They often say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions in this country. Many schemes and grand plans with the best interests of people in heart that end up being corrupted into something either ineffectual or in some ways downright harmful. I could point out numerous examples, many economic policies that have been pursued, joining the European Economic Community (which has morphed into the behemoth European Union), getting involved in dodgy wars etc etc. However one area always stands out to me, mainly because we keep seeing the consequences of failure. That's the area of child protection. My motivation for this article is the controversial “named person” system that the Scottish government wishes to implement under Section 19 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
Now, not being a David Icke style conspiracy theorist, I don't want to sit here and assume everyone in the SNP is a nasty totalitarian who wants to place every child in Scotland under control of the state and I would like to believe that the motivation for this part of the legislation is to do with stopping the horrific abuse of children that we've sadly become far too accustomed to seeing on the news. However I cannot help but feel that this sort of legislation is ripe for the emergence of all manner of unforeseen consequences.
For those who don't know what the legislation in question entails, the idea is that children in Scotland will have a “named person” assigned to them until the age of 18. The purpose of this according to the act is:
“The functions referred to in subsection (1) are—
(a)subject to subsection (6), doing such of the following where the named person considers it to be appropriate in order to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person—
(i)advising, informing or supporting the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person,
(ii)helping the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person, to access a service or support, or
(iii)discussing, or raising, a matter about the child or young person with a service provider or relevant authority, and
(b)such other functions as are specified by this Act or any other enactment as being functions of a named person in relation to a child or young per”
All sounds very hunky dory doesn't it?
The problem for me is that in addition to adding yet ANOTHER layer of state bureaucracy to the already over iced cake we have, but also the massive implications for privacy. Keep in mind, this isn't just aimed at vulnerable children whose situation justifies some kind of intervention. This is every child in Scotland. From poor to rich, small to big, 0 years to 18 years. Now why do all children need it? I realise Scotland's population is quite small, (tiny compared to that of England) but surely it's going to be a nightmare have one person assigned to X number of children of various ages etc?
But perhaps more worryingly is the fact that potentially, all parents in Scotland could now been seen as being under suspicion. How far is it really from this system being something benign to something twisted into the system where children become spies and informers? We've already seen in England, one case where it appeared that the authorities used the political views of the parents of children as grounds to remove them into care. The case in question revolved around a foster couple who were raising a pair of non-white migrant children and who also happened to be member of UKIP. Rotherham borough council (yes, the same area where all those children were abused by a gang of Asian males and no one did anything about it) took the decision to remove the children and place them into care.
If it's happened in England, what's to stop it happening north of the border? What's stop the “named person” from informing the authorities that the parents of a child are members of a particular political party or any other group that isn't seen in a favourable light by the government of the day and thus lead to the same situation? It's one thing to take children away from people involved in crime or who members of terrorist organisations for example, but just for being members of a particular political party? Surely that would be right out of the Stasi playbook (not that East Germany allowed any form of political pluralism anyway).
Another fear I have is that this will be used to get at “soft targets”. By this I mean parents who do something the social worker (or whoever the “named person” is) disagrees with but is not something generally accepted as being harmful but is then still used as a justification to penalise the child’s parents. Meanwhile, children in abusive environment are ignored because the authorities are too frightened to deal with the people in question. We only need to mention a few names of the victims. Baby Peter, Victoria Climbie (both in the same area), Daniel Pelka, Maria Colwell and others. It's a depressing litany of human sorrow and every time it happens we're promised action, promised more “safeguards”.
Yet it still happens! Because the authorities would rather penalise parents for political beliefs rather than deal with those who present a clear and present danger to the children in their care!
So we have to ask, will having “named persons” in Scotland do anything to prevent this? Somehow, I fear not. In the case of Baby Peter he was seen at the hospital with a BROKEN BACK AND RIBS! YET NO ONE DID ANYTHING UNTIL HE WAS FOUND DEAD! Why should we have any faith in this new system when the system has let us down so many, many, many times before even when they put changes in place and reassure us that things will be better?
Who knows folks, maybe this new system will work out fine and we'll have a terrible child abuse death again (or at least not in Scotland). However, events have taught me that history likes to repeat itself over and over again, each time with tragic consequences. I fear we aren't too far from more stories like the above, with abusers getting away with it until it's too late and with the law abiding punished for the most minor infractions or slights against the politically correct agenda in this country.