No other European country has attempted to enact a programme of this level of mandatory state intrusion into family life than the Scottish Named Person scheme is attempting. Suzanne Kelly looks at recent developments, reaching conclusions and making recommendations.
The Named Person Scheme is a complete shambles, whatever anyone’s political views on the SNP.
It is rolling out in August – despite no one from the First Minister down to the front line Named Persons being able to say for certain whether or not it is mandatory. Local authorities seem bound to bear most of the costs.
It has already been rolled out in places under the clunky and completely misleading moniker ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’.
One of the first approved Named Persons has been struck off teaching. Government-funded quangos and other organisations are queueing up like obedient circus animals to say what a great thing this is for children.
Groups concerned with human rights, rights of the child and abuses of power by the State are condemning it. It’s an out-of-control catalogue of failures and misleading statements set to put the State above the family.
The proponents tell you that they simply want children to be protected from abusive families. There is absolutely nothing in this scheme that seems to seek to provide protection from abusive teachers and authorities, and nothing in it to tackle the long-running, highy-damaging problem of bullying in schools. No, the only ‘enemy’ of the child that the scheme’s fans want to protect children from is the child’s family.
Chilling accounts of the pilot scheme are attracting some (but perhaps not enough) press coverage.
A girl in Aberdeen was pulled from her classes, asked lots of questions by a ‘nurse’ she’d never met before and who had not identified the purpose of the questions, which included highly personal ones.
A father finds a whole ream of documentation has been built up about a child’s runny nose and nappy rash – and a child being declared by a Named Person to be ‘depressed’ (Depression of course being a serious mental health condition requiring a physician’s diagnosis. Nevertheless, the child’s observed ‘depression’ is now on a permanent record for them and their family).
Questions about the scheme and its precursors have been met with a few answers, a number of conflicting answers, and a good deal of evasion.
Here are some of the issues which every young person and family should be aware of, and also some recommendations for those who have decided they do not want any part of this scheme.
Cautionary Tales for Families:
1. The Fairy Tale – Don’t worry about any perverts or abusive individuals becoming Named Persons:
“Anyone undertaking the Named Person role, such as Health Visitors and Head Teachers, will have already undergone a process of checks and vetting through the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme which checks their suitability to work with children.”
That was the official line from a Government spokesperson in July last year.
The Fact – Teacher appointed first Named Person State Guardian has been struck off.
As the Scotsman reports, Elgin teacher Dayna Dickson-Boath was a named person; she was struck off for sharing fantasies of abusing children. In court it was found she:
“did send, by means of a public electronic communications network, messages to another person that were grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, in that you did converse regarding the sexual abuse of children.”
How did someone get this far into the educational system without being found out? How did the ‘checks and vetting’ promised by the Named Person Scheme’s administrators fail so profoundly? The scheme’s spokespeople are refusing to comment on whether or not disgraced former Aberdeen music teacher John Forrester – currently secretary of the Parent Teacher Association in Auchenblae – would have been a named person or not. Forrester was investigated over an alleged affair with another pupil previous to this, and was meant to be supervised – yet started this relationship.
He’d left his first wife for a schoolgirl (he was 44), took up with schoolgirl Claire Bennett, and has since left her.
Could you imagine a person like that asking you or your child questions of any kind let alone about whether they were on the pill or had their period? The State wants this control over children, but when it came to this case of a student running away from home and then marrying her music teacher as soon as she was 16, the State decided it ‘was not in anyone’s interest’ to pursue a case against him. Well, it wasn’t in the state’s interest, anyway.
The authorities are happy that their vetting procedures are fine which saw a woman with sick child-related fantasies. They also didn’t find anything wrong with a 44 year old teacher having a clearly improper relationship with a 15 year old girl (maybe it’s OK because the couple swore they didn’t have sex until she was 16). So what kinds of things does the State actually object to so strenuously that they must be recorded?
