Named person ‘uncertainty’ slows agency response

Thursday 13th June 2019

Scotland’s care regulator says ‘uncertainty’ about the Scottish Government’s named person scheme undermined public agencies’ response in some of the most serious child protection cases. 

In a report considering reviews dealing with cases where a child had died or been seriously harmed, the Care Inspectorate says a lack of clarity about the child welfare policy was a ‘prominent feature’ in half of the cases it looked at.  

Elsewhere, inspectors also say agencies like schools, councils and the health services need to have clearer shared thresholds for responding to child neglect. 

They go on to state risks and neglect had not been adequately escalated in the ‘small number’ of incidents they looked at.  

There’s also a call for a greater focus on preventative and early intervention approaches to reduce the effects of adverse childhood experiences. 

The Care Inspectorate says all public bodies should consider the findings.  

Serious case reviews bring together different agencies to learn lessons when a child has died or been significantly harmed.  

25 reviews involving 44 children and young people from 2015 to 2018 were examined.  

The named person scheme, which builds on existing child protection policies, says a single professional from education, local government or the NHS should be responsible for co-ordinating support from different bodies.  

Under the initiative, every young person and their families would get single point of contact – a health visitor, then a teacher – who could offer advice or support about a child’s wellbeing and co-ordinate responses from different agencies.   

Supporters say the scheme would stop vulnerable children falling through the cracks but critics claim it undermines the role of parents and gives state employees too much power over family life.  

After being introduced by the Scottish Government the initiative was halted by the Supreme Court in 2016.  

Judges ruled elements of the named person scheme were incompatible with information-sharing and privacy laws.  

Efforts to amend the proposals ran aground after a key committee of MSPs blocked the plans.   

In their report, inspectors say: “Uncertainty within the system around underlying assumptions, expectations and understanding of the named person service and lead professional role is undermining professional confidence.” 

“This uncertainty was particularly evident following the Supreme Court judgement in July 2016,” they add.  

Peter Macleod, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: “It’s everyone’s job to help ensure that every child in Scotland is kept safe, nurtured and supported to reach their full potential. 

“We know that social workers and others across Scotland successfully care for and protect many children and young people every day, despite often challenging circumstances. 

“We also know that it is very difficult to eliminate all risk. 

“In the small number of cases where a child has come to harm, it is crucial that all agencies involved are fully committed to reviewing actions and decisions in each case, to learn any and all lessons that need to be learned. 

“This report contains important insights that we expect partners to consider.”