Our SNP friends north of the border have passed a hugely controversial policy regarding child and young person protection as a so-called named person will be assigned to everyone under the age of 18 (except to those who are serving in the armed forces).
Of course, because there simply aren’t enough social workers to go around, with only 6,000 or so, the onus will fall on teachers to report and monitor the hundreds of thousands of new charges that the state is taking on. Now, the aim as I understand it is well intentioned, as the policy is seeking to stop young people from falling through the gaps. It is intended to nip in the bud little things that can add up to something large – not being able to communicate with teachers and fellow students is not a good thing if one wants to achieve at school.
However, I have two main concerns. Firstly, why does the SNP believe that teachers aren’t doing their best already? Are we seriously supposed to believe that teachers are failing to look after students on a mass scale currently, and this invasive law will change this? Teachers are generally hardworking, and on the whole caring about their students. Many will be flippant about long holidays, but you generally have to care about wanting to improve young people lives to become a teacher. This includes acting on most of the good parts of what is currently going through the courts. If the SNP believe that teachers are doing what amounts to negligence, then where are they going to get any more hours in the day to deal with these problems?
Secondly, the information that will be available to the named person is above and beyond what even the parents, the principal carers and guardians of the young person. If a young girl decides that she wants to go on the pill, but for many numbers of reasons doesn’t want her mother and father to know, then why should her headmaster know? The lack of protection for that information for perfectly happy, healthy young people is deeply worrying. Quite why a headmaster would want to know which girls are on the pill is beyond me. They probably won’t, but of course if a girl doesn’t want her parents to know, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to say that she wouldn’t want her teacher to know either. This may well lead to young people not seeking the services and treatments which they need, which is completely the opposite point of the bill.
Data protection seems to have been thrown out, and for the life of me can’t work out why this is the case; getting rid of these protections will not have any positive impact on Scottish young people. The creepy way in which these state guardians are to communicate with their charges is quite rightly making parents feel uneasy:
Younger children will be coaxed to divulge information through the use of prompt cards, songs and games – designed to familiarise them with the Scottish Government’s teaching on ‘wellbeing’. Older children will face a series of questions on their home life, their sexual health and whether or not they feel close to their parents.
Asking these questions to hundreds of thousands of perfectly happy children, and poking into the private lives of families that are generally best placed to deal with problems themselves, or for teenagers to find their own way though. If sexual health isn’t being taught properly in schools, then it isn’t being taught properly and should be reformed at that level. There is no need to create a system that will throw up huge misunderstandings which may have disastrous consequences. The named person has the same rights as a parent, and can report them to social services to have the child removed.
The Scottish Government should be focusing on the most at-risk groups, and if there are shortfalls in the system then those should be given attention without having to resort to this deeply illiberal measure.