Alex Neil, the Social Justice Secretary, hosted a Fairer Scotland Q&A session on the Scottish Government’s Facebook page the other evening. It wasn’t a roaring success, just like the real life events in Glasgow and Kilmarnock, where the Named Person issue dominated discussions, and many questions surrounding the scheme – including those about consent, necessity and proportionality – received no satisfactory answers.
There was another real life FS event in the ‘Fair City’ of Perth last week, at which the said Minister only appeared for a short time and remained in ‘listening’ and ‘smiling’ mode throughout. The audience was replete with council employees and other ‘professionals’, many of whom were already fluent in the shared ‘Newspeak’ language of the ‘Enabling State’ (in which only state dictated outcomes will be enabled), with hardly a local in sight (although some of the ordinary parents and grandparents who were there, including a retired social worker, were greatly concerned about GIRFEC, data theft and the named person scheme).
The Schoolhouse representative who attended raised questions about non-consensual data processing and the surveillance aspects of the Named Person scheme on behalf of families who believe their parental responsibilities are being actively undermined, and their rights to privacy and confidentiality breached, because they have taken the lawful decision to home educate their children, sometimes as a result of failures on the part of schools. The points were said to have been noted, but the lack of acknowledgement of the actual suffering of real life families is deeply worrying, most especially for minority communities like ours who routinely face unfair discrimination.
Just in case it disappears, we thought we would share a few of the highlights and low points from the Facebook session, which was introduced as follows:
The Scottish Government: Hi, Alex Neil here. I’m the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners’ Rights and I’m here from 7-7.30PM to answer as many of your questions as I can about what you think we need to create a fairer Scotland.
The #FairerScotland discussion asks what a fairer Scotland should look like in 2030 and the steps that should be taken to make this vision a reality. Is it tackling poverty; closing the pay gap between men and women; helping people feel like part of their community; feeling safe; raising attainment in children from poorer backgrounds; access to public services – issues that affect your everyday life.
How can you and your community play a role in helping to shape Scotland’s future?
I’m looking forward to a good discussion, so please keep in mind our rules of engagement in the About section.
I’ll do my best to answer as many questions as possible!
A few questions relevant to our own specific concerns were fielded by several different parents:
Karen Hodges: Who has overall responsibility for overall monitoring my child’s wellbeing – me or a Named Person?
Colin Sutherland: If you are truly trying to create a Fairer Scotland, why are you supplementing social workers, who are fully trained, competent and professional in the identification care and protection of children at risk, by the appointment of a ‘Named Person’ for every child in Scotland under 18, using existing health visitors, teachers or head teachers, who have no such specialist training or competency and are already over stretched, under resourced and struggling to address their day jobs, from the ever changing and increasing roles, and responsibilities, you already burden them with. Can’t you see, this is neither fair nor logical, on either the social services or educational authority and least of all, on the poor Child who is already enduring abuse, desperately awaiting the newly appointed ‘Named Person’, to gather their records from the various bodies and departments, co-ordinate an overview assessment of their exposure without any specific or specialist training in child protection, then compile their own risk profile, from confidential one to one interviews with that child, to finally decide if ‘immediate’ intervention, care and protection is required, by which time it will likely be too late. For the sake of the child, please reconsider the structure, resourcing and funding of this allegedly well intentioned lunacy.
Andrew Sayers: What do you believe we can do to protect Scottish families from the risk of undetected abuse because the system is going to be overstrained by the named person fiasco?
Disappointingly, every single one of the questions relating to aspects of the Named Person scheme was treated to the standard template response that has already been sent out by SNP MSPs to concerned constituents. And as we have previously argued, repeating the same soundbites over and over again doesn’t change the anti-family facts of the legislation, which has already been passed, or the anti-parent guidance that has been drafted to permit state snooping on an unprecedented scale.
