State guardians: New poll provides clear evidence of widespread public opposition to big brother’s ‘unacceptable intrusion’ into family life
Opposition to the Scottish Government’s controversial ‘Big Brother’ plan to appoint a named person for every child in the country continues to mount.
Almost two-thirds of Scots believe the scheme is “an unacceptable intrusion”, according to the findings of a new opinion poll.
And only 24 per cent – less than one in four – think every child should have a state-appointed named person.
The poll revealed that 50 per cent of parents in Scotland believe the Government wants to interfere too much in family life these days.
It also provided an insight into the lack of trust towards the Named Person scheme. Just 24 per cent of all Scots said they would trust a named person to always act in the best interests of a child – even where this conflicted with the wishes of the parents.
And 79 per cent of parents in Scotland said they would be concerned they could disagree with the named person over what was in their child’s best interests.
The poll was commissioned by The Christian Institute which is part of the No to Named Persons (NO2NP) campaign group set up to challenge the Named Person provisions contained in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
Revealing the poll results, the Institute’s Director Colin Hart said:
“The Named Person scheme is the most audacious power grab in the history of parenting. Parents are, on the whole, best placed to care and look after their children and where they are not, the State and all of its agencies should focus on helping those people. It should not be targeting decent, hard-working people who are simply trying to raise their children according to their beliefs and values.”
When asked if “it is reasonable for a Named Person to ask children questions about their family life, even if there is no sign that anything is wrong”, 57 per cent of Scots disagreed and only 28 per cent agreed.
The vast majority – 84 per cent – overwhelmingly believe parents should be responsible for children and 80 per cent believe the Government’s child protection resources should focus on those most at risk rather than monitor every child.
The poll also asked a wide range of questions on social services and found low levels of confidence in social services and their use of resources.
And it uncovered evidence that parents are living in fear of aggressive and unwarranted investigations by social services.
A total of 55 per cent of parents in Scotland agreed that social services sometimes act too quickly against parents who have done nothing wrong. And only 32 per cent agreed the Government does a good job of balancing the need to protect children at risk without penalising ordinary parents.
More than one in five Scottish parents are worried about taking their own children to A&E or a GP because of concerns it might trigger an unwarranted investigation by child protection staff and 23 per cent said they knew other parents who felt that way.
Mr Hart added: “The Government and social services are seen as interfering and too quick to launch aggressive and unwarranted investigations. No wonder parents are living in fear.
“The figures on A&E visits are shocking. Parents should never be frightened about taking their children after an accident to see a doctor but, as State interference in our private lives increases, anxiety among normal caring parents also rises.
“And you don’t have to go very far to find cases which have involved the most appalling and draconian treatment of loving parents – the family of Ashya King were hounded across Europe and his mother and father arrested and imprisoned because of a disagreement between those providing medical treatment and those who gave him life.”
The poll results come as campaigners await the outcome of the legal challenge in the Supreme Court to the Scottish Government’s new State guardian scheme. The Named Person scheme will see every child having a State official appointed even before birth to monitor their wellbeing up until the age of 18.
No to Named Persons (NO2NP) says Holyrood exceeded its powers as the scheme is in direct contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights which protects the right to a family and private life.
In addition, campaigners object to the way the Scottish Government’s scheme involves sharing private and confidential data on families and children between numerous officials.
The Scottish Courts rejected claims in a Judicial Review that Holyrood exceeded its powers in passing the Named Person provisions contained in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
The arguments were heard again on appeal before a five-strong bench at the Supreme Court.
The challenge is being mounted by campaigners involved in the NO2NP campaign spearheaded by The Christian Institute, the Family Education Trust, TYMES Trust, CARE and individual parents. Clan Childlaw, a charity providing free legal advice to young people in Scotland, has intervened in support of the legal action.
Under the scheme, the State-appointed bureaucrat – usually a health visitor for children under five and a senior teacher for those at school – can keep vital information from parents and even tell children that mum and dad have wrong views.
Already a Scottish Government-funded booklet has told parents they should only choose their child’s bedroom wallpaper after consultation with the child concerned.
Mr Hart said: “If parents decide that their 13-year-old son can’t have Grand Theft Auto for Christmas, or that he can’t watch Game of Thrones, they shouldn’t be told off by the named person for the decisions they make.
“The named person will be legally responsible for monitoring the happiness of more than a million Scottish children under-18. You can be sure these overworked officials aren’t going to have the time to properly analyse all the details behind the many sensitive judgements that parents have to make. So if they see anything in a family that doesn’t tick a box on a Government checklist, you can bet they’ll just escalate it up to social services, the NHS or the police.
“The authorities that should be helping truly needy kids are instead going to be overwhelmed with tittle-tattle. Genuine, serious cases will get lost in the system while the full weight of State intervention is brought to bear on innocent families.
“Parents are, on the whole, best placed to care and look after their children and where they are not, the State and all of its agencies should focus on helping those people. It should not be targeting decent, hard-working people who are simply trying to raise their children according to their beliefs and values.
“As this poll found, parents in Scotland believe that money and resources should be focused on those children who are at risk. It found that the Scottish public overwhelmingly believe that parents should be ‘very’ responsible for children’s general wellbeing. This compared to less than one in five (18 per cent) who say the same of health visitors and one in eight (13 per cent) who say class teachers.”
Named persons will be entitled to demand information and share it with police and social workers without parents’ consent or knowledge.
They will also be able to give advice to children on a range of subjects from general wellbeing to sexual health without the knowledge or permission of that child’s parents or guardians.
Children will be subjected to psychological tests, profiling and home visits, with this information being shared between State agencies but not with parents.
For media enquiries, please contact Tom Hamilton on 07836 603977 or The Christian Institute’s Head of Communications on 07736 957579.
Notes for editors
The Christian Institute is a non-denominational registered charity, which seeks to promote the Christian faith in the UK.
It was founded in 1991 by Christian church leaders and professionals and it currently campaigns on a range of issues including marriage and the family, child protection, pro-life concerns, drugs, religious liberty and education, as well as Christianity and the constitution.
ComRes polled 6,120 British adults, including 532 in Scotland, online between 2 and 13 March 2016. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults.
ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.