non-engagement, despite a ministerial assurance to the contrary.

The audience also heard from Bonnybridge-based father of four, James McIntosh, who told how he had received a letter from NHS Forth Valley saying that all his children have a named person who would be sent future letters and reports. As a result of press involvement, NHS Forth Valley backed down.

The meeting was chaired by Dr Stuart Waiton from Abertay University in Dundee, who said that the named person policy is sold on the basis that it will keep children safe, while stating his view that the policy is in fact detrimental to children who do need support.

This same theme was highlighted in a story in the Sunday Express newspaper over the weekend, relating to concerns raised by a senior police officer. According to the paper:

“Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham told ministers and senior officials that the named-person scheme could see the ‘focus’ of child protection efforts moving away from ‘high-risk children’. The comments emerged in the minutes of a Scottish Government meeting, but a spokesman said they could not offer any further clarification as ‘no detailed notes were taken’.”

The paper went on to report that it had “lodged a Freedom of Information request asking for more details, but the Scottish Government has been unable to comply.”

The next dates for the NO2NP roadshow are Greenock (Beacon Arts Centre) on 5 February and Dunfermline (Carnegie Conference Centre) on 11 February. Both events begin at 7:30pm and are free of charge. We hope to see you there.

 

Sunday Express: Big Brother becomes a surrogate mum and dad

Scottish Sunday Express comment 22 June 2014

By Paula Murray

THE Scottish Government has earmarked £40million to hire an extra 500 health visitors over the next four years. They will be there, according to ministers, to offer support and advice to families with young children.

It all sounds rather sweet. But when you consider this is all to do with the scheme to appoint “state guardians” to the country’s youngsters, the development begins to appear a little sinister.

Of course, there are people who are simply no good at bringing up their children, and it is for this reason that these measures are being taken.

But the vast majority of parents are responsible mothers and fathers who want nothing but the best for their children. The idea that the state should appoint an additional pair of eyes to monitor a child’s wellbeing has echoes of China, the Soviet Union and East Germany where everybody snooped on everyone else to ensure the communist values imposed on the nation were duly appreciated and followed.

Although I am childless, I feel uneasy about the idea that an outsider – whether a teacher, health visitor or someone else – is appointed as a child’s “extra parent”.

What if there is a fall-out between the state guardian and the child’s family? What if there is a disagreement as to what is best for the youngster? Who gets the final word? The state?

Would it not be the easiest thing for the appointed individual to make the parents’ lives hell should they so choose to do so?

Social workers and health professionals are equipped – or at least they should be – to deal with any problem cases and step in if necessary.

I don’t for a moment believe that these Big Brother plans will actually benefit anyone. If anything, they will end up interfering with the rights of both parents and children.

There is no way to opt out from the “named person” scheme, or to ask for somebody else to be appointed for your child – they will simply be there every step of the way until the child reaches the age of 18.

So in other words, a teenager can get married, leave school, get a job and start paying taxes, drive a car, join the armed forces or even have children their own, and their state guardian will still be peering over their shoulder.

I simply cannot fathom what good it will do. It is legalised spying on family life and I don’t like the sound of it. Various charities and organisations agree echoes the with me.

Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) believes the state guardians will “undermine parental freedom and responsibility”.

The Law Society in Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates have warned the measures could breach European Human Rights law on privacy and family life.

But despite these concerns our ministers have ploughed ahead with the plans, with Holyrood approving the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill back in February.

Liz Smith of the Scottish Conservatives says the legislation effectively removes the parents’ primary obligation of looking after their children and gives it to the state. She is right.

And here is the big question – if the state snooping starts at birth, where does it end? Because it is not going to be on your 18th birthday.

‘It has echoes of China, the Soviet Union and East Germany’

Sunday 22 June 2014

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