Friday, 9 September 2016

Myths and misconceptions

Bill Alexander, Director of Care & Learning, Highland Council

I was concerned about some of Bill Alexander`s responses to questions on the BBC Scotland programme, uploaded to Youtube on 9 September 2016. The programme followed John Swinney`s statement to the Scottish Parliament about the Named Person policy.

His first response was to say how sorry he was that Simon Calvert from the No to Named Person campaign was still repeating myths and misconceptions, but as Simon Calvert later pointed out, the only misconception had originated with Bill Alexander himself. The NO2NP spokesman said: "Mr Alexander has defended this policy to the hilt for two years. Two years almost to the day he told us in a local paper that concerns about the European Convention on Human Rights were misguided. Well he was wrong. He owes those people an apology."

Of course, there was no apology from Mr Alexander. When he was asked by the presenter if Highland Council had made any changes following the Supreme Court ruling - that the Children and Young People Act was unlawful - he answered:

"No, the Supreme Court ruling - and let`s go back to that - talked about the information sharing provision in the Children and Young People`s Act. That has not yet been commenced. The Supreme Court ruling was not critical of current practice and indeed as you`ve already said the Supreme Court ruling said that not only was the aim of the Named Person service legitimate and benign but it was an entirely reasonable measure to support early intervention ..."

Yet it was reported by the Express early in 2014 that one in five children in the Highlands had been given a ` child`s plan` which is an enormous figure. How did such an explosion in `child plans` happen spontaneously without data sharing? Since data sharing is at the heart of GIRFEC and the Named Person scheme, what was the pilot supposed to be piloting? I think Mr Alexander is beginning to spin another myth and misconception here.

It was even more ludicrous when he said of the unlawful scheme: "What is also very welcome is that we have in Scotland a suite of practices that are considered to be leading the way in Europe. Scotland`s working with Scandinavia. We`re working with Eastern Europe who are then putting the practices within Getting it Right for Every Child, developed here in Scotland, into place in those countries."

Well that`s disgraceful. Never mind that `early intervention` was developed in the United States; this man likes to spin. As for Scandinavia, Eastern Europe and the rest of the world - they need to be warned about GIRFEC.

When the discussion moved on to consider `wellbeing`, it was particularly below the belt when Bill Alexander commented: "I`m very sorry to hear Simon deriding the happiness of children. If Simon wasn`t in Newcastle he would perhaps have heard the report today that ChildLine have had over 900 calls from children in the last year who have had suicidal inclinations. Now absolutely the wellbeing of children must be at the heart of our concerns."

The implication that those who oppose the Named Person scheme have no thought for children`s wellbeing is obnoxious.
ChildLine is run by the government funded NSPCC which will bring out reports, conveniently releasing them just before government announcements. The public is beginning to see through these tactics. Most telephone calls to ChildLine are about bullying at school and that information comes from the volunteers, not NSPCC spokespersons.

If children`s mental health is deteriorating - and we can`t be sure that it is - it is not for the want of children`s charities. There are hundreds of them. So what are they doing? Then again, should children be given social and emotional learning by psychologically untrained staff? Should young schoolchildren be given lessons in death, dying and bereavement, to the point of tears? Maybe not. The mental health of children is a big topic which requires more than a trite answer.



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