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Swinney must act on named person

19 May 2016

The Scottish Conservatives have today called on new education secretary John Swinney to respond to growing concerns from parents and professionals over the workability of the SNP’s named persons scheme.

Mr Swinney was appointed to the role yesterday with a specific remit to take on the implementation of the controversial plans.

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Liz Smith is now calling on him to answer the concerns raised by teachers, parents, council leaders, police and social workers over the practical implementation of the scheme.

The Scottish Conservatives have backed a full repeal of the scheme before it is implemented in August.

During the election campaign, other political parties have also raised concerns over how it might operate, and have backed a pause.

The Scottish Conservatives say today that – leaving aside the principled arguments around the scheme – the SNP must now engage with genuinely held concerns over how it is going to work.

Scottish Conservative MSP Liz Smith said:

“We welcome the fact that John Swinney has been put in charge of dealing with named persons.

“As everyone knows, we are opposed to the named person legislation in principle and we will continue to support a full repeal.

“At the same time, however, we also believe the SNP must answer the concerns of professionals in the field over its impact on their workload and how it is going to operate.

“Quite simply, we believe the scheme is unworkable, and will have a massively detrimental impact.

“It is going to pile on mountains of extra work on the shoulders of teachers, health visitors and care professionals. As council leaders have warned, it may even put people off applying for senior teaching posts.

“Up until now, the approach from the SNP has been to brush these concerns aside as being misplaced, and accuse critics of scaremongering.

“I hope John Swinney will press the reset button and accept that people’s concerns are genuine and based in fact.

“With the election campaign now over, the SNP needs to reflect and reconsider. It’s time for the SNP to engage.”

Ends

Notes to editors:

Please see a list below of groups which have expressed concerns about the workability of the named persons scheme.

Parents

 

Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC)

·         In their submission to the Education and Culture Committee on the Children and Young People Bill, on named person they said[1]:

“We believe the concept of a Named Person for every child is ill thought through and offers no benefit to the majority of children, whose ‘named person’ is already in place – their parent or carer.

“For most children in receipt of universal services, their parent or carer is the person who has most interest in their wellbeing, knows them best, is committed, has staying power and is most motivated to ensure the health, education and other services they come into contact with deliver for them. This proposal completely fails to recognise that significant relationship and effectively seeks to usurp the role of the parent”.

They also expressed concerns on the lack of clarity in duties of the Named Person, workload issues, information sharing, that information sharing breaks trust, the rights of the child regarding the allocation of the Named Person, and what happens when a Named Person and parent/carer fail to agree on the support for a child.

Eileen Prior

·         In an interview with Holyrood magazine on 11th November 2015, the executive director of the SPTC said[2]:

I don’t believe it is a good idea. A much better idea is the lead professional who will provide co-ordination between the various agencies working with a child. The lead professional focuses on children and families who are in need of support and addresses the issue everyone agrees needs to be addressed, of children falling between the cracks of different agencies and organisations.

Named person, in my view, is a red herring which will undermine trust and cause issues between families, schools or other professionals, divert resources from those families most in need, add to professionals’ workload and lead to more families being drawn into the system unnecessarily.

 

Councils

 

Jenny Laing

 

·         Leader of Aberdeen City Council said earlier in 2016 that Named Person may be contributing to the challenges of recruiting headteachers in the North East and Highlands and Islands[3]:

The legislation may be putting people off becoming head teachers at primary school, because in this role you are the state guardian for all the pupils at the school. It means you have to take legal responsibility for every child in the school – if anything goes wrong you are the guardian of that child and have to bring in all the relevant bodies to address the problem. The salary for primary school teachers is not much higher than in other roles. People don’t want added responsibility for not much more money, so the Scottish Government has to look at the national pay structure.”

 

 

Teachers

 

EIS

·         In a letter to the Herald the EIS had concerns on Named Person provision and workload in school holidays[4]:

“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.

ADES

·         Greg Dempster, the general secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland are supportive of the police, but warned in the Herald in February 2015[5]:

“The Government and local authorities are trying to bring that bureaucratic burden down, but we are very concerned about the workload that this might generate. It’s something that needs to be worked through in good time, before full commencement”.

