Named Person watchdog questions complaints system in letter to MSPs

The Public Services Ombudsman Jim Martin, who is responsible for overseeing the Named Person scheme, has written to MSPs expressing concerns about its complaints procedure.

In a letter to MSPs he stated it would be negligent of him not to mention his reservations about the system set up to deal with conflicts which arise between parents and Named Persons.

Martin told MSPs that the way the Government introduced the regulatory system was not flexible enough to adjust if changes are needed in the way complaints are dealt with.

A Scotland On Sunday comment piece raised the important question, “how much faith can parents be expected to have in the named person scheme if even the public servant who will have responsibility for dealing with any clashes that may arise between parents and the authorities has reservations?”

NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said: “The Named Person scheme may win the award for the most calamitous scheme the Scottish Government has ever dreamed up.

He added: “We already know that named persons will accumulate and share secret family data almost at will. And the scheme is so burdensome that the teachers and health visitors who are meant to take on the role are running away in droves. And the police say it can put abused children at even greater risk. Lawyers are against it. Social workers are against it. Parents are against it. Now we get confirmation that the complaints system has been botched. Surely this must be the straw that breaks the camel’s back?”

Martin’s letter to MSPs said: “My one concern is about the use of a regulation to set out the details of the process … Regulations do not change quickly and we have found issues in other areas where procedures set out by regulation have become outdated and out of step with modern complaint handling and, generally, the move has been to move away from this approach.”

He added: “I felt it would be remiss of me not to note that this particular legislative approach of creating the detail of complaints processes through regulations is now out of line with other areas in the public sector and we would recommend it should not be used as a model in the future unless there were compelling reasons to do so.”

Scotland On Sunday expressed sympathy for those opposed to the Named Person scheme.

In a leader comment the newspaper stated: “The concerns of those who feel uncomfortable about this new legislation are understandable.

“Named persons – in most cases teachers or health workers – will face potentially career-ending consequences if they fail to spot problems affecting a child for whose welfare they will have legal responsibility. Equally, the risk of overzealous action from named persons is a legitimate fear.”

The newspaper remarked: “There are also issues about what standard named persons are to apply. What one individual might feel is an acceptable way to bring up a child may, to another, seem quite wrong.”

It continued: “Most children already have guardians – their parents – and we sympathise with those who believe the state has no place in their families”.

“It is important to remember that mechanisms to ensure that children at risk are identified have existed for decades. Social work departments do much to assist in cases where children are believed to be in danger.”

The newspaper also commented that the concerns of those who fear the Named Person legislation will divert resources from those who need it most should not be dismissed.

Read more:

Watchdog voices fresh concerns over ‘named person’ scheme, The Scotsman, 27 February 2016

Leader: Concern grows over ‘named person’ law, The Scotsman, 27 February 2016


A teacher who served as a Named Person for 200 pupils has been struck off the teaching register after being found guilty of child sex offences.

Dayna Dickson-Boath was appointed one of the first Named Persons in Scotland, but could now be banned from working with children for the rest of her life.

She had held a senior position at a secondary school in Moray, but yesterday consented to being struck off by the General Teaching Council for Scotland on the charge that, between 8 August 2014 and 10 September 2014, she “did send, by means of a public electronic communications network, messages to another person that were grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, in that you did converse regarding the sexual abuse of children.”

Hugh Paton, convener of the panel, said: “The registrant should be removed from the register in view of the facts admitted. The panel has also decided that it is appropriate that the registrant’s name is referred to Scottish Government ministers for consideration in connection with inclusion on the list of those barred from working with children and vulnerable young adults.”

He said: “The panel decided to do so because …the respondent engaged in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature involving a children or protected adult.”

Dickson-Boath was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register and ordered to undergo treatment when she was convicted in Elgin Sheriff Court last August.

Commenting after the news broke last year, NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, called on the Scottish Government to tell parents what additional steps it is taking to vet Named Persons.

He said: “Given their greatly increased involvement in the personal lives of children, there clearly ought to be greatly increased background checks to make sure they cannot abuse that position of trust.”

