More and more stories are reaching me of people being targetted by school teaching staff and having their lives invaded by Police and Social Services because of this targetting. It all points to the introduction of the Named Person scheme – otherwise known as the Trunchbull scheme after Roald Dahl’s fictional head mistress character – as something which should concern every parent and grandparent of young children in Scotland.
As I blogged recently, NP is a massively invasive and intrusive piece of legislation which gives virtual godlike powers to the Named Person who is appointed by the State to monitor the children in his/her care. Health visitors will be given the role pre-school and most children will end up having their Head Teacher as their Named Person. These powers are so open to abuse that the Trunchbull Scheme has alarmed many people who see it as a monstrous Big Brother intervention in family life.
There are two main problems about the Named Person scheme. The first is that, if we are honest, despite all the technological advances which arguably should aid the surveillance and safe monitoring of our kids and despite the societal taboos on child abuse, our children are more at risk than ever. The depressingly relentless stream of media stories about children being raped, molested, beaten and killed is proof of this. So something must be done to stem this tide. Criminal abuse of kids must be detected and dealt with. I campaign for this and will continue to do so.
However, the second problem with the NP scheme is that it is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It is a blunt instrument which at best smacks of a low budget approach to child care and at worst is sinister politicisation by the SNP, making Named Persons “Trunchbulls” who wield enormous power on behalf of the State.
The fact that teachers and others in loco parentis are already using their positions in a vindictive manner, inflicting terrible misery on families by reporting the most trivial of matters to the Police and Social Services, should alert us to the potential ramifications of NP. I am aware of cases where parents who have minor disagreements with their children’s school are being threatened with Social Services. This weaponisation of Social Services will only increase under the NP scheme and make parents either social pariahs for “making waves” or cower in fear that their children will be taken from them.
Wielding power in such a cruel and vicious manner is reprehensible but it stems from a growing culture in our education system where teachers see their role less about teaching, nurturing and protecting than one of social engineering. Some teachers sadly spend more time trying to micro-manage their pupils’ lives – including in the family home – than giving those pupils an education.
Referrals to Social Workers for the most vapid of reasons is commonplace already; think of how this will be ramped up when the NP scheme is rolled out across the country on August 31st. Social Services and the Police – who it has to be said do an excellent job – are bound to act on such referrals and conduct exhausting enquiries. The brutal reality of this is that, very often down to the snotty-nosed complaining of a vindictive person, valuable time and resources are spent investigating nothing cases while real child abuse situations are passed by.
The problem is that the Trunchbull NP Scheme could easily result in far more instances of child abuse. False and vindictive referrals can inflict massive damage on families, breaking up marriages and leaving children emotional wrecks. I know of one such case where a wee boy still has terror attacks when a strange car comes into his street, thinking the Social are coming to take him away from his Mummy and Daddy. The simple fact is that vindictive referrals are a form of child abuse in themselves.
My own take is that Head Teachers are not equipped to take on the role of Named Person. The scheme is flawed on so many levels. As I said, it seems to be a budget option. Why not properly resource Social Services so they can do their job? Same with Child Protection in the Police. I would also introduce free parenting programmes across the board and make them available to every parent, such as the excellent Triple P system. Childcare organisations such as Barnardo’s, who do a fantastic job, could also be deployed to teach, train and counsel families requiring help. These approaches mitigate and prevent child abuse of a less severe nature taking place, which is what should be the objective here.
We don’t need a system which will produce more Agatha Trunchbulls. We need one which will help us develop a culture and society where children are safe, affirmed and protected from abuse of all kinds.