Carole Ford

·         Former president of School Leaders Scotland wrote in a letter to the Scotsman in October 2015[6]:

“For the most vulnerable children, the involvement of a plethora of individuals and agencies, all with varying aims and agendas, has always been a barrier to effective action.”

“For the vast majority of children this is a completely unnecessary interference with parental rights. Worse, it actually diminishes parental responsibility for a child’s welfare, a direction of travel no sensible society would follow. But, utterly crucially, it will simply diminish the time and attention paid to those children who need it most.

By spreading the named person resource across all children, most of whom have absolutely no need of it, rather than just those identified as vulnerable, the impact be will so thin as to be negligible. A named person should be identified only for those children who need it.”

 

Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

 

Jim Martin
·         The Public Services Ombudsman wrote a letter to MSPs at the start of 2016 to express concerns about the complaints procedure[7]:

“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. 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.”

Social Workers

 

Scottish Association of Social Workers (SASW)

·         SASW manager Trisha Hall has raised concerns about costs and purpose of Named Person[8]:

She said the SASW remains “unconvinced that the named person provision will make the difference intended”.

Social workers are concerned about lowering the threshold for intervening in a child’s life: “We are concerned about what we perceive as an escalation; we are effectively raising the threshold from “significant harm” to “concerns about welfare”.

Maggie Mellon

·         A social worker for over 35 years and currently Vice Chair of the British Association of Social Workers. In an interview with Holyrood magazine on 4thNovember 2015 she discussed the Named Person policy[9]:

If the government was sensible, they would announce a delay in the implementation and just let it die off.”

She explained her objections were three-fold: there is no evidence to support the measure, the threshold for intervention is “lowered significantly”; and the legislation clashes with what proponents of the provision declares its intent to be.

·         In December 2013 she wrote a blog post on the Scottish Review[10]:

“So GIRFEC set out what was seen as a preventative and more constructive approach, involving all the service and help that children and their families might need when they needed it. The policy intention was for health, education and social services to get their houses in order, stop passing the buck to each other’s waiting lists, pay attention to each individual child in need of help, and ‘get it right’ for the children in whose lives they intervene.

“This has not happened. More children are in poverty, homeless and hungry. We have not ‘got it right’ at all. But, rather than focus on tackling the really big obstacles to children’s welfare, the focus somehow seems to have shifted to monitoring and intervening in the lives of all children. Put simply, the state seems to be fancying itself as better at parenting than families. In reality the state makes a lousy parent, taking children into care, moving them around, and throwing them out to fend for themselves at 16 or 17 years.

“The Children and Young People Bill going through the Scottish Parliament enshrines ‘services’ rather than family welfare as the main means to achieve children’s health and wellbeing. The ‘vision’ seems to be for ‘services’ to establish a direct relationship with children, over the heads of their parents and families. Hence the bill’s proposal for a ‘named person’ for every child in Scotland. This ‘named person’ is strictly defined as an ‘an employee of the service provider’ or ‘an employee of a person who exercises any function on behalf of the service provider’. A separate clause specifically excludes the parents of a child from being their ‘named person’.”

“So the horrible prospect is of state-appointed persons who have no duty to involve and consult with parents and families, and may just ‘inform, advise or support’ them according to their view of what is best for the child. These named persons from ‘services’ are available 9-5 Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays, annual leave, sick leave or other reason, while children’s and families’ lives are actually lived 24-7, 52 weeks a year. Yet ‘named persons’ will be presumed to know what is best for a child without any requirement to consult or involve their parents.”

“The exclusion of parents and families seems to be based on a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of what is meant by ‘child centred’ practice which assumes that government can and should have a direct relationship with children, bypassing or ignoring their parents and families. Another assumption is that children live in ‘Serviceland’, where paid professionals assess, monitor and protect children, promote their excellence and their success, and mitigate any damage done by their families.

