Does your child need a "named person" in order to promote, support or safeguard their wellbeing? The Scottish Government is proposing just such a move, appointing a named person for every person under 18 in Scotland.
We debated the subject in Parliament this week and the Minister argued that such a person, typically a health visitor or a teacher, would help all families access services, information and support. Most of the children’s organisations such as Barnardo’s back such a move saying that taking a universal approach to providing children with a point of contact is in keeping with the GIRFEC principles, child protection based on Getting It Right For Every Child.
Now, I do not have a knee jerk opposition to state intervention, but I find myself questioning the need and the practicality of this measure. I am certainly not going to lay claim to being a perfect parent, but is this really the best use of tax payers’ money and teachers’ time? My main worry is that despite the best of intentions the whole exercise could end up diverting scarce resources away from the children most in need.
There are few people across Scotland who fail to recognise the need to protect and help our most vulnerable children. 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. I simply fail to follow the argument that by giving a health visitor or a teacher responsibility for let’s say 30 well brought up children, or even dare I say, not particularly well brought up children, that will help them recognise the one that needs support and intervention. The danger is that time spent filling in forms for 30 children who will never need any intervention is time that could be better spent on those children in desperate need of help. Resources diverted to children who are thriving, loved and nurtured are resources not spent on the neglected and vulnerable.
As far as I am aware, teachers already have a professional duty and an ethical and legal obligation to pick up on kids who are turning up late for school, badly fed, poorly dressed or otherwise showing signs of lack of care. The same duty applies even more clearly to health visitors. How does seeking assurance from those same teachers that the vast majority of children in their care do not need help in any way assist them in identifying those in danger of slipping through the net? Is there not an obvious risk of creating an administratively cumbersome and bureaucratically complex system but with no additional practical benefit? Will there be a file for every child? Who will keep that file? What happens when staff move on as they often do? At the very least we need to clarify what this additional duty as a named person will mean...
It is my understanding that the GIRFEC pilots have been viewed as successful and that the Education Committee is taking evidence on these very matters over the next few weeks and months...One commentator had this to say about the pilot:
My sons education has been ruined by the GIRFEC system already up and running in the highlands. We are now picking up the pieces for a fed up 17 year old boy.
His health problems were complicated and varied. School took no notice of this, made him and us feel ridiculous for even expecting any help. After taking the highland education authority to arbitration we were given a very minimal amount of help.
The education authority sent a “family worker” to help us. After two 30 min visits I was told that my son would be taken into care if he did not return to school.
He has since had two emergency life saving operations .So the named person is the point of contact who will assess the child`s needs, and share data with other agencies to facilitate and co-ordinate the services .
What services ?