Named person scheme may be controversial but, says new SNP MSP Ash Denham, it is not a threat to parents but a support.
A LITTLE over a fortnight ago, I was honoured and excited to have been elected to serve as MSP for the constituency of Edinburgh Eastern. I am also enthused to be one of 51 new faces in Holyrood – the largest new intake since the parliament was reconvened in 1999. I hope this rejuvenation of the parliament will bring many new ideas and wider, more colourful debate in the Chamber.
One service introduced by this government, which I was glad to see piloted from 2008 in the Lothian Region, is the named person.
The named persons provision is included in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, which introduced the option free school meals for P1-3 children – saving families around £330 a year – and extended free childcare. Informed by the views of experts in the fields of child welfare, health, and education, the legislation creates a professional single point-of-contact for families, children and other professionals. The aim is to build on existing supportive roles, in line with the national framework Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC). The point of contact is dependent on situation and age, but is usually a midwife, health visitor, guidance teacher, or headteacher.
The named person was piloted from 2008 in both the Lothian and Highlands regions, and since then it has successfully promoted and safeguarded the wellbeing of children in these areas, with the number of children who are considered “at risk” falling by around half.
The scheme also ensures that – where there are concerns – parents are not attacked from all sides. With one point of contact, concerns can be relayed easily, without various referrals made and with only one person to decide if a genuine child protection issue exists before action is taken.
With exceptions very few and far-between, parents and carers are the best people to raise their own children. A named person will therefore have no duty to monitor family life, and need only act when it becomes necessary to the child or young person’s wellbeing. Children and their parents are under no legal obligation to accept their advice or help. However, as it is impossible to know if any given child may become vulnerable in future, making a named person available and accessible to every child and young person is the best chance we have to pick up on early concerns, and ensure no child in need is left without support.
I am pleased to have spoken to young people in my own constituency who feel they have already benefitted from the scheme. One 18-year-old, Emily, confided in me during my first surgery last Friday that she “does not know what would have happened” to her had concerns not been raised with her headteacher about her home life and behaviour in school.
Whilst for most this resource may never be necessary, I am glad it exists to protect the most vulnerable, and is already providing necessary and welcome guidance to constituents like Emily.
• Ash Denham is SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern