What's in a named person?

26th October 2012 at 01:00

The report in TESS, 19 October, on the Children and Young People Bill highlights one of our primary concerns about the bill: the notion of the "named person". Our contention is that the majority of children already have a named person in their lives: their parent(s) or carer(s).

For most children in receipt of universal services, their parent or carer is the person who has most interest in their well-being, knows them best, is committed, has staying power and is most motivated to ensure the health, education and other services they come into contact with actually deliver. The named person proposal completely fails to recognise that significant relationship and effectively seeks to usurp the role of the parent.

In addition, the named person is not defined sufficiently. This role will demand that an individual has an oversight of all of a child's support, plays an active role in ensuring that is delivered and carries the gravitas to influence other professionals. We do not believe such an individual exists at present within the system, with the capacity to take forward such a significant role. The resource implications alone in the creation of this role are enormous.

Parents and carers of children who are in receipt of services in addition to universal supports understand very well the naivety of this proposal. For these families, the "lead professional" is already a revolving door with new personnel, changing remits, shared and re-aligned services causing frequent change.

We also question where the rights of the child are in this proposal, as there seems to be no mechanism for the child's view to be taken into account in the selectionallocation of the named person.

Finally, there is significant potential for disagreement between the named person and the parent or carer where they fail to agree on the support or objectives for a child. This would be both destructive and resource- intensive. We query what systems would be required to avoid and deal with this situation, and whose view would take priority.

We do, however, see a role for a named person where a child or young person is in care or otherwise in need, and where such an individual can take on the role of a parent in going the extra mile for a child and pulling together the various services needed to ensure a child's well- being.

This, we believe, would be a positive development which would target resources at those most in need. We do not, however, believe this role fits within the existing health, education or social work structures, as the named person would require to have influence over all services, remain consistent and be prepared to take on the role of parent - which sometimes means making oneself unpopular.

Eileen Prior, executive director, Scottish Parent Teacher Council.

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