We all want Scotland’s children to get the best start in life. Undoubtedly, parents and families are best placed to provide that for their children.
However, it is not always possible, no matter how hard we might try, to predict in advance which children might become vulnerable. The Named Person policy is an important part of trying to ensure that when things are not going well for children, something is done about it.
It has been introduced to make sure families and children get help if and when they need it. It is about supporting, not diminishing, the role of parents and carers.
The policy was passed unopposed in the Scottish Parliament by 103 votes to 0 and has already been upheld by the highest court in Scotland.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. A Named Person won’t replace or change the role of a child’s parent or carer.
Parents and carers are, with very few exceptions, the best people to raise their children. All a Named Person does is ensure that parents have a single point-of-contact if they need it - someone they can go to if they are worried about their child in any way and need advice, information, help or support. They’ll normally be a health visitor for pre-school children and a head, deputy-head or guidance teacher for school-children.
2. There’s no requirement for families to take up the offer of help.
Parents are entitled to advice from a Named Person but they are under no obligation to follow that advice. A Named Person isn’t there to monitor family life. They will respond to requests for help from parents or children and work with professionals, if for example a teacher, has concerns for a child’s wellbeing. The policy means that any child, young person or parent knows who to contact for help or advice if they need it.
Some have suggested that a Named Person would have a say on things like how a child’s bedroom is decorated or what TV programmes they watch – that’s simply not true.
3. Children who are at risk will be protected.
Nothing about the service will change child protection procedures already in place – police and or social work should still be contacted immediately if a child is believed to be at risk of significant harm.
4. A Named Person approach isn’t new.
A Named Person service already exists in many councils, including Highland, Fife, Dundee and South Ayrshire. The new scheme simply extends this good practice consistently across Scotland so that all children, young people and their families can benefit from the same support.
5. Information sharing will only happen to protect wellbeing and support families.
A Named Person will work with families, as they already do, to understand individual circumstances. They will only receive information from other professionals where it is relevant to the child or young person’s wellbeing and where it will help them support the child and family.
Apart from in exceptional circumstances where there is a concern for a child’s safety, the child or young person and their parent will know what information is being shared and why, and their views will be taken into account.
The law already allows information sharing to prevent or tackle a risk to wellbeing. The highest court in Scotland has said that “it has no effect whatsoever on the legal, moral or social relationships within the family.”
Aileen Campbell is the SNP Candidate for Clydesdale