Thursday, 19 May 2016

Ambiguity piled on top of ambiguity: the Named Person scheme

"The row over a Named Person for every Scottish child ignited spectacularly on network TV last week during an edition of BBC Question Time."
"A member of the Aberdeen audience asked if the Named Person scheme represented `an unacceptable intrusion into family life`."
"David Dimbleby offered the mistaken explanation that; `By law every family will have to name someone outside the family to offer support or advice`."
"A panellist sort of corrected him; `you don’t name them, the state gives you one,` after which Dimbleby said, `I didn’t know that, it gets stranger and stranger,` before stating (again mistakenly), `So every child until 18 will have a social worker attached to them`."
"Scottish government minister Humza Yousaf tried to explain the system but finished with the alarmist claim that, `misconceptions could put children’s lives at risk`."
 And the misconceptions continue:
"Kezia Dugdale got closer to the nub of things by pointing out Named Persons aim to protect the kid who comes to school hungry, dirty or sleepy every other day..."
"Correct", says Leslie Riddoch.

Sorry, incorrect.

GIRFEC is the framework in which the Named Person will operate and that is about early intervention and prevention. It`s about `getting in there early` before things escalate to crisis level. Children who arrive at school hungry, dirty and sleepy are in crisis and teachers are already empowered to alert social services about these type of cases. In fact, everybody is.

She is also wrong to state that there will be no files containing relatively trivial problems being compiled on every child. It is the trivial problems - or just having a suspicion - that is the business of the Named Person. The files begin even before children are born. As the pilot For Highland Children states:
"Identifying the need for early intervention is important when planning care and can often prevent escalation or deterioration of a current situation. Therefore identifying risk and need in pregnancy is extremely important..."
"GIRFEC requires that each child should have a plan which considers their health and wellbeing. Within universal health services this plan is developed by the named person who is responsible for delivering a service to the child. In pregnancy that person is the woman’s named community midwife caseload holder who plans care for the woman and her baby with the wider maternity team as required, and records the details of this in the SWHMR."
"The aim of maternity care is to ensure whenever possible the best outcomes for mothers and babies. The most effective way to achieve this is through a process of continuous risk assessment to ensure evidence based high standards and quality care for all."
The pilot scheme lets us know that risk assessment of health and wellbeing for all, with reference to the physical, emotional and social determinants of health and wellbeing; is about as comprehensive as the data collection can get. And where does the data go? In the child`s file; to be passed on to the next Named Person, and then on to the next. How else can they put the jigsaw pieces together and get the bigger picture? GIRFEC`s words, not mine. However, it is important to know that a risk to wellbeing is a risk to a child`s future happiness. Because it is social services and Police Scotland who actually deal with child protection.
"Formalising the Named Person role [means] other professionals respond promptly to any request for assistance."
Assistance for what, and not so fast?
"Police Scotland warned that such a `significant change for all authorities including Police Scotland` could make it harder to identify at risk children."
When Police Scotland refer to `at risk` children they mean children at risk of significant harm. Given that Police Scotland is very much involved in child protection this is not a statement that should be dismissed so easily. Nor should wellbeing risks (whatever they really are)  be so easily confused with child protection issues. In other words, according to Police Scotland, what the Named Person will do is get in the way of identifying children at serious risk of harm.

As for mentioning the tragic case of Declan Hainey, as if the Named Person scheme would have made a difference, it is as well to recall what else  Sheriff Ruth Anderson had to say:
"I did not accept the submission made on behalf of Renfrewshire Council that the professional judgments which were made during the assessment process up to the post-birth meeting were ‘reasonable professional judgments’. Despite the lack of full information gathering, those involved in making those judgments were well aware of the history of the pregnancy, Kim Hainey’s complete failure to prepare for the birth of her child, her reluctance to cooperate in the assessment process itself, the fragility of family relationships, her chaotic drug history and the instability of her life and housing situation up until only a few weeks prior to the birth of Declan. They were aware of her consumption of alcohol on the day of her discharge from RAH on 29 January (to such an extent that she was smelling of alcohol the following day) and her refusal to accept the risks of such consumption while on a methadone programme, which had started only 6 days earlier. In addition, it was known that Kim Hainey refused to stay in for the first visit by Hugh Madden on 21 February 2008, despite the risk of her losing care of her child being explained to her by Hazel Martin. Had reasonable professional judgment been exercised, then Child Protection measures would have been taken." No child protection measures were ever taken and this was a group of professionals who specialised in the field of drug addiction.

As I`ve said elsewhere just because a group of specialists fail to follow protocols and exercise reasonable judgment does not mean that a Named Person should be foisted on every child in Scotland. Far from it, it looks like it is specialist workers who are overstretched while resources are being squandered building up data files on ALL children.  

And now for another misconception:

"The Act puts children`s rights into law as a responsibility for all public bodies to uphold - even if that means going against the wishes of parents - and creates a new duty on councils and health boards to collaborate in how they deliver children`s services. Supporters say it`s a pioneering bit of legislation that creates universal rights."
On the contrary, the Named Person scheme tramples over children`s right to privacy and exploits them before they are mature enough to have a voice. Who else but parents fight for their children`s rights? Let us not forget the likes of Ashya King. By weakening the child/parent relationship, the Scottish state can hold parents to ransom and inflict any intervention it likes on any family it chooses. A nastier and more tyrannical piece of legislation, it is hard to imagine.

For those who want to research the topic, the Scottish Conservatives have a recent post about the Named Person policy with a lot of documented criticism about the scheme.

1 comment:

  1. Reference to Leslie Riddoch`s article in the Scotsman.