Conservatives warn over child state guardian plans

Tory Liz Smith wants the plan dropped by the government. Picture: Contributed

Tory Liz Smith wants the plan dropped by the government. Picture: Contributed

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APPOINTING a state guardian to every child in Scotland amounts to an assault on families, Conservatives have warned.

The Scottish Government should scrap proposals that a “named person” is appointed to everyone from birth to age 18, the party insisted in a debate at Holyrood.

Conservative MSP Liz Smith said: “For us, implicit in this proposal to have a named person for every child is the insistence that the state has the primary obligation to look after children, rather than parents and families. That is entirely the wrong way round.

“If there are thousands of parents across Scotland doing a thoroughly good job – and there are – then what right does the Scottish Government have to tell them that the state knows better than parents and families?”

The SNP administration’s Children and Young People Bill proposes that a named person, who could be a teacher, would be responsible for safeguarding a child’s welfare and liaising with their family.

The Scottish Government expects the person to be from a health board or an education authority and someone whose job would mean they are already working with the child.

They could monitor what children and young people need and be in a position to intervene early to prevent any difficulties escalating.

Ms Smith argued that money would be better targeted at the most vulnerable.

“Expecting all children to have a named person in the terms stated in the bill is an assault on the responsibility of families and parents for whose children there are no real problems,” she said.

But children’s minister Aileen Campbell defended the proposal. She said: “The Scottish Government believes that action must be taken to put in place a proportionate system of protection, nurture and support, to give all our children the best chance of flourishing.

“That is what we have done within the proposals of the Children and Young People Bill.”

Labour’s Jane Baxter said her party recognised support for the named person role from a range of organisations, but also highlighted concerns expressed by parents and others.

“It is clear from the number of questions being asked that the role of the named person must be further explained and clearly defined,” she said.

“What we have in the named person for every child is the nugget of a really good idea, but there are serious concerns that need to be addressed before the Labour benches can offer the government support on this.”

Her party colleague Ken Macintosh said his “instinct as a parent” was to question the need for a named person for every child.

“My main worry is that despite the best of intentions, the whole exercise could end up diverting resources away from the children most in need,” he said.

The bill is still being scrutinised by Holyrood’s education committee, a point stressed by its convener Stewart Maxwell, who described the choice of debate as “slightly disrespectful”.

He said: “The committee are in the middle of taking evidence at stage one. We have not yet heard all the evidence on the bill, or even on the named person or information sharing parts of the bill.

“This debate in my opinion is premature, and clearly pre-empts the committee’s scrutiny of the bill.”

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