“But children live in families. Not idealised families, and not demonised families, just families with all their complexities and their occasional failings and crises, but for most children the best place for them to be, with the people who care most about them in the world.

“If Scotland were to forge a new and preventive direction in family policy it would be away from a top down ‘we know best’ approach. This is where the Children and Young People Bill represents a missed opportunity.

“If we really want to make Scotland the best place to bring up children we need to step out of Serviceland. We need to rediscover family and friendship, to ensure partnership between parents and children and those who offer professional services and support. A new duty for all services to support families and communities in providing the best possible care for children would do far more good than any number of named persons.”

Police Scotland
·         In July 2015, Police Scotland warned that ‘wellbeing’ assessments could cause delays to removing children from abusers. In their submission to the consultation on CYPB guidance[11]:

“A potential risk has been identified that ‘wellbeing concern’ assessments are being carried out by a range of practitioners from organisations where there is actual information that a child has or is the victim of abuse and or neglect deemed as criminal acts.

“This has resulted in a time delay, at times significant, during which 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.”

·         Chief Superintendent Alan Waddell also warned that Named Persons proposals lacked clarity in July 2015 in a formal submission to the Scottish Police Authority’s corporate risk register[12]:

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 Police Scotland can support this legislative change.”

“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.”

On the inconsistency that Named Persons cover young people to aged 18: “This is a significant change of all authorities, including Police Scotland and requires a review of all interdependent policies and processes which impact/refer to children and young people to ensure cognisance of legislative change.”
 

Charities

Clan Childlaw

·         The charity which provides legal help for children are concerned about information sharing and that the lack of privacy will lead to children rejecting help from advisory services. In May 2015 their Principal Solicitor Alison Reid said[13]:

“We all want to make sure that children and young people in Scotland are protected and recognise that when child protection issues arise, these need to be shared appropriately amongst professionals.

“However, where there are no child protection concerns, a child, like anyone else, should be entitled to a level of confidentiality when accessing advice.

This Act creates a serious risk that children and young people will not access confidential services when they are in need of help.”

·         The charity gave evidence at the UK Supreme Court earlier in 2016 that the legislation violates children’s rights because it makes it easier to share confidential information about children[14].

 

Professionals & NHS

 

Royal College of Nursing

·         The Director of the RCN in Scotland Theresa Fyffe said in the Herald in February 2015 that whist it would enhance public services, the bodies who are responsible for its success such as the NHS and local authorities must be properly resourced[15]:

“We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to recruiting more health visitors, but with the named person responsibility coming on top of recent changes to the workload of health visitors, many of our health visitor members have deep concerns that even with the planned boost in numbers there just won’t be enough hours in the day to fulfil this important role”.

NHS Lothian
·         Chief executive Tim Davidson commented in January 2016 on the 19% vacancy rate in Lothians for health visitors (rising to 44% in Midlothian) and how this will affect roll out of Named Person[16]:

“If we simply can’t get enough health visitors then we may have to look at how the service might look in the future, where people from other places might assist with child health… We have significant concerns about current health visitor capacity in NHS Lothian. Health visitors are already under serious pressure, with NHS Lothian experiencing great difficulties recruiting enough now, let alone the additional health visitors they will need to implement the Named Person role and the recently introduced new health visitor pathway. While we welcome the fact that the Scottish Government is providing funding for 500 more health visitors, these additional posts are being phased in and won’t all be in place when the Named Person comes into force in August 2016.

Journalists

Alan Cochrane

·         In the Scottish Daily Telegraph in July 2015 Cochrane wrote[17]:

“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.”

wrong-headed universality when what’s needed is specific and targeted action to protect those children who are most at risk”.

Tiffany Jenkins

·         Sociologist and Scotsman columnist in July 2015[18]:

“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/”

“Lumping parental responsibilities on state agencies will mitigate against children’s interests being served.”

“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 that seems to know no end.”

“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.”

