The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Parents facing social work probe ... for not giving children ‘love, hope and spirituality’
Scottish Government snooping on family takes sinister turn
PARENTS should be reported to social workers for not showing enough ‘love’ to their children, says the government adviser behind Scotland’s controversial Named Person laws.
Rules are being introduced to appoint a state guardian for every child in Scotland, in a move designed to protect their ‘well-being’.
But the civil servant driving forward the law has said parents should not only be judged on whether their children are physically well and free from harm – but also on how much ‘hope’ they are offered.
He also said parents should be legally obliged to provide ‘spirituality’ in the home.
The Scottish Government’s named person law is due to come into force in August next year.
All under-18s will be appointed a named state guardian, such as a health visitor or senior teacher, to oversee their welfare.
If anyone – such as a dentist, doctor or teacher – has concerns about a child’s well-being, they are required to report it to the Named Person, who will draw up an action plan involving relevant professionals or agencies.
Critics say the proposals now out for consultation, represents the biggest single erosion of family life ever seen in Scotland.
However, the senior civil servant behind the plan wants to force parents to provide children with ‘love, hope and spirituality’.
At a conference of childcare workers earlier this month, Bob Fraser, Getting it Right for Every Child health adviser in the Scottish Government’s Better Life Chances Unit, also warned that every child will be monitored – ‘not just the usual suspects’ who are known to social services.
The disclosure has fuelled new fears that thousands of families could be targeted if they fail to meet a state-defined ‘happiness index’.
There are also concerns that genuinely at-risk children will fall through the net because social workers are monitoring thousands of well-meaning families.
A spokesman for the No To Named Person campaign said last night: ‘This is a dark, deeply worrying and insidious development.
‘Apparently the Named Person will police family life according to some ever-shifting “happiness index”. It’s an impossible standard for parents to measure up to.’
Mr Fraser told the NHS Health Scotland National Maternal and Early Years conference in Edinburgh: ‘There are many children and young people with needs who are not in the usual targeting or profiling groups and we want to help young people achieve all they can be.’
The Named Person laws include a current state-defined judgment of the factors that apparently make up a child’s well-being.
As well as being safe and healthy and achieving at school, they also include being nurtured at home, being given the opportunity to be active, being respected, being responsible and being included in the community.
If these are not seen to be met, a Named Person could step in.
Mr Fraser said: ‘It’s about linking positive well-being and positive outcomes for all children. Not just the usual suspects, not just for those that we identify as those in need. Every child deserves to have positive well-being. We have had suggestions of different indicators, of love, hope and spirituality. I am not wedded. The Act is there at the moment. But in a few years, if people feel it is right, they should change that.’
At the moment the Scottish Government is expected to stick to its original well-being criteria. But Mr Fraser’s view is that the benchmarks could evolve over time.
Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative spokesman for young people, said:
‘Impossible standard to
measure up to’
‘This is exactly the sort of nonsense which critics of the Named Person scheme feared would happen.
‘Parents will be horrified at the suggestion of being targeted because a state guardian doesn’t regard their home as sufficiently spiritual.
‘This is yet more compelling evidence why this crazy scheme should be dropped at once.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said last night: ‘It is impossible to predict which children may become vulnerable and so the named person is absolutely for every child, so that concerns are picked up early and no child goes without support.
‘The Getting It Right For Every Child policy and the Act make it clear how well-being should be interpreted in terms of the eight indicators – these are already widely used and supported. There are no plans to change this.’