Challenge of child welfare
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill making its way through Holyrood has the potential to be one of the most far-reaching bills considered in this parliamentary session. At its heart is a vision we should all share - making Scotland the best place in the world in which to grow up.
Central to the proposals is a bid to put the child at the centre of how we deliver children's services. This rethinking how we plan services, how public bodies can share information when something may be going wrong in a child's life and how we make sure children know about and can access the services they need.
Unfortunately, some important proposals have already come in for criticism, including the proposal for a "named person". The main task, as set out in the bill, will be to act as the first point of contact for children and families. If additional support is needed, the named person will help to coordinate the public bodies involved. Yet some have criticised the "named person" proposal as an extension of the "nanny state" and too expensive. Neither criticism is justified. Depending on the age of the child, a health visitor or teacher will usually take the role and in most cases will do no more than they do now.
The named person role is already working well in Highland. Barnardo's Scotland staff report that the system has helped to ensure that children get the support they need when they need it. There has also been a significant reduction in the number of non-offence concerns referred to the children's reporter, so less time is spent on writing reports.
Barnardo's Scotland urges ministers and MSPs to be brave, and seize this chance to transform chidren's lives. It would be a shame if misinformed criticism led to our missing this crucial opportunity to get it right for every child.
Martin Crewe, director, Barnardo's Scotland, Edinburgh.