2. The Fairytale – No new powers, child or young person will know what information is being shared:
Those in government determined to get the scheme approved have written:
“The legislation brings no new powers for teachers, or any other professionals.”
“The Act does not introduce any powers over a child for the Named Person role,”
“There are no powers in the Act plans to routinely gather and share information, or records. If there is a concern about wellbeing then relevant public bodies will share information proportionately and if relevant to addressing a concern. The child or young person will know what is being shared, for what reason and with whom and their views will be taken into account.”
– [email to S Kelly of July 2015]
The Fact – Thumbsucking, nappy rash, and a parent’s perceived refusal to take advice on thumbsucking:
So, perhaps you think that your child will just have a couple of pages about whether or not they’re happy, in serious trouble, have serious concerns to be addressed. Think again. By the time a toddler is sucking its thumb – now a reportable incident as is a parent’s lack of concern for it – expect dozens of pages of spying to have been amassed.
As the Scotsman reported, an education professional decided to try and obtain the records for their family The massive report, which was largely redacted, recorded that the father didn’t seem to take the Named Person’s advice about thumb sucking. Did he have to? Is that the type and level of detail that the State should get involved in? Is there an official position now on thumb-sucking?
The Scotsman’s article reads in part:
“Contained within a 60-page document that had been compiled about his family, the note referred to a blister which had appeared on the toddler’s thumb as a result of the childhood habit. It also suggested Smith contact his GP if the blister became “hot to touch or very red”.
“Smith, whose name has been withheld to protect the identities of his children, grew more alarmed as he leafed through the document, the vast majority of which had been redacted.
“The surviving extracts appeared to indicate that the minutiae of his family life had been recorded in painstaking detail for almost two years, under a Named Person scheme which has been introduced in his part of the country ahead of its final roll-out across all of Scotland in August. A separate note made by the Named Person charged with keeping an eye on the academic’s two little boys was concerned with nappy rash.” http://www.scotsman.com/news/revealed-what-can-happen-when-a-named-person-reports-on-your-children-1-4089077#ixzz44lR69DmU
Maybe this level of detail wouldn’t be so intrusive if the State showed as much interest in the children it has taken into care. Maybe this level of reporting doesn’t have any cost implications – even though it clearly has Human Rights implications (family life being a cornerstone of EU Human Rights legislation). Or maybe Mr Smith and others could simply exercised their rights to opt out of the Named Person Scheme?
Myths? Fairytales? The ambiguity of opting out and of the scheme’s costs:
So, do people need to comply with this programme? The government’s spokeswoman advised in July 2015 advised:
“No. As we have said before, there is no obligation for a parent, child or young person to engage with the Named Person. The legislation brings no new powers for teachers, or any other professionals.”
– [email to S Kelly July 2015]
Surely if the First Minister says it’s not mandatory, that is grounds for anyone to disregard a NP?
During First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Ms Davidson asked:
“Are parents who don’t agree with this scheme able to stop their child from having a named person and withdraw their child from all named person provisions?”
Ms Sturgeon responded:
“The named person scheme is an entitlement, I think it is a good and sensible entitlement. It is not an obligation. It helps children and families get the support they need from services when they need it.
“It does not in any way, shape or form replace or change the role of the parent or carer or undermine families… It is not possible to predict in advance which children might become vulnerable.”
Perhaps ‘Mr Smith,’ reading the 60 page report on his toddler and seeing himself criticised for not paying attention to the NP’s thumb-sucking advice might disagree with Sturgeon on the undermining of families.
If it is not possible to predict in advance which children might be vulnerable, then that would come as a surprise to paediatricicans, hospitals and social workers. Perhaps what I needed is not this Kafkaesque scheme, but far better training and funding for the professionals who are charged with finding children who are at risk. Of course in some tragic instance, it is the State that fails our children.
From the girls in care who were physically abused by police (who drove them to a secluded spot and made them walk without shoes in manure while threatening then), to the tragic girls in care who jumped to their deaths – the state does not always get it right for the very people they have deemed at risk.