Nor does the oft-recounted, rose tinted ‘Highland Fairy Tale’ represent the true picture of a non universal voluntary scheme in one area that introduced a ‘single point of contact’ (not a compulsory state guardian) for a self selecting sub-set of parents whose children had additional support needs and had already been serially fobbed off by ‘services’. In order for ‘Highland Bill’ to bill GIRFEC a ‘success’, it was necessary to omit all the relevant facts and deny the existence of several serious complaints about the scheme that were never acknowledged, never mind addressed.
For those who haven’t yet seen the Scottish Government template (and there can’t be many!), this is the standard non-response that was insultingly ‘cut and pasted’ to Facebook in a futile effort to appease worried parents, some of whom have already experienced the sharp end of the SHANARRI stick:
The Scottish Government: On the ‘named person’ policy, with very few exceptions, the best people to raise their chldren – and despite suggestions to the contrary, nothing in the legislation establishing the ‘named person’ role changes parental rights and responsibilities. Nor is the role about ‘overseeing’ how a child is raised. The plans for a ‘named person’, acting as a single point of contact for each young person, was supported by a large majority of those who responded to the public consultation on the legislation and later endorsed by the Scottish Parliament. It’s backed by a wide range of children’s charities and professionals working daily to support families across the country. You can read more here [link to Focus on the Named Person].
Various parts of the country have already formalised the ‘named person’ role among health and school staff, including in Highland, where it was developed following parents’ complaints about being passed from different services, and having to retell their story when seeking advice and support for their child. There’s no obligation on parents or children to approach their named person, though our hope is that people will feel increasingly confident about asking for support should they need it. An independent evaluation of the Highland Pathfinder scheme identified better outcomes for children, fewer children on the child protection register and reductions in social work caseload.
No further engagement was entered into on Facebook with any parent who queried the template response:
Andrew Sayers: But Alex, the named person scheme takes away parents responsibilities because the named person now has overriding responsibility. SO parents are not in charge of their child’s upbringing. Why is the named person going to be responsible for my child’s happiness?
Participants were generally unimpressed by the event:
Peter Reynolds: Very disappointed by his cut and paste answer to every question regarding the Named Person. What is the point of having a live Q & A if there are not live answers. Specifically he should have answered Robert Fletcher who addressed the issue of the official booklet (aimed at parents with learning difficulties) that says Named Persons should be checking up on whether parents are giving their children a say in how their bedrooms are decorated and what they are watching on TV. Of course many parents would do this, but the idea that the NP is to oversee that is the exact opposite of Alex Neil’s cut and paste spiel.
And here in the Highlands (just as implied in the infamous Lanarkshire “not for public reading” chart) mothers-to-be (and yes, I have heard this from more than one) have to go through a standard 1½ hour questionnaire (on such things as debt, past abusive relationships, how many bedrooms they’ve got) to see whether they are fit to mother – i.e. a licence to parent. This takes place at a standard midwife appointment with the result that the midwife has no time to ask how the pregnancy is progressing and has to arrange a further appointment for the following week to follow this up. Now you tell us contact with the NP is optional???
Karen Hodges: Supporting parents who require support is an excellent goal that I’m sure most people would support. The point I would make is that most do not.
Dee Thomas: In most cases Scottish Ministers are the right people to ensure a fairer Scotland, but sometimes there may be a situation where a Minister simply does not understand the issues being raised by the electorate, causing confusion and widespread fear that the Government do not understand that their policies are being rejected. I was appalled to see “alex” trot out a prepackaged, meaningless response to every concerned parent voicing concerns over the NP scheme..really not good enough at all.
Lardy Croft: What qualifications & training will the names persons have? How long is the training for the role of the named person? What protocols are in place to prevent a repeat of the Orkney Child Abuse Scandal of 1991? How many children will the named person be responsible for? Why Name Person Scheme, why not better child protection & welfare detection and prevention through better communication between schools, health boards & social services?
Rae Macdonald: Mr Neil, will the view of a Named Person trump that of parents?
