Another 500 health visitors are to be recruited to deliver controversial plans to give every child in the country a “state guardian” to monitor their welfare and development.
Health secretary Alex Neil said an investment of more than £40 million would see the establishment of the new posts over the next four years.
The move will help implement the most contentious aspect of the Scottish Government’s Children and Young People Act, which allocates every child a “named person” – or state guardian – who will have the power to “advise and inform” the child and if necessary raise concerns with the authorities.
It is envisaged that health visitors and teachers will fulfil the role of “named persons” when the scheme is rolled out in August 2016. The proposal has attracted a great deal of criticism, with opponents claiming it is intrusive and undermines parental freedom and responsibility.
A group of critics are currently putting together the case for a judicial review to challenge the legislation, which they say contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.
More than £30,000 has been raised from academics and parents to fund the court action, which has received funding from 70 different sources including the Christian Institute, the Christian charity CARE (Christian Action Research and Education), Scotland for Marriage and the Family Education Trust.
Yesterday, politicians and health organisations broadly welcomed the creation of the new jobs.
Children’s Commissioner Tam Baillie said the new posts were “absolutely central to delivering the ambitions” of the act..
He added: “We need to ensure we robustly monitor the numbers of properly trained health visitors to fulfil the commitment and we need them as soon as possible to ensure that children born today get the services they have a right to expect and that we have a responsibility to deliver.”
The £43m required to fund the new positions, paid for out of the NHS Scotland budget, comes on top of the £61m earmarked for an extension of childcare provision announced earlier this month by education secretary Michael Russell.
The creation of the new posts were criticised by the No To Named Person (NO2NP), the group set up to fight the legislation contained in act.
A spokesman said: “The creation of jobs is usually to be welcomed but this is a needless investment in state-sponsored social engineering. How many extra teachers are they going to have to provide state guardians to act government snoopers for children of school age and at what cost tithe public purse?”
The new posts were announced when Mr Neil visited the Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre in Edinburgh yesterday. He said the jobs would “help fulfil the Scottish Government’s vision of making Scotland the best place to grow up”.