A Scottish Daily Mail editorial, at the time, asked – “Who guards against state guardians?” and said the Scottish Government should “use the case of Dickson-Boath to pause for thought on this new law”. It went on question if the Scottish Government would accept responsibility if “a Named Person was later found to be an abuser”.

The editorial concluded: “The best people to make decisions on behalf of children are parents. The state has no place in dictating how families should live their lives. Parents of children at Moray had no veto when Dickson-Boath was appointed their Named Person; they had no choice but to accept her into their lives.”

Scotsman: Sociologist says ‘scrap Named Person scheme’

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.”

Tiffany Jenkin - 04 July 2015

Source: Tiffany Jenkins: Named person law is troubling, The Scotsman, 03 July 2015

Children’s Panel Member says Named Person is “Clumsy and overblown”

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”.

Scotsman - David Donaldson

Source: Scotsman Letters: Guard against ‘named person’ notion, The Scotsman, 06 July 2015

Media round up this week: w/b 29th June

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

Herald teachers worried

Minister falters over SNP “state snoopers” plan
Scottish Daily Mail, 03 July 2015
DM - minister falters over NP on radio phone in

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

Front page Herald 1st July

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

MSP calls for review of Named Person scheme

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

Media Round Up: NO2NP Petition Launch and Action Day

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

Should parents be referred to Named Person over safe dose of cough syrup?

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

Scotland on Sunday Editorial: Named person

THE charge of being illiberal has been levelled at the SNP administration a number of times in recent years, notably over the heavily criticised legislation outlawing certain behaviour deemed to be offensive at football matches.

 The charge has encompassed Scottish Government plans to use NHS medical records to help the taxman identify Scottish taxpayers, and the hands-off approach by former justice minister Kenny MacAskill to Police Scotland’s more authoritarian instincts.

But these controversies are as nothing ­compared to the public outrage at ministers’ plans to have a ‘named person’ allocated to ­every single child in Scotland, with the aim of protecting that child’s wellbeing. The move, while backed by the main opposition as well as children’s welfare organisations, has met enormous opposition from parents. No one would argue against the state’s right to step in when it can be shown there is the potential for harm being done to a child. We have all seen enough tragedies cross our newspaper pages – from Baby P to Mikaeel Kular – to know how important it is to have proper social work scrutiny when children are believed to be vulnerable.

But what alarms parents is the idea that the state should scrutinise every child, regardless of circumstances. Many see it as a the state overstepping a line into family life, with undue cause; in fact, with no cause at all other than the theory that any child could, in theory, one day be at risk.

The legislation – pushed though Holyrood with the benefit of the SNP’s majority – became law before anyone, not even its authors, had a clear idea of how it would work in ­practice. Now that the detail in becoming clear – helpfully, the Scottish Government last week issued an 111-page draft statutory guidance document – the alarm is even greater. As we reveal today, teachers are expressing concern about the role they are apparently going to be handed, and are asking what the consequences will be if something awful befalls one of ‘their’ children. How much of a reliable handle can a teacher have on the home life of every one of their pupils? Won’t some teachers over-report, and others under-report?

As we also reveal today, the legislation may be applicable to a child only from the moment of its birth, but the guidance makes clear a range of circumstances where the ‘named person’ has responsibilities concerning a child as yet ­unborn. Many parents, on learning about the named person legislation, thought they could safely ignore it, regardless of their opinion of it.

But it now seems every single woman who is eight months pregnant will be “offered” a meeting with their child’s named person. Can a parent safely refuse a meeting without red-flagging their family in the eyes of social workers? It seems this legislation will touch every Scottish family, whether they like it or not.

Nicola Sturgeon, in her short time as first minister, has shown herself willing to change the administration’s direction when it ­becomes clear the route travelled under Alex Salmond was one she took issue with. She has demonstrated this by embracing Blairite education reforms and calling Police Scotland chief constable Sir Stephen House to heel over the use of stop and search powers. Salmond was not known for his keen interest in social policy, and it is unclear whether Sturgeon’s view differs from the one by which she was bound by collective cabinet responsibility before last November. But it did not go unnoticed by Yes campaigners during the ­independence referendum many Scots were starting to perceive this SNP government as authoritarian and illiberal.

