Deacon ‘failed pre-school children’

FORMER health minister Susan Deacon has admitted she “failed” in her attempts to improve the lives of pre-school children during her time in government.

Prof Deacon, who is now based at Edinburgh University, published an independent report earlier this year calling for children to be rescued from a “cycle of poor parenting”.

But in a BBC Radio Scotland documentary broadcast yesterday, she said she had failed to tackle properly the issues during her time as minister after being caught up in “techno speak” and “over professionalisation”.

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She said: “I thought I knew this field pretty well, but to be honest with you, even I became appalled at just how many conferences and gatherings were taking place that were constantly re-rehearsing the same knowledge, the same evidence but within these quite narrow boundaries. Very few events actually brought people together across these different groupings.

“I put too much store in the conventional ways of coming at these issues. I set up a body called the National Child Health Support Group. I thought if we got this group of experts around the table that somehow this would map out what we need to do to have happy, healthy two-year-olds, but instead what that contributed to, was yet more over-engineered dense documents and guidance, more rules and regs, much of it detached and disconnected from what’s going on across the wall in the education or child poverty bit of government or wherever.

“That’s why I think I’m allowed to put some question marks around how we do these things, because I tried to do some of these things and I’m prepared to say I failed.”

Launching her report, Joining the Dots, earlier this year, Prof Deacon said many children were living in families where “parenting practice has fundamentally broken down”.

In a wide-ranging study for the Scottish Government, she highlighted a raft of problems in wider society, and a culture of fear that surrounds children, which harms their future chances.

The documentary, Give a Child a Chance, will be rebroadcast on Radio Scotland this Sunday.