Walking in a wellbeing wonderland

“Wellbeing”. What do you picture? Quite right. And that may be your view, but what about the next person?

How to define the vague and varied world of wellbeing has been a million, trillion, maybe even squillion, dollar question that many professionals and politicians have been trying to crack.

But it’s like looking at an optical illusion. It’s subjective, and everybody knows it.

Yet the Scottish Government’s dogged attempts would try to suggest otherwise.

The UK Supreme Court commented in para. 16 of its Named Person judgment that “‘Wellbeing’ is not defined” in the legislation. And the judges said the SHANARRI ‘wellbeing’ indicators found in the Named Person guidance “are not themselves defined, and in some cases are notably vague”.

John Swinney’s “three month period of intense engagement”, was supposed to help the Deputy First Minister listen to concerns about the Named Person scheme.

And what did many groups highlight? You guessed it. The difficulty with understanding what constituted a wellbeing concern.

The Scottish Council of Independent Schools said that while the thresholds for child protection were clear, “early signs of concern about wellbeing less clear and prevention is not at the Data Protection Act level”.

The Medical Practitioners Unions/Professional Groups expressed a need for “clarity about what constitutes a wellbeing concern… to distinguish it from a ‘minor concern’ about child neglect”.

And the session with the Information Sharing Stakeholder Reference Group concluded: “It could be highly complex to introduce and manage a new requirement to seek consent when a specific threshold is met in relation to wellbeing needs or risks.”

This is not a new concern. Many groups have been raising the issue of wellbeing for many years. Let’s hope the Scottish Government will listen this time.