Does Sturgeon ­accept these fears are not unreasonable? If so, the time to act is now. The named person ­revolution is law, but how it operates is still a matter of ministerial discretion.

Named Person is “The nanny state at its worst”

A well-known Scottish journalist has lifted the lid on apparent uneasiness within the SNP about the named person policy being pursued by The Scottish Government. Writing in The Scotsman, Tom Peterkin says:

“Passing the time of day with a long-term SNP member and activist the other evening, it was surprising to detect some dismay…There was also anger at the SNP’s hugely controversial initiative to assign every Scottish child a state guardian – the so-called ‘named person’ policy.

“The policy, giving a ‘named person’ the right to interfere in family life, was denounced by this SNP member as the nanny state at its worst.”

Media Coverage of the Named Person legal action

The much anticipated legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s controversial Named Person provisions got underway this week in Edinburgh’s Court of Session. Aidan O’Neill QC is representing the campaigners opposing the scheme and warns that plans for a Named Person for every child in Scotland is a “dangerous route to go down”.

See the latest news roundup on the court case:

Lawyer slams SNP’s state guardian project
Scottish Daily Express

Legal challenge to child guardian plan begins
The Scotsman

Legal challenge to ‘named person’ bill starts
The Herald (£)

Named person legal challenge starts
The Courier

Named guardian legal bid to start
BBC News

Named persons legal bid to start
Press and Journal

The scale of opposition to the child guardian plan suggests the SNP has got it wrong
The Telegraph

Named persons legal bid to start
The Courier

Legal fight starts over SNP ‘state guardian for every child’
The Telegraph

Challenge to child guardians law begins
The Times (£)

Named person legal challenge starts
Glasgow Evening Times

Named Person scheme tells kids ‘mums and dads are not to be trusted’

The Named Person plans could be “corrosive” to relationships between parents and children, warns sociologist and columnist Tiffany Jenkins.

Writing in The Scotsman, she said: “It is a scheme that communicates to children that their mums and dads are not to be trusted, that a different adult – one with a professional qualification – is better equipped to look out for them than their own family members.

“This greatly undermines the role and place of the parents in a child’s life. What could be more corrosive to relations than that?”

Jenkins believes: “Child protection has gone too far and is changing all our lives for the worse”.

“When it comes to children, we no longer weigh up the likelihood of a negative outcome and act accordingly, we organise every aspect of our lives around the expectation that the worst will happen. Our nightmares dictate how we live”, she asserted.

She commented that children are “innocent, ignorant, and vulnerable, though not as much as child protection zealots would have us think: children can be strong, robust and agents of their own lives in a small but important way”.

“Children need to be able to spread their wings and have the space to try life out”, she added. “And they need adults – and especially their parents – to hold the authority to take care of them, check they are doing okay, and guide them as they grow.

“At the moment, too many laws, policies and child protection agencies stand in the way of this. It is time for the child protection industry to butt out of our lives.”

Media Coverage of the Named Person legal challenge launch

Legal papers challenging the Scottish Government’s Named Person plans were lodged at Edinburgh’s Court of Session yesterday. There is widespread opposition to the proposals and concerned parents and other groups turned up to help deliver the documents under the spotlight of the media.

Here is a round up of the news reports.

Group take campaign against ‘named guardian’ plans to court
STV News

Bid to block named person plan goes to Court of Session
BBC News

Scottish child guardian bid faces legal challenge
The Scotsman

SNP’s state guardian plan is ‘against the law’ say court challengers
Scottish Daily Express

Nationalists’ nanny state must leave families alone
Scottish Daily Express

Campaigners start court fight against child guardian law
The Herald

Legal bid to scrap the state snoopers
Scottish Daily Mail

Opponents of ‘named person’ policy begin legal challenge
The Telegraph (Scotland)

Dangerous move by the state
The Press and Journal

Legal bid to tackle Scots guardian bill
The Press and Journal

Challenge to guardian law in court
The Courier & Advertiser

Child guardian challenge lodged
The Glasgow South and Eastwood Extra

Video: Named Person legal action launched
The Christian Institute

Scotland Issuing Government Guardian For Every Child, Act Sparks Backlash