Kids to face ‘creepy’ questions under Named Person plans

Mon, 29 Feb 2016

Schoolchildren in Scotland will be quizzed about their private lives and asked to fill out intrusive questionnaires under the controversial Named Person scheme.

Sensitive information about children will then be stored on local authority databases and made available to named persons.

The plans, revealed by the Scottish Mail on Sunday, have been blasted by a social work expert and a senior sociology lecturer, ahead of a Supreme Court challenge next week.

’Orwellian’

Under the Named Person scheme every child in Scotland will be assigned a state guardian or ‘named person’ from birth to age 18, tasked with looking after their “wellbeing”.

According to the Mail, primary and secondary schoolchildren will face “Orwellian” psychological tests throughout their school careers as part of the scheme.

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.

Psychologically manipulating youngsters so you can squeeze confidential information out of them is fundamentally wrongSimon Calvert

’Foolhardy’

The data will be stored on local authority databases and available to named persons to determine whether there are grounds for intervention by social workers.

This has led to fears over the safety of centralising sensitive information about children, which could include; names, addresses, school routes and photographs.

Simon Calvert, spokesman for the No to Named Persons campaign, said: “Psychologically manipulating youngsters so you can squeeze confidential information out of them is fundamentally wrong, but to store all this information on a giant council database is foolhardy.”

Teachers are already being trained in what information should be entered onto the databases in order to determine when an intervention is necessary.

Prompting

Example scenarios given include a boy saying he did not miss his mother after he stayed overnight with his grandmother. Another refers to a boy saying he is scared of the dark and that he is allowed to keep the light on but only if he is “good”.

In one local authority, pupils are already being given prompt cards with questions such as: “Who makes tea? Who cleans your house? Is it cosy?” and: “What does your bedroom look like?”

Cards are also being produced for parents, telling them to “behave in a way that sets a good example to your child” and to “participate in community activities”.

’Crude’

The fact that these actually very biased and partial anecdotes will be going on a national database is extremely worrying. . .Maggie Mellon

Maggie Mellon, Vice-Chairman of the British Association of Social Workers, said the questions have absolutely “no validity”.

“The fact that these actually very biased and partial anecdotes will be going on a national database is extremely worrying and should make everyone sit up and say ‘no’.

“Overall, this is a crude tool with no validity – but it will be used and the information interpreted as evidence of child abuse or neglect.”

Privacy

The plans were also heavily criticised by Dr Stuart Waiton, a senior sociology lecturer at Abertay University in Dundee.

Dr Waiton said: “A major problem with the Named Person professionals is that they appear to have lost any sense of the family as an important private institution for society. Trust, loyalty and privacy in their warped eyes are transformed into secrets being hidden ‘behind closed doors’.

“Once we see every child as vulnerable and every family as potentially toxic, the result is that professionals see less of a problem with interfering in the private lives of children and parents.”

Legal challenge

The full statutory form of the Named Person scheme is due to come into force in August this year. However, pilot schemes are already operating in many parts of the country.

The legal case against the scheme will be heard in the Supreme Court next week, on Tuesday 8 March.