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Opinion column: Martin Crewe

17 June 13

Children's wellbeing must come first in planning and delivering children's services, and the "named person" provisions in the Scottish Government's new bill are a vital part of that

by Martin Crewe

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill that has just started its journey through Holyrood has the potential to be one of the most far-reaching and influential bills considered in this session of the Parliament. At its heart, there is a vision that we should all share – making Scotland the best place in the world for children to grow up.

Central to the proposals to achieve this in the bill is to put the child – their needs and wellbeing – at the centre of how we deliver services to children. This represents a massive culture shift for everyone who works with children.

The bill will, for the first time, reflect in Scots law the role of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in influencing the design and delivery of policies and services. The bill creates new duties on public bodies to jointly plan service delivery for children, to co-ordinate targeted intervention and to share information when there is a concern about a child’s wellbeing. It will also strengthen the corporate parenting of children in the care system, and the support they get when they leave care, and ensure that every three and four-year-old in Scotland can access up to 600 hours of free early learning and childcare support.

Unfortunately, some of the fundamental and most important proposals have already come in for criticism, including the proposal for a “named person”. The main task, as set out in the bill, will simply be to act as a point of contact for children and families, helping them to get the best support possible from public services. Yet some commentators have criticised the named person proposal as an extension of the “nanny state” and too expensive to implement.

Neither of these criticisms is justified. Depending on the age of the child, a health visitor or teacher will usually take on the role, and in most cases will do no more than they do now. However, where concerns are brought to them by parents, children or other professionals who know the child or family, they will be able to ensure there is a co-ordinated response. They will, therefore, be in a position to spot concerns at an early stage and listen to worries from children or their parents, and work with them to find solutions before some concerns get a chance to become more serious and damaging.

The named person role has already been implemented with great success in the Highland Council area.

Bill Alexander, the Director of Health & Social Care there, has found that, for him, the role simply codifies the best practice that has always existed in Scotland: “The named person role reflects the health visitor, who knows the children and families on their caseload, including who would benefit from a little extra support. It reflects the headteacher, who takes an interest in the overall wellbeing and development of the pupils in their school – not just their attainment levels in examinations. Critically, the named person is usually someone children and families already know, and who they feel able to approach.”

Barnardo’s Scotland staff in Highland report that the system has helped ensure that children get the support they need, when they need it. There has also been a significant reduction in the number of non-offence concerns referred to the children’s reporter, and so less time is spent on writing reports.

Again, this reflects Bill Alexander’s experience: “If the family wish, the named person can request help from other agencies, without bureaucracy or excessive delay, and without the child and family having to try and make contact themselves with a host of other professionals and agencies. If other professionals have concerns about a child’s wellbeing, rather than rushing to the reporter, social work or police, the concern can be passed to the named person, who can take account of that information in the context of what they already know about the child.”

It is right that the proven benefits of this approach are now rolled out across Scotland to ensure all children and families get this support. Barnardo’s Scotland is urging ministers and MSPs to be brave, and seize on this opportunity to transform the lives of children in Scotland. It would be a real shame if misinformed criticism of the bill resulted in Scotland missing this crucial opportunity to make sure we get it right for every child.

Martin Crewe is Director of Barnardo's Scotland

Have your say

Your comment

Ronnie Somerville

Wednesday June 19, 2013, 07:51

GIRFEC is a stupid idea which will throw up countless false positives, divert scare resources away from those who need them and swing the balance crucially towards a presumption that the state is a better parent than parents themselves. I would recommend that readers Google the coverage of GIRFEC in The Scottish Review.

M Craig

Wednesday June 19, 2013, 13:28

This is a disgraceful, unlawful invasion of privacy and family life and will not be tolerated! In circumstances where children are at risk of *harm* and/or where parents desperately want assistance for their children's needs (not much of that forthcoming, I can tell you!) GIRFEC might be acceptable, but a state definition of every child's "wellbeing" is a supremely dangerous precedent. Martin Crewe, like all the other overpaid children's "charity" executives, stands to gain from any policy that promotes interference in family life, so his vested interest is clear.

David Grant

Wednesday June 19, 2013, 14:08

It is surely a given that we all wish to see children well looked after. However, it is totally unnecessary, indeed quite absurd, to attempt to bring in legislation that will apply to all families. Apart from the scope for error and the vast waste of money this represents, it cannot but mean that attention is diverted from those relatively few children and families who really do need help. GIRFEC is a statist measure, instantly welcomed (suprise surprise) by those overbearing "charities" who always need to justify their reason to exist at all, never mind paying their senior staffs six and even seven figure sums.


Wednesday June 19, 2013, 17:38

This whole idea is based upon periodic assessments of parenting starting from before you even give birth and become a parent, defining children's "outcomes" and "wellbeing" with wheels and tick lists. "At risk" now doesn't even mean at risk at all - just not "perfect according to the tick lists", which is a standard 99% of us cannot achieve. We are yet to see the evidence to show that this works, but I can bet that like the triple P parenting thing it will be funded by whoever it is that's trying to push it out there. I am (like almost every single mum in the country) the best person to see to my children's wellbeing and if I have a problem there are already a huge number of people I could get in touch with to seek help. No state monitoring needed. Also, by the way, most of this article looks like it has been copied and pasted from the SNP's words where they all use the same standard passage on the benefits of the bill. I wonder if it was perchance an accident or did they write the article for you?


Thursday June 20, 2013, 11:31

And this stuff about Barnados thinking the bill is a great idea, is it £20 million or £200 million that charities like yours will be receiving? "Oh yes Mr Government! What a good idea that is, yes please!" *Scoff*


Thursday June 20, 2013, 15:59

How dare Martin Crewe describe criticism of certain aspects of the CHYP Bill as "misinformed" when children's privacy and that of their families is already being invaded routinely by state and voluntary agencies on a daily basis (which, in our opinion, is neither human rights nor data protection compliant). We are not talking here about(uncontentious) data gathering, sharing and intervention when children are "at risk of significant harm", but of routine intervention if families do not meet their state dictated outcomes. This small (unfunded, unlike Mr Crewe's) charity is being flooded with enquiries from concerned parents who have only just