For those living north of the border, a debate has been raging in the media about the SNP’s “Named Persons Scheme”.
A relatively harmless sounding policy that would see a named official appointed to oversee the happiness and wellbeing of every child and young person in Scotland.
It still doesn’t sound too bad, until you start to realise the power that this policy would put into the hands of the named persons. These bureaucrats will be entitled to demand information on any child that is held by any public body – school, health visitor, criminal, doctors, even library records would be covered.
Then they can share this information with the police, social workers or teachers without the parents’ consent or knowledge.
But the intrusions don’t stop here. Named persons will be able to give advice to children on a range of subjects from “general wellbeing” to sexual health, sexuality, contraception, abortion, religion, education or so on without the knowledge or permission of that child’s parents or guardians.
To back up this exercise, the Scottish State plan to subject all children to psychological tests, profiling and home visits. The information harvested from these will be shared between state agencies but not with parents – which means data that are inaccurate cannot be challenged or, more importantly, corrected.
This policy is designed to relegate parents and the traditional family to mere interested parties in the welfare of their own children.
Even our hapless Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has pulled back from this Orwellian policy, which would represent the greatest power grab by any government since the cultural revolution of Mao’s China – the wholescale nationalisation of parenting.
Given the implications, you might be surprised that there has not been more debate in other parts of the United Kingdom, but this hotly contested policy is currently being scrutinised and challenged in the Supreme Court. In a delicious – and some might think ironic – twist, it’s the Human Rights Act that might do for it.
And what about public opinion on this policy? Well, the Christian Institute – who has been leading the campaign against the Named Persons Scheme – along with several leading children’s charities, commissioned a poll of parents earlier this month.
Asked specifically about the Named Persons Scheme, almost six in ten people (57 per cent) do not think it is right for every child to be assigned a State official to monitor their wellbeing, whether their parents want one or not.
Interestingly, among our Scottish brethren, more than half (52 per cent) disagree with the SNP’s plan for a named person and only one in four (27 per cent) support it.
By 51 per cent to 32 per cent, the public disagree that “it is reasonable for a State official to ask children questions about family life, even when there is no sign that anything is wrong”.
Additionally, more than six in ten (64 per cent) parents believe that assigning a named person to every child, whether vulnerable or not, “is an unacceptable intrusion into family life”. Just one in five (19 per cent) disagreed.
A full two-thirds (67 per cent) say that it should be up to parents to ask for help from the government when they need it. While nearly nine in ten (87 per cent) think it is primarily the job of parents, not government, to bring up their children in the way they think best. In Scotland this figure rose to 89 per cent.
Worryingly for the Scottish Government, the poll found by a ratio of almost two to one – 43 per cent to 23 per cent – that Scots would not trust named persons to always act in the best interests of a child (across Great Britain it was 45 per cent to 24 per cent).
The poll’s findings, which have mirrored others, also provided details as to why parents are concerned about this power grab.
It found low levels of confidence in social services and their use of resources. Nearly six in ten (58 per cent) parents are concerned that social services “are sometimes too quick to take action against parents who have done nothing wrong”.
Just three in ten (31 per cent) parents thought the Government “was doing a good job balancing the need to protect children at risk while not penalising ordinary parents”. More than two thirds (68 per cent) either disagreed (38 per cent) or did not know (30 per cent).
When asked if “the Government’s child protection resources should be focused on identifying and helping those most at risk, rather than monitoring every child”, more than seven in ten (71 per cent) of parents agreed with just one in seven (14 per cent) disagreeing.
And in a final rebuke to state-sanctioned meddling and intrusion, the poll found that a quarter of parents have thought twice before taking their child to A&E or a doctor following an accidental bump or bruise – for fear of triggering an unwarranted investigation by some pen-wielding bureaucratic Stasi.
While no one, certainly not me, would ever claim that there are no children who need protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation – the State is about the worst parent any child could have. “Looked after children”, what we use to call children in care, are less likely to succeed at school, more likely to get involved with the criminal justice system and have even poorer health. In addition to this when the State has such a spectacular record of failure in this area, Victoria Climbie and Baby P to name just two such cases, why are we being so passive about this appalling policy?
Parents across the UK must unite against this pernicious power grab. We must in one loud voice say this is a step too far. We must lobby our MPs, councillors, MEPs and all those who seek power, because if the SNP gets its way parents will have about as much say over the future of their children as some trainee health visitor.
It’s time to get mad and man the barricades!