Graham Grant

·         Writing in the Scottish Daily Mail in February 2015[19]:

“According to the Scottish Government: ‘If concerns about a pupil are raised with their named person, they will respect the young person’s wishes for confidentiality if possible, while encouraging them to seek whatever support is appropriate, including from their families.’ This is the point at which the true nature of this scheme – as ambitious as it is chilling – is fully revealed. There is an appalling contempt for mothers and fathers at the heart of the SNP’s Kafka-esque strategy – but there is a greater injustice.

The universality of the scheme – the fact it applies to all children from all backgrounds, regardless of whether any outside support is needed – means there is a far greater chance of those who genuinely need help losing out. And that would be simply unforgivable.

Allan Massie

·         In the Mail on Sunday in February 2015 he wrote[20]:

“This is, of course, dressed up as a means of providing protection for vulnerable children and young people. Who, they say, could possibly object to this? The answer is anyone who believes parents are better judges of their children’s interest than the state or social workers.

The SNP claims parents and children have asked for these guardians but, for me, the assumption is clear: parents can’t be trusted and children belong not to their parents but to the state, just as in Mao’s China.”

http://no2np.org/named-persons-based-dubious-philosophy-warns-scots-editor

Academics

 

Dr Stuart Waiton

·         Senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University wrote a post for TESS in May 2015[21]:

“A key problem with the named person set-up is that teachers will now be responsible – and trained to be responsible – for the ‘wellbeing’ of every child.

“This may sound fair enough, but the breadth of meaning the term well-being can encompass suggests that the roles of parent and teacher will be confused. So, for example, everything from how respected a child is by their carers to how much responsibility they are given by them could become a matter of concern and intervention.

“Given the emphasis placed on being aware of ‘risks’ and the potential anxiety about not flagging up a problem early enough, the likely trend is for more and more children to be investigated and put on a children’s plan.”

Worryingly, as parents find out about the named person system, it is likely that some will begin to treat teachers with suspicion and fear, nervous about sharing personal information with them or discussing difficulties their children are having at home.

Dr Frank Furedi

·         Emeritus Professor of sociology at the University of Kent wrote in the Independent in July 2014[22]:

“Arguably, the most disturbing manifestation of the politicisation of parenting is the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act. This grotesque act empowers the state to appoint a ‘named person’ for every child, from birth to the age of 18. The duty of this state-appointed named person will be to act as the child’s guardian.

“Scotland’s minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell, thinks that this erosion of parental authority is OK and offers reassurance with the not very reassuring words that ‘we recognise that parents also have a role’. ‘Also’?If the experience of the past 15 years is anything to go by, political intervention in child rearing is likely to become more prescriptive and intrusive.”

 

Other

 

Hugh Henry MSP

 

·         In July 2015 Henry expressed concerns[23]:

“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.

“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.”

Ken Macintosh MSP

·         The father of six has raised concerns about the scheme[24]:

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.”

“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?”

David Donaldson

·         Children’s Panel Member in Falkirk wrote a letter to the Scotsman in July 2015[25]:

“On a practical note, most government department’s administration is slow moving and woefully inefficient… what chance, therefore, is there an effective system of monitoring every child in Scotland up to the age of 18?”

“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”.

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.

[1] SPTC,http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EducationandCultureCommittee/Children%20and%20Young%20People%20(Scotland)%20Bill/ScottishParentTeacherCouncil.pdfhttp://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_EducationandCultureCommittee/Children%20and%20Young%20People%20(Scotland)%20Bill/ScottishParentTeacherCouncil.pdf

[2] Holyrood Magazine, 11.11.15, Talking about childhood – four Scottish experts share their thoughts, https://www.holyrood.com/articles/inside-politics/talking-about-childhood-four-scottish-experts-share-their-thoughts

[3] NO2NP, February 2016, Would-be Headteachers Put Off by ‘Draconian’ Named Person Legislation, http://no2np.org/head-teachers-put-draconian-named-person-legislation/

[4] NO2NP, 03.07.15, Teachers Concerned Over Demands of Named Persons Workload, http://no2np.org/teachers-concerned-unmanageable-workload-named-person-scheme/