Dee Thomas: The answer to that under the current legislation is YES
Dennis Davies: as the named person will only help a few children how do you justify having a named person for every child, juat a waste of resources that your goverment says it does not have.
There were, of course, a few apologists from the sycophantic ‘professional’ classes, who clearly know best for all of ‘our’ children. How sinister is this comment about making people understand why the undermining of families is such a ‘great idea’?
Avril McIvor: Hi Minister, I personally and professionally believe that the named person process is a great idea and will support parents who requre support. However I am concerned that some people have not had an opportunity to be shown how effective it will be or what a good piece of policy this is which has led to a few myths and in some cases scaremongouring. Not suggesting this of you Robert. Minister would it not be a good idea for Scottish Gov to have some open sessions across Scotland to provide some factual information and may be even some reflective case examples of how this policy could improve some childrens lifes and in other it will not make a difference to them as their parents are doing a great job. Lets dispell the myths.
An obviously pre-scripted answer to the above pre-scripted point soon followed (while others’ questions were ignored):
The Scottish Government: Thanks Avril, your points are well made. We already have a number of non-statutory pilots running in Ayrshire, Falkirk and the Highlands. Early indications are that the ‘named person’ policy is making a material diference to the protection of young people. Once these are complete, we will be in a position to publish the evidence on how these have worked. Thanks, Alex.
In other words, the pre-fabricated, policy-based evidence is being prepared for publication to slay the naysayers, with predictably unswerving support from the same children’s charities that stand to gain great big grants from implementing mass data theft and interference in family life. The collective voice of the much celebrated ‘children’s workforce’ has, however, been remarkably subdued since Police Scotland and other professional bodies started pointing out all the pitfalls of the parent replacement policy that is at the heart of GIRFEC and the Named Person scheme – especially the increased risk to the most vulnerable children. No doubt their next script is being spun to suit by their paymasters, and new lines are being hurriedly learned, in an effort to placate the parents they were so quick to designate as criminals in waiting.
Of course, as with the recent fake guidance consultation exercise (where the vast majority of responses were dismissed as irrelevant because they were off-message and not written in the new ‘shared language’ of Newspeak), we don’t need a crystal ball to predict that the disasters already happening on the ground (including the tragic deaths of two children in one GIRFEC/NP ‘pilot’ area) will simply be airbrushed out of any ‘evaluation’. Meanwhile, the increasing volume of complaints from parents, professionals and small, non government funded organisations like ours, who deal with the damage on a daily basis, will be dismissed as ‘scaremongering’.
Since the government has already committed to selling off our data, past present and future, for GIRFEC gold at the end of some fanciful rainbow, we do appreciate how difficult and embarrassing it will be for them to perform a Titanic U-turn and admit that they Got It Wrong; but turn they must if a catastrophic impact on the citizens of Scotland is to be avoided.
As we noted in a previous post:
The repugnance and anger expressed by direct enquirers to our organisation, by attendees at NO2NP roadshows and by those leaving comments on our petition undoubtedly represent just the tip of an enormous iceberg that will ultimately sink the seemingly unsinkable GIRFEC Titanic. Several of us heeded the warnings about the vessel’s construction and never got on board in the first place, but now a growing number of passengers – teachers and NHS staff in particular – are voicing concerns about health and safety issues, especially after the Isle of Man’s pilot ship hit the rocks and sank with significant collateral damage to children, families and social care services. Some concerned crew members are already firing emergency flares, others are looking to launch the lifeboats, and a few brave souls are even taking it upon themselves to do the ‘right’ thing and unlock exit routes to allow those in steerage class, i.e. parents and children, a fighting chance to jump ship before it’s too late.
Don’t forget that Alex Neil wants to hear from you! You can share your thoughts on how to achieve a Fairer Scotland by emailing Fairer@scotland.gsi.gov.uk, or snail mailing FREEPOST, FAIRER SCOTLAND.