Friday 6 May 2016

Child protection and the Named Person

It is interesting to note the various responses to petition PE1551 calling on the Scottish Parliament to introduce legislation that makes it a criminal offence to fail to report child abuse. Mr Scott Pattinson, the petitioner, is particularly concerned about the ability of staff in care homes to report child abuse in these institutions.

It is the Care Inspectorate which has the responsibility to regulate all residential provision for children and young people in Scotland but they do not see mandatory reporting of child abuse as a guarantee that reporting will happen `on each occasion`.
"We would have concerns about resources being used to support this legislation rather than supporting the direction of travel in Scotland of implementing legislation to support GIRFEC as an early intervention model and one which allows clarity of responsibility for professionals in meeting the individual needs of child[ren]."
Children 1st also wants discussion about the issue to take account of GIRFEC and the Named Person scheme:
"Discussions should be seen in the wider context of the measures introduced in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, for example, which legislates for the Named Persona role which is intended to stop vulnerable children slipping through the netby collating wellbeing concerns about the child and taking appropriate action."
Barnardo`s are not in favour of criminalisation either: "We would be concerned that criminalising failure to report might lead to a significant increase of referrals and overwhelm the child protection system."
"Barnardos Scotland hopes that the introduction of the Named Person, in particular, to the child protection system in Scotland, will lead to improved prevention, identification, and early intervention in tackling child abuse, and perpetrators will be brought more swiftly to justice." 
So no worry there about overwhelming the child protection system with increased wellbeing referrals coming from the Named Person, only that mandatory reporting might do that..

The NSPCC goes on to suggests that mandatory reporting might make the implementation of GIRFEC and the Named Person more difficult:
"The named person proposal stimulated a wave of concerns from professionals and professional organisations who, knowing and taking seriously their statutory duties, are concerned about the necessary resources and supportive cultures being in place to make this work effectively in practice. Against this background, the idea of placing an additional criminal sanction on professionals (as suggested by this petition) is wholly unrealistic..."
"Criminal sanctions already exist in Scots law...There is an issue, however, in the laws not being used....A very significant issue is the lack of transparency around the work of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal..." [I wonder what they know about the Hollie Greig case.]
"The Childrens Act was introduced in 2014. It is vital that we support efforts to allow this legislation to take effect before considering the introduction of any additional legislation to introduce sanctions for professionals, particularly where there is limited evidence of tangible benefits to children."
 All hopes are being pinned on GIRFEC and the Named Person scheme, and just like mandatory reporting, there is limited evidence of tangible benefits to children.

One of the Scottish Government`s responses lists the actions they are taking to tackle child abuse and that includes the inquiry into historical child abuse.
The Inquiry officially started its work on 1 October 2015 and two Panel members have now been appointed to assist the Chair. The overall aim and purpose of the inquiry is to raise public awareness of the abuse of children in care. It will provide an opportunity for public acknowledgement of the suffering of those child and a forum for validation of their experience and testimony.   
The petitioner has called on the Scottish Parliament to legislate to make failure to report child abuse a criminal offence so that the abuse children have suffered in the care of the state does not happen again; but it looks like the Scottish Government has been moved or `shoved`, away from considerations of criminality and cover-ups, towards ideas about early intervention (pre-crime) and the validation of the suffering of children in care.

While I am not in favour of criminalisation and do think Scots law already exists to deal with perpetrators, it is not being used, as pointed out by the NSPCC. The government`s response is feeble.

Will the Named Person protect children from abuse?

No, scattering children`s data all over the place, if anything, will allow vulnerable children to be found and cover-ups to continue. In fact, with the amount of information available to perpetrators cover-ups are going to be easier. All it takes is a few paedophiles, who are known to form networks, to put themselves in strategic places. What is more, they are already in the system and have never been dealt with. Validating children`s experiences, long after abuse happens, is not good enough.

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