Wouldn’t logic dictate spending more resources on the risks we know about and looking for potential risks based on hospital records and clear indicators rather than from spying on each and every child in Scotland? It doesn’t get easier finding a needle in a haystack by adding more hay to it. So is it mandatory – and as bad as this Daily Mail article makes it seem?
As the First Minister is at odds with some of the NP evangelists, who can say? Why they want this database which any NP can add to and almost anyone in government can access raises alarm bells.
The word is that Sturgeon wants out of this ludicrous scheme – probably before we all start realising that the costs are coming from our taxes – and that the cost could be extremely exorbitant. Money has already been spent on a ludicruous, patronising song and a play for children (although anyone over 4 years old will fee their intelligence is being insulted).
The less-than-catchy anagram ‘SHANARRI’ (something to do with children’s rights) is a song rolled out by the Hopscotch Theatre Company and bankrolled by the taxpayer. Schools pay £400 to have the theatrical troupe come to their school to teach the children this state-supporting dogmatic song.
To call it a train wreck would be to do a huge disservice to train wrecks. Watch the video here, if you are able to stomach it:
“Let’s hold a vigil for every individual to play a part in the greatest team” the song suggests.
So, what is this one team we’re all meant to join and who’s in charge of it. This is the worst kind of brainwashing propaganda there is. Anyone associated with this should be ashamed. Alas, the comments are disabled on the video, no criticism will be brooked.
Just Say ‘NO’
There are more reasons to scotch this Scottish scheme. Here in the meantime are some tactics that might be useful.
School pupils – if you are old enough to understand the issues, and if you decide you don’t want to answer questions about whether you house is cozy, you like your siblings, or anything personal, tell your parents how you feel now. Get them and you to write a letter for you to both carry with you and for you to give a copy to your school head.
It should say:
‘I do not want to participate in any questions about my home life. The First Minister said that the Named Person scheme is not mandatory. I have told my parents how I feel and they support my decision not to answer personal questions or to have any notes kept about how I might be feeling.
‘If I have any problems, I will take them to an adult I feel comfortable discussing them with. I understand that one of the rights I have is to be respected. I am asking you to respect that right and leave me my privacy.’
Write to your elected representatives as an individual or as a family and say how you feel – here is an easy way to find them: www.writetothem.com/
If someone asks you questions at school that are personal – ask them politely to tell you why they are asking. Show them the letter. Tell them that you have chosen not to participate in the Named Person scheme and you don’t wish to discuss it further. If you don’t know who they are, ask for their name.
Ask them for a list of questions they intend to ask you. Be aware that they are possibly going to start asking you questions as if they are just having a friendly conversation – if questions start getting uncomfortable or personal, you are always allowed to say you don’t feel it’s an appropriate subject to talk about and that you will let them know if you do want to talk about anything.
Keep a list of every time you are asked questions, what the questions are, your answers, and who is asking them.
If you ever feel pressured or threatened by anyone be they a relative, peer or a teacher or person in authority, tell someone who you trust about it straight away.
For teenage girls – it seems as if you might be in for the worst excesses of this scheme. It seems like your doctor or clinic might now be supposed to tell your named person if you want anything to do with birth control. Girls are being asked questions about their periods, sex and other items which you probably don’t want written down in a record somewhere.
Stand your ground, politely say now. If you are worried about your doctor revealing any information, remember that you can get some forms of birth control at the chemist, which won’t go on any record. But be safe, whatever you choose to do.
For adults – if your child doesn’t want to participate, see advice above. Further, think about asking your school for information about who your child’s Named Person is: turn the tables on them.
Tell them that you don’t want to participate, especially as you first want to know: Named Person’s criminal records, length of time teaching, whether they or any of their relatives, acquaintances have ever been on the sex offenders’ register. Ask them what qualifications they have to be asking questions which are very personal and which could have psychological implications.
If you/your child wants to find out what information is already being held about you, do a Subject Access Request.
