Helen Martin: State care is for the needy only

The Bill is seeking to save young children from abuse. Picture (posed by model): Phil Wilkinson
The Bill is seeking to save young children from abuse. Picture (posed by model): Phil Wilkinson
Have your say

I HAVE to confess, I haven’t been keeping my eye on child welfare and protection issues in the Scottish Parliament.

Otherwise I wouldn’t have been so taken aback and so utterly aghast at the Children and Young People Bill making its way through the parliamentary processes in order to become the law of the land.

It proposes a legal requirement that every child in the country is ­allocated their own state “guardian” from birth, someone to safeguard their ­well-being, a “named person” who will protect them from abuse.

Under the age of five it would be a health worker and from then on the responsibility would pass to councils – presumably a social worker.

Unsurprisingly, this has been described as “a first” in the UK, in much the same way as a shop selling chocolate teapots might be “the first”.

Child abuse of any sort is ­horrendous. But last time I looked, social workers were already in short supply, over-burdened and overworked dealing with those children and families where abuse either has taken place or is likely, let alone the vast majority of families where there is no risk and children are already staunchly protected by their parents.

After all, if that’s not a parent’s role, what is?

The response of councils and our government to any behavioural ­problem is so often to interfere in ­everyone’s life and tar all with the same brush. It’s not good for society, it creates a population devoid of responsibility and it costs a fortune.

But if you don’t have the nous to seek out the baddies, it’s so much easier to introduce some daft, blanket rule that puts everyone under suspicion and makes it appear as if government is at least doing something.

People who were emptying from pubs in the Cowgate and staggering about in the road were at risk of being run over, along with one or two ­innocents who may have been hit by drivers who had too much to drink.

The council’s answer was not to crack down on drunks (either walking or driving) but to ban all cars.

Alcohol consumption by some is a major problem in Scotland. Answer?

Put up the prices for everyone. Some folk are fiddling benefits. The UK Government’s solution? Make it harder for anyone, including the clearly mentally ill and chronically-disabled, to get any benefits at all.

The chances of the system being able to provide a “named person” for every child are remote. My 94-year-old mother with dementia has had no less than four different social workers attached to her case over four years.

To top it all, Children’s Minister ­Aileen Campbell has admitted “not every child will need interaction with their named person”. Indeed. So what’s the point in having them?

All this does is generate more work, more bureaucracy, more cost, and more squandering of resources on people who don’t need a service, rather than putting the effort into the children who need it most?

Please God let sense prevail and make sure this law never makes it to the statute book.

O’Brien answer was cardinal sin

POLITICIANS and bankers aren’t the only ones to be “out of touch”. How else can we interpret the response of Cardinal Keith O’Brien who, when told he was being “banished” for allegedly making sexual advances on trainee priests, said: “Am I to live like a hermit?”

At the very least, yes.

Apparently he’s planning on setting up house in East Lothian regardless. You have to wonder which parts of the confession process, such as true remorse, atonement, reparation where possible and humility, he hasn’t quite got? Not to mention how he thinks he can possibly come back from such hypocrisy and disgrace.

Cycle permits are a great solution

THE headmaster of a school in Sussex introduced a scheme for children using their scooters to get to school. They sat a safety test, were given a permit, and told that if they were spotted causing a nuisance on pavements or behaving unsafely, their permits would be withdrawn.

The parents weren’t best pleased and called it overkill.

It might work for Edinburgh cyclists, though, and would be one way of encouraging them to obey the rules of the road while placating those who are calling for cyclists to have insurance or a licence.

Online buying is killing planet

Researchers have declared having your groceries delivered can cut your carbon footprint in half. Maybe.

I once tried it for my elderly mother. Broken eggs, fresh food close to its sell-by date, bizarre “alternatives” sent when an item wasn’t in stock. There was no other way of her getting groceries at the time. For those who are busy, it may be a necessity. But for many people shopping is social contact, exercise and purpose. It also provides jobs.

We’ve all seen what happens to retailers where online takes over, and to the thousands of people they used to employ. I know which poses the greatest danger to the planet.

• AROUND 2.6 million house-holders have interest-only mortgages – and some may also be lumbered with under-performing endowment plans. But 65,000 of them say they didn’t know they had to repay the loan at all! They’re having a laugh. For once I’m on the banks’ side.