HCF Statement on Named Person
While HCF recognises that the practice of Named Person has not always delivered as promised in Highland, the principle of the Named Person was something HCF sought in the Getting it Right for Every Child pathfinder project in response to what children, young people and their parents had said to us. Please find below a statement from HCF sent to local MSPs in support of the principle of the Named Person. We remain keen to hear from young people and their families about how the Named Person is working out in practice.
Highland Children’s Forum Named Person Statement
HCF was closely involved in the development of the GIRFEC approach in Highland and the Consultation Worker was seconded from HCF as the voluntary sector lead to develop the business processes for the voluntary sector.
HCF exists to listen to the voice of children and young people (CYP) with additional support needs to ensure that this voice is listened to in policy development and service evaluation. HCF carried out a consultation with CYP and parents at the beginning of the GIRFEC process (2010) and again more recently (2014). No one in these consultations had found the Named Person role invasive. Where there was a complaint against a Named Person it was that they had not become involved early enough or taken concerns seriously enough. Where the Named Person role worked well, it was really appreciated e.g. John’s mother identified concerns to Health Visitor who was ‘brilliant’, listened and immediately referred on to the GP. The family know they can raise any problems with the Health visitor, she will listen and is ‘Great at sorting [problems] out’.
One of the main issues HCF wanted to take forward in GIRFEC, based on what children, young people and their families were saying to us, was the need for there to be one key person who held all the information about a child: someone a family could go to where they did not have to retell their story from the beginning; someone who saw their child as a person with a family living in a community.
The Named Person described in the media is nothing like the role of Named Person as developed in Highland. The role does not in any way alter parental rights and responsibilities. The caseloads of Named Persons are large; it is unrealistic to think that they could take on the “guardianship” of each of these children.
Neither is it about some change in Child Protection making ordinary families at risk of a small concern escalating to a child protection concern, as suggested by some. Child protection and the duty of everyone to act if they perceive a child is at risk of harm is no different. With current critical case reviews and historical revelations about child abuse, the importance of this has never been clearer.
In Highland the data sharing partnership made very clear that confidentiality and data sharing rules were unchanged under the GIRFEC process. All information sharing was consensual other than information about a child or young person at risk of harm or where it was suspected that a crime had been committed.
The role of the Named Person is one of early support, getting a little bit of help at the right time so that a small concern does not escalate into something that could affect a child’s wellbeing and development. There is also a role for the Named Person in coordinating support from different services.
All children can have times where they have to deal with bereavement, family separation, family financial difficulties, chronic illness, friendship problems or bullying etc. Right at the beginning an issue can be shared and a little more understanding and support given in the classroom, perhaps a little more observation at break times and so on. GIRFEC is a partnership approach, requiring both the child and the parents to be actively listened to and involved in any planning of support. The Named Person role is not about taking autonomy away from families, it is about coming alongside and listening and supporting.
In a consultation HCF carried out with children who had experience of domestic abuse (34 young people aged 6-18 years), one of the key contributions to resilience they identified was something that we could only describe as “random acts of kindness” in our analysis: people being considerate; understanding or kind. When a child is experiencing real challenge at home such as domestic abuse or parental substance misuse, there is now an expectation that adult services will alert the Named Person. This means that the Head teacher or whoever the Named Person is will know something has happened at the child’s home and those acts of kindness do not need to be random, they can be planned. The child can meet with some sensitivity at the time it is most required.
Families have nothing to fear from the Named Person. It is a way of establishing a duty for professionals who already have a pastoral role in children’s lives, to demonstrate good practice. Professional best practice was already demonstrated by head teachers and health visitors who knew their families well and cared for children as individuals. The Named Person duties just ensure that this good practice is widespread. It means that the right kind of help can be offered at the right time to avoid an escalation of difficulty.
Highland Children’s Forum is in support of the Named Person.