Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Why is there no opt out to the Named Person scheme ?

 Kaye Adams had another discussion about the Named Person on BBC radio Scotland yesterday morning.

The BBC had taken itself to the central primary school in Inverness in the Highland Council where the Named Person pilot has been in place since 2008.

Kaye Adams asked Bill Alexander, Highland Council`s director of care and learning, to describe how the Named Person scheme works.

It was something families had asked for he explained as a first point of contact. Most families do not have a social worker but they do have contact with midwives, health visitors and head teachers and so they were brought into the Named Person scheme. As a consequence, we have less people climbing up the system with higher levels of need, less children being looked after and less children saying they are using drugs or alcohol.

The system which builds on what is already in place has been formalised through the legislation and there is more clarity about the professional`s role. Also the Named Person has some clout and can go to other professionals, for example, social workers, and say this family needs help and other professionals will respond because they know the family and Named Person have worked that through. [He later says social work caseloads are down. So who are the other professionals, if they are not social workers, who are assisting the Named Person with early interventions that ensure problems do not escalate? They seem to be working magic. ]

"That is how we work things in the Highland Council.   Health and social services work around the school.  It is always up to the family."

Can the Named Person who has been appointed ... look at a family?" asks Kaye Adams.

"You are not appointed as Named Person. You are the head teacher for that child."

"So every head teacher in Scotland is going to become a Named Person?"

"That`s correct, " says Bill Alexander, "And every health visitor...It has always been the case if the head teacher is worried about a child they will discuss that with the family."

At this point Christine, a head teacher joins the discussion. "Yes you can come to me. We can talk about it... and what the next steps are... It is an entitlement. I am there to support their child."

"Could you be proactive," asks Kaye Adams.

"I can be proactive and go to the family but ninety percent of the time they come to me."

"Supposing they say get lost... Supposing they don`t want Christine as their Named Person.?"

"It has always been my job to raise concerns with the family and so I will try to persuade them....The family can choose someone else in the school but as head teacher I have to have an overview."

On the other hand, the head teacher of Clifton Hall school in Edinburgh has misgivings about the Named Person role. Accepting that he has always had responsibility for the health and wellbeing of children, it is the statutory role of the Named Person that concerns him because it makes him legally accountable for outcomes and the resources are not there.

"I want to know that I am going to get the help I need to fulfil that responsibility."

He briefly mentions a family he is involved with where the child attempted to take his own life, the family were in crisis... he had three or four meetings with social work and health. but there were no crisis facilities or mental health services available. Another teacher he has been talking with has 53 children on the child protection register.

Bill Alexander points out that the Named Person is not about child protection; it is about partnership and wellbeing. "I welcome accountability. It makes the health visitor service a statutory service and other services work around the universal health visitor. He admits they are strapped for resources but the Named Person is about getting the right resource to the right child at the right time. "I believe with a child`s plan we can have a coordinated response. That is why social work caseloads are down..." [So the Named Person and their coordinated responses go up, and the social work caseloads go down. Mmmm  That does not address the concerns of the head teacher from Clifton Hall does it ?]

Simon Calvert from NO2NP who is against the Named Person legislation reminds Bill Alexander that the Act does not come into force until August 2016 and the single point of contact operating with consent - which is not about child protection - that may be operating in the Highlands, is not what the Act is about. A Named Person will be appointed for every child and the Scottish government made it very clear in the court case that opt out would defeat the scheme.

"We are now joined by Aileen Campbell at an appropriate moment as Simon was speaking."

"First point, why is this compulsory? Why not an opt out?" asks Kaye Adams

"This is in universal services where we have this in place. It allows us to have early interventions....All families will have a Named Person to provide help if they need it."

"So if you say go away;  you don`t have to accept their advice. You can say I am going to do my own thing?"

"It will be a test of the relationship," says Aileen Campbell.. "It is about good communication; is what they do already across large sections of the population.... they do not want to repeat their allows help to prevent them going into crisis." [It is a bit of a ramble and this is only the gist.]

Simon Calvert talks about a family who was told the health visitor was going to be their Named Person but they said they had all the services they wanted. They were berated by their GP and others who said "You must have a Named Person.. So that is the approach. This Named Person is going to come and see you whether you like it or not." [So persuasion turns out to be more like coercion ?]

"I have a health visitor," says Aileen Campbell.

"What happens if they don`t want that?"

Aileen Campbell sees that as a problem requiring better communication and partnership but does not seem to grasp that some families object to having that communication and partnership forced on them.

Kaye Adams sums up the conversation so far. "Potentially, for a lot of families, it could be a marvellous thing. Kate in Grangemouth said having a Named Person would have made my family better. Equally we have people who have not had a good experience; yet as parents they have not been able to say no."

Aileen Campbell says, "I would be very happy to pick up those conversations with those families."

"Why not have an opt out scheme?"

"Because this is a universal scheme... Most will have a head teacher... we know that it works. and we want to make sure there is that universal access."

"How about universal access with the Named Person, with opt out?"

Aileen Campbell, Children`s Minister, never did answer the question.

Listen here

............More to follow.

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