One state guardian could be responsible for the welfare of up to 350 children, under the Scottish Government’s controversial Named Person scheme.
According to the Scottish Mail on Sunday, serious staff shortages across several of Scotland’s health boards means that health visitors could be massively overburdened when they become named persons.
The newspaper has warned that rather than protecting vulnerable children, the scheme will “overburden a health service already stretched to breaking point”.
It reports that NHS Lothian, one of the country’s largest health boards, has admitted that it has so few health visitors that each one will have to act as a named person for 350 children.
Health visitors will be responsible for the wellbeing of children from birth to age five and will make eleven visits over that period, assessing families on the basis of a vague range of ‘wellbeing indicators’.
Official guidance on the Named Person scheme says wellbeing is just another word for ‘happiness’.
Failure to comply with the low-threshold indicators could lead to families being referred to doctors or social workers.
The scheme is doomed to fail – and doomed to ruin some families’ lives in the process.Simon Calvert
Simon Calvert, spokesman for campaign group No To Named Persons (NO2NP) said: “NHS Lothian doesn’t have the resources to meet the huge demands of the law which requires a Named Person to monitor every single child.
“That’s a big job. Too big. The scheme is doomed to fail – and doomed to ruin some families’ lives in the process.”
The situation was criticised by the Mail on Sunday in an editorial which said the named person plans are “in crisis”.
The newspaper warned that vulnerable children could be missed by stretching resources too thinly and highlighted that there are already suitable structures in place to identify at risk children.
“Demanding that NHS, social work and school staff spread themselves more thinly by snooping on children who are perfectly healthy and happy makes no sense whatsoever and may do more damage than good.”
A similar view was taken by Police Scotland which said that Named Person wellbeing assessments are already causing serious delays in actual abuse being reported.
Responding to a Scottish Government consultation on the scheme earlier this year, the police force said “specific examples” of delays in child abuse being reported could be provided to the Government if they are required.
The full statutory form of the Named Person scheme is due to come into force in August next 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 on 8 March 2016.