[5] NO2NP, 07.02.15, The Herald: Fears “That NHS Staff and Teachers… Will Become Swamped with Extra Work”, http://no2np.org/herald-fears-nhs-staff-teacherswill-become-swamped-extra-work/

[6] NO2NP, 15.10.15, Named Person Diverts Resources from Vulnerable, Warns Former Leader of Headteachers, http://no2np.org/named-person-diverts-time-vulnerable-warns-former-leader-head-teachers-association/

[7] NO2NP, February 2016, Named Person Watchdog Questions Complaints System in Letter to MSPs, http://no2np.org/named-person-watchdog-questions-complaints-system-letter-msps/

[8] NO2NP, 09.05.14, Social Workers Voice Opposition to Named Person,http://no2np.org/social-workers-voice-opposition-named-person/

[9] Holyrood Magazine, 04.11.15, Is Scotland any closer to becoming the best place for children to grow up?, https://www.holyrood.com/articles/inside-politics/scotland-any-closer-becoming-best-place-children-grow

[10] Maggie Mellon, December 2013, Serviceland: the dark world of ‘named persons’, http://www.scottishreview.net/MaggieMellon137.shtml

[11] NO2NP, 19.07.15, Police Scotland Warn Named Person ‘Wellbeing’ Checks Could Delay Removing Abused Children, http://no2np.org/police-scotland-warn-named-person-wellbeing-checks-delay-removing-abused-children/

[12] NO2NP, 02.07.15, Police Scotland Raises Concerns About Named Person Plans, http://no2np.org/police-scotland-raises-concerns-named-person-plans/

[13] NO2NP, 11.05.15, Children’s Law Charity Set to Join Legal Challenge Against Named Person Scheme, http://no2np.org/childrens-law-charity-set-join-legal-challenge-named-person-scheme/

[14] NO2NP, February 2016, Children’s Legal Charity Warns Named Person Breaches Children’s Rights, http://no2np.org/scots-childrens-legal-charity-warns-named-person-breaches-childrens-rights/

[15] NO2NP, 07.02.15, The Herald: Fears “That NHS Staff and Teachers… Will Become Swamped with Extra Work”, http://no2np.org/herald-fears-nhs-staff-teacherswill-become-swamped-extra-work/

[16] Scotsman, 16.01.16, NHS Lothian warns over Named Person scheme amid staff shortage, http://www.scotsman.com/news/nhs-lothian-warns-over-named-person-scheme-amid-staff-shortage-1-4003169

[17] NO2NP, 03.07.15, Scots Govt “Making a Rod for Its Own Back”, Says Newspaper Editor,

[18] NO2NP, 03.07.15, Scotsman: Sociologist Says ‘Scrap Named Person Scheme’, http://no2np.org/scotsman-sociologist-says-scrap-named-person-scheme/

[19] NO2NP, 26.02.15, Graham Grant: “Children Will be Subject to Orwellian Official Audits of Their Happiness and Well-Being”, http://no2np.org/graham-grant-children-will-subject-orwellian-official-audits-happiness-well/

[20] NO2NP, 08.02.15, Massie: Named Person Like “Mao’s China”,http://no2np.org/massie-named-person-like-maos-china/

[21] NO2NP, 22.05.15, Dr Stuart Waiton TESS Article: “Up Close and Personal”, http://no2np.org/dr-stuart-waiton-tess-article-close-personal/

[22] NO2NP, July 2014, Top Sociologist Slams Named Person Scheme,http://no2np.org/top-sociologist-slams-named-person-scheme/

[23] NO2NP, 11.07.15, Another MSP Adds Voice to Mounting Criticism of Named Person Scheme, http://no2np.org/another-msp-adds-voice-mounting-criticism-named-person-scheme/

[24] NO2NP, 02.07,15, MSP Calls for Review of Named Person Scheme,http://no2np.org/msp-calls-review-named-person-scheme/

[25] NO2NP, 06.07.15, Children’s Panel Member Says Named Person is “Clumsy and Overblown”, http://no2np.org/childrens-panel-member-criticises-named-person-clumsy-overblown/