As parents you can to access information about your child by making a SAR if the child is unable to act on their own behalf or has given their consent. Further information can be found here: https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1065/subject-access-code-of-practice.pdf
Make sure your child knows what I going on, and when they decide whether or not they want anything to do with this scheme, support their decision.
There is a chance commonsense, human rights, and logic will yet put this scheme on the scrap heap where it belongs. This might be too optimistic. We have a scheme no one knows whether it is mandatory or not, no one is sure of the cost or the scope of it, and those at the heart of grilling you or your children have already been proven to be disturbed potentially violent people with unhealthy interests in children.
Best advice? Be careful (and/or consider home schooling).
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I fear I must chide you, for being far too lenient, tolerant and reluctant to apply an appropriate level of opprobrium to the most grotesque piece of legislation ever to be considered by the Scottish Parliament.
This appalling scheme is not supported by parents, is not supported by Health Visitors and is not supported by the people of Scotland. Indeed, the only person who appears to support the scheme is Nicola Sturgeon, as she flounders around trying, as usual, to be all things to all Scotsmen/women.
The Named Person Scheme is mandatory and will ensure that a Named Person will be assigned to every young person in Scotland, whether the parents wish to “engage” or not. The Named Person will be obliged to note and notify the authorities of the most trivial concern, not least for fear that inaction may lead to them facing censure, or worse, in the future.
Named Persons will be assigned to seventeen year olds, who may have children of their own and may even share the same Named Person as their offspring. Named Persons will be assigned to young people, under the age of eighteen, serving in the armed forces, though who this might be remains unclear.
This is an appalling attack on our human rights and an object lesson in how elected dictatorships can resort to crass stupidity, and should be resisted by all.
On a brighter note, I suspect this may be Nicola Sturgeon’s Poll Tax and that this, along with the various high – profile allegations of sleaze, fraud, theft, bullying, mortgage fraud, fiddling of expenses, cronyism and racism currently engulfing the Scottish Government, might lead voters to remove the face – paint and apply some logic when exercising their democratic right to vote.
Great work Suzanne and may your God or Named Person bless you!
Suzanne says – agreed! The very idea of this legislation shows what kind of megalomaniacal power-hungry people are making laws. If I had a child, I’d leave Scotland, or at least resist. I do hope there will be lots of resistance to this Orwellian diktat. The State is answerable to us – children must never be conditioned to think they are answerable to it.
Thank you for your reply Suzanne,
The Scottish Government, in my opinion, now effectively exercise political control over the Police, the Civil Service and all areas of publicly funded institutions, including all quangos and much of what is now referred to as the Third Sector. IMO They have bullied and intimidated large sections of the mainstream media into silence and have shamelessly courted the most unsavoury individuals and regimes, including the flapping of their collective undergarments in the air, like Snuffy Ivy* after a few too many in the Criterion, in an attempt to woo the most despicable, such as Donald Trump and the Qatari Government.
The manner in which so many Scots are willing to accept this, as a perceived antidote to imaginary injustice and oppression, at the hands of the dastardly “English”, makes me a tad angry, as you might have already guessed.
* I apologise for any offence caused to any surviving friends or relatives of the legend that was Snuffy Ivy. She was a fine lady and I mean no disrespect in using her name to make my point.
We have children, and we are leaving Scotland. We’re not alone. We’ll be going as soon as humanly possible.
There’s a bigger picture here. Yes, it’s important to prevent the NP from rolling out, and very important to get it stopped. But the minds that came up with it are still in charge, they’re still planning all sorts of other grosteque things, like a central ID database using NHS records. And if they can come up with NP, what else will they come up with? They’ve already silenced dissent within the party itself. I find the whole thing more than a little scary & surreal. And what’s most surreal is that a huge number of my fellow Scots appear to have gone stark, staring mad; not only do they trust the government, they trust the government to do what’s ‘best’.
The SNP are not offering independence. Not by anyones stretch of the imagination. They’re offering North Korea. On a plate. And those so obssessed with independence they can’t see beyond it are lapping it up.
i seen live broadcast of news or debate program last week that nicola sturgeon says its voluntary NOT mandatory.
Suzanne says – and that’s part of the problem. She says one thing; the people organising it say it is mandatory. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHyAqeKY7O0 If they can’t even work that out, then why are they rolling it out. I’m no fan of the Press & Journal, but today it reports the cost to Aberdeen City Council will be c. £2 million (sounds conservative to me). Just. Say. No.
It is mandatory. There is no opt out and, as stated by the QC hired by Nicola Sturgeon to defend the appeal in the Supreme Court, there would be absolutely no point in such legislation were there to be an opt out or if the scheme were to be voluntary.
Nicola Sturgeon, in my humble opinion, is, as usual, talking out of both sides of her mouth at the same time. She says there is no obligation for parents to “engage” with the Named Person, but concedes there will be a Named Person assigned to every young person in Scotland, come what may, unless the current appeal is successful.
Like Dorothy Bothwell, I find it staggering that there is such little vocal opposition to this. I was, however, similarly taken aback at the lack of public awareness during the early days of the ill – fated Poll Tax initiative, a move which effectively ended the political career of a rather over – bearing female politician with a penchant for screeching, expensive designer suits and intolerance of dissent.
Go on lightning, strike again!
As ever, such refreshing comments by Bruce Wood – if refreshing is the word. As a head teacher (retired) I have such concerns about this legislation. There are systems in place to protect children already. These do need to be looked at again, but there is no way on this earth that what is being put in place will protect vulnerable children any more than they are ‘protected’ at the moment. I am surprised at the lack of debate on this issue, both in the media and on FB, as many people seem to be taking it at face value, which is always a danger. I have been involved nearly all of my teaching career with children who are vulnerable, and this misguided initiative is certainly not the answer.
I’m still trying to work out how I came to use the names of both Snuffy Ivy and Donald Trump in the same sentence.
I’m sure she would be appalled to be associated with such a character.
I always remember reading about the children of Fred and Rosemary West who grew up believing that their very harsh environment was normal. Rosemary always had the youngsters turned out immaculately and they were given notes for excuses not to attend PE classes due their bruising. In the end a persistent police officer uncovered the awful crimes their parents had committed.
The Baby P case elicited a failure of all the agencies who did not work together or share information and their individual concerns regarding his environment.
There are instances where young Asian girls have been taken suddenly out of school to another country which raises concerns about forced marriages. I feel that the GIRFEC scheme will save youngsters like these. They are very precious. GIRFEC provides a joint way of looking after and identifying our most vulnerable children.
From Suzanne Kelly: High profile failures of systems that were stretched because of too much work and/or red tape is what you are referring to. The GIRFEC pilot scheme of the Named Person scheme has already seen – per the article you comment on – a woman approved a Named Person who had shared violent fantasies about children online and is now struck off. Your GIRFEC scheme fondness overlooks the fact that this woman managed to slip through the nets and would have been asking children sexual activity questions. High profile cases you cite are thankfully extremely rare. How on earth will treating all children as if they are answerable to the state – or to that woman who thankfully was caught – solve anything? Collecting more data will only make it harder to find the needle in the haystack. Teaching children their parents are subject to state control over their family life is Orwellian, wrong, and against basic human rights and freedoms. This ill thought out, expensive, intrusive, potentially psychologically damaging scheme is in no way a logical, fair, sensible, workable answer to the number of children that fit the Baby P bill or the West Family’s horrors. Sorry, but you are quite wrong.
Having worked somewhere this was piloted it is nothing more than an update to what any decent school/council should have had in place. Are the acronyms annoying – yes, but they are designed to help people working with children identify areas of concern and start discussions about next steps. Common sense and professional judgement will be used every step along the way (as it always has) but GIRFEC and SHANARRI are updates to educationally required child protection guidelines to protect the countries most vulnerable children.
Suzanne says ‘AArgh!’ right back at you. If you’d care to address the points the article brings up, great (did you read the piece?). Common sense and professional judgement – like the woman who sailed through the NP training and is now struck off for her paedophile fantasies? Sure. FYI I’ve talked to people who’ve been on the other end of the pilot scheme who aren’t as thrilled as you are. Here’s an interesting debate http://no2np.org/bbc-question-time-named-person-scheme-strange-says-dimbleby/ . It boils down to state control over all families. If you’re happy with that great. There are a great many people out here who prefer their freedom and rights of the individual. The ‘head gardener’ description given to the NPs when explained to children – doesn’t that tell the children that their parents are secondary. Cost to Aberdeen city is thought to be £2 million a year.
Ah… “common sense and professional judgement”.
As the son of two teachers (one of them a guidance teacher) I would like to think that the NP role will be filled with people possessing these qualities in abundance.
Sadly, as the father of a child with additional support needs, I find them to be severely lacking.
Our son has recently been diagnosed with Aspergers. This makes his behaviour challenging at times, making it all the more necessary for parents and school to work in partnership.
However, his first headteacher (identified prematurely as his Named Person on one of the GIRFEC forms) ascribed his difficulties to “lack of parental consequences” (I fail to see how not punishing a child sufficiently could lead to them having fixations and literal thinking…) and placed a huge added strain on our relationship with our son as we dealt with not only his behaviour, but the ignorant condemnation arising from it. Her attitude was ignorant, judgemental, patronising, smug and self-righteous.. and I’ll stop before I reach the darker end of my vocabulary.
And this was the person who would be responsible for our son’s “wellbeing”… I note the school were recently participating in “Autism Awareness Week” – I hope the head teacher learned something.
Another participant in the “Staged Intervention” meetings (beautifully described by one comment I’ve seen as “Six people telling you how rotten your kid is, but they’re there to help”) was the Educational Psychologist. I’m not sure if she had children herself, or had ever actually met any real children… at one point when there seemed like the vague hope of her actually getting involved, she said “That would be an interesting wee research project for me!”. I’m glad she found our family’s mental health such fertile ground…
I should say, that amongst the “professionals” we’ve met there are those who will say “I’ve been there” or “My son gets a taxi to school” or “I know what it’s like to get the phone-calls [from school]” which is a tremendous reassurance that the person you are dealing with will have some insight and wisdom.
Regarding the whole “GrrrFeck!” (as we have come to think of it) and SHANARRI stuff… I find it extremely offensive that there is one process which is used for intervention regardless of whether it is for protection concerns, or because your child has, for example, a neuro-biological condition. The original poster perpetuates that conflation.
But, back to the named person scheme.
In contrast to our relationship with our son’s first Head Teacher, the one we had with his Health Visitor was extremely helpful. She was (and is) someone we could trust and rely upon for advice and referrals (e.g. to CAMHS – Oh- the waiting list is 6 months already, if there is to be a huge increase arising from the NP scheme)
However, the NP scheme will undermine this sort of relationship with a trusted professional, requiring them to conduct multiple hour-long interrogations on such matters as family finance! That isn’t Daily Mail hyperbole, it’s in the plan here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0048/00487884.pdf
Suzanne Kelly says: It is with huge relief that the NP scheme is not being rolled out. Flawed, undemocratic, Orwellian some say – it was dealt a blow by the courts. Far from ‘getting it right for every child’ this sought to treat all children and families with a one-size-fits-all mentality starting on the assumption the parents are inferior guardians to state-appointed ones. Glad – very glad – to see this dealt such a blow. Please let’s ensure it doesn’t come back. Time to start looking at its architects and the propagandists who helped it along, not least the people behind the ‘SHANARRI’ song who happily took taxpayer money to produce the worst drivel I have ever seen used to support any government programme anywhere, ever.
A bit of political mischief making here. Fact is most abuse takes place within families. You will always have examples of professionals who fail in their duties but my concerns are just WHO are you trying to protect here?