There’s been a lot of controversy in recent weeks over the provisions in the Government’s Children and Young People Bill to introduced a Named Person Scheme. I have my own amendment lodged on a separate issue, and will write a bit more about that later on this week- however, for now, I think it’s more important to address some of the claims made about the Scheme. Although it may, on the face of it, seem an unnecessary or worrisome step, I am afraid that its intent and effect has been misinterpreted by the media.
Highland Council have implemented such a scheme since 2010, and have said that the scheme emerged from parents’ desire for a clear point of contact for services to support their child’s wellbeing or development. This is therefore a roll-out of a tried and tested system, and although there will probably be some bumps along the way (as there is with any new system) it is not the step into the dark that some are claiming. As an elected representative for the area during the trial’s lifetime- a Highland Councillor until 2012 and an MSP for the area since 2011- I’ve yet to receive any casework or correspondence from parents who feel that the authorities have over-reached or that liberties have been taken.
The Minister taking the Bill through Parliament, Aileen Campbell, has written an excellent letter to all MSPs tackling some of the more troubling misconceptions. As she states:
“the proposals are not about:
• treating every child with the same procedures with which we treat vulnerable children.
• recommending that a social worker be appointed for every child
• giving named persons the authority to enter every house
• establishing a national database. “
It also helps to reduce the burden on social workers; Barnado’s Scotland, for example, have said that where named person schemes are already in place there has been a reduction in caseloads for social workers, allowing them to prioritise helping those most in need of support. I have also been reassured by the support across the children’s sector for the scheme. As well as Barnado’s, rolling out the named person scheme across Scotland is supported by Children 1st, Parenting Across Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland, the NSPCC, Aberlour, the Scottish Youth Parliament, Action for Children, Quarriers, Royal College of Nursing and the Scottish Childminding Association- a show of real support from those who have expertise in the relevant issues. I am a believer in listening to the experts when it comes to policy making, and while this must be combined with proper scrutiny, I am absolutely reassured by the briefings and conversations I have had with representatives from the sector that this will be a positive change.
The named person scheme will create a safety net that no child should slip through, by reducing confusion over what professionals have what responsibilities and allowing action to be taken more quickly. We all want the best for our children, and I believe that this provision- among the others in the Bill – will help to make Scotland an even better place for our children.