Hidden cost of £30m to SNP’s state guardian law

Mon, 3 Mar 2014

The SNP’s controversial state guardian law has a hidden cost of £30 million, according to the Scottish Daily Mail.

Under a Bill passed at Holyrood last month, the NHS would appoint a health worker to be the “named person” for every child up to the age of five, after which responsibility would pass to local councils, with teachers likely to take over the role.

But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has warned that the scheme would require the recruitment and training of 450 new health visitors.

Training

And figures reported in the Scottish Daily Mail show that the cost of nursing training and annual salaries for the extra health visitors would amount to over £30 million.

The RCN said that without increased funding the Government will be “setting health visitors up to fail”, as there are not enough health visitors currently in place “to meet even the needs of their existing caseloads”.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a sociology lecturer at Abertay University, has raised concerns that the appointed state guardians will inevitably be “less likely to focus on the very few serious cases of child abuse” as these will become “lost in the crowd” of an expanded list of concerns.

Suspicion

He said: “Others have rightly noted that the creation of a guardian for every child, based on the suspicion that every parent is a potential abuser sends out a depressing and inaccurate message about the nature of parents.”

The Christian Institute is set to launch a judicial review of the plans, having received a legal opinion from a leading human rights lawyer, saying the proposals breach European laws.

Aidan O’Neill QC said the named person would have powers that “cut across” the rights of parents and warned that the plans may not be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, which says the state should respect “private and family life”.

Anxiety

Dr Waiton said: “With the introduction of state guardians the potential for further state intrusion into parents’ behaviour will increase, as will the anxiety some parents feel about their own behaviour being monitored.”

And he posed: “As the state takes on an increasing role as the prime carer of our children, how long will it be before tragedy befalls a child in Scotland and the parent sues the state for not safeguarding their child 24/7? After all, isn’t that the job of the state guardian?”

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill was passed by 103 votes to 0, with 15 abstentions after the final debate last month.

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