Under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, every child from birth will be given a “named person”, charged with keeping an eye on that child’s interests until it reaches adulthood.Every child will be assigned a named individual by the state to oversee the interests of that child. This role, of overseeing the interests of a child, once fell naturally to the parents of that child.
What is this named individual going to do? According to the Bill, the named person is responsible for:
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
The politicians who have queried the measure seem most interested in how a personal relationship will be developed between the named person and the children they are responsible for:
SNP MSP John Wilson asked how children would be made aware that they had a named person, and how that named person would be identified to the child.
"How do we make sure that this named person is actually identified to the young person, and the young person has the confidence and the ability to actually directly speak to that named individual?" he said.
Conservative MSP Jackson Carlaw suggested the measure is "a very huge enterprise".
"How many named persons do you anticipate there will be? What will the turnover be in named persons? And how in practice does that really establish a bond of confidence on which people feel they can rely?" he asked.
The main intent seems to be to have a personal contact between a child in need and one named individual responsible for the child's welfare. For children from highly dysfunctional families who are in some kind of danger, that might be a good idea.
But it's an unnecessary and dangerous extension of the role of the state to have a named individual for every child. Can we really trust the modern administrative state to direct its intervention only to those children in real danger, once an administrative structure and authority has been established over all children? Especially when the role of the named individual is defined so broadly, as being to promote the wellbeing of the child they have been appointed to look after.
It's dangerous too to have such a measure at a time when the family is being redefined in a way that diminishes the importance of the "filial" connection between child and parent. This is not the time to further undermine the significance of biological paternity in establishing in normal circumstances both authority and responsibility in relation to a child.