In the last post I wrote about the Open University Masters module Critical Practice with Children and Young People (K802) which I currently chair. The module is taught mostly online, and one of the ways in which we keep in contact with students is via a blog on the module website. The most recent blog post was about the Scottish Government’s controversial ‘Named person’ scheme. The post generated a large volume of comments from K802 students, most of which focused (interestingly) on the practicalities of the proposal, rather than its moral or ethical dimensions. I’m reproducing the blog post here – as an example of the kind of discussions we feature in K802 – and also in the hope that it might generate the same kind of debate as my recent post about anti-sexist education for boys. I have my own fairly decided views about this issue, but I tried to be ‘fair and balanced’ in this piece:
As part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, the Scottish government is planning to introduce a scheme under which a ‘named person’ will be assigned to every child in the country under the age of 18. The named person, normally a professional such as a teacher or health visitor, would act as a single point of contact to help families if they need it. Those in favour of the plan, which is already being piloted in some areas, claim that it would make help easier to find, and could act as an early warning system of problems.
However, the scheme is facing strong resistance from a number of sources, and a coalition of objectors, No To Named Persons (N02NP), has mounted a vigorous campaign in the courts and via social media. Campaigners claim that the proposed policy will breach data protection and human rights laws, and will also undermine the role of parents. A spokesman for NO2NP argued that the plan is ‘anti-democratic’ and ‘is an unwelcome intrusion into the lives of ordinary mums and dads trying to do their best to bring up their children’.
The debate over the ‘named person’ policy illustrates a number of the themes explored in K802. For example, Unit 3 Policy, participation and practice looks at the ways in which devolution has led to a diversity of policies affecting children and young people in different parts of the United Kingdom, while Unit 4 Partnership in practice discusses recent moves towards ‘joined-up’ working between services – which seems to be a key feature of the ‘named person’ plan. Another key theme throughout the module is the changing role and identity of professionals – and this policy seems to suggest a more interventionist role for practitioners in relation to children, young people and their families.
What do you think? Do you think high-profile cases of abuse and neglect, and of children ‘falling through the cracks’ between services, justify the kind of universal scheme being proposed by the Scottish government? Or do you agree with the scheme’s critics, that it represents an unwarranted intrusion by the state into family life, and an undermining of the role of parents?