Looking after the wellbeing of children should be at the top of the agenda for any government. Furthermore, the ability of a government to do this is a main factor in how they are judged – by the media and voters alike.
Here in Scotland, the Children and Young People Act delivered on the Scottish Government’s bold ambition to see “Getting it Right For Every Child” enshrined in legislation. At the very heart of this act lay a commitment to roll out a service successfully piloted in the Highlands: the “Named Person”.
From 31 August, a Named Person will be appointed to monitor the welfare of all children and young people. The Named Person will provide a single point of contact to help families access services and flag up any concerns over a child’s well-being to other agencies. From birth until they turn 18 years, they will have access to a Named Person under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
At Action for Children Scotland, we recognise that most children and young people get all the help and support they need from their parents, extended family and their local community. But, like the Scottish Government, we also know that sometimes they need a bit of extra support. That is where the Named Person comes in.
However, despite the success of the pilot it is not without its opponents. Recently a letter was sent to the UK Supreme Court from a number of critics of the policy. In response, I was one of a number of co-signatories of a letter to The Scotsman, outlining our support for the policy and why we believe the Scottish Government has got the balance of it absolutely correct.
Along with representatives from a number of children’s charities and organisations, I was part of a wide range of stakeholders who worked with the Scottish Government to look at how this policy could work in law. The priority from the start of this process was always to ensure that the roll out was both proportionate and sensitive to the needs and interests of families across Scotland.
During this time we have listened closely to the arguments made by those opposed to it. The Named Person is not, contrary to the belief of some, a “state guardian for every child”. In reality, the likely ratio of Named Persons to children will give critics comfort that this policy does not represent the sort of intrusion they think it does. Nor will it change the role of, or undermine, parents, families or carers.
We have worked hard to listen to those who have raised concerns and have channelled those views and concerns into the policy and guidance we have developed in co-production with Scottish Government. This led to some significant shifts from the Scottish Government.
At Action for Children Scotland, we fully support the Named Person policy and look forward to making sure its roll-out is as smooth as possible. We also want to witness the success the pilot had in the Highlands on a much larger scale. While the Named Person exists to direct vulnerable families to help and support, they will also have a co-ordinating role and will pull all the threads of information together for a child. After all, “Getting it Right For Every Child” exists to ensure that there is always someone looking out for your child. I firmly believe the Named Person will help get it right for every child in Scotland and standardises something that most parents would hope was happening already.
• Action for Children Scotland works directly with more than 14,000 children, young people, parents and carers each year. With 87 services in Scotland, we are in communities where you live and work. We help transform the lives of thousands of children and young people each year and we’ve been doing so for 60 years. For more information, visit www.actionforchildren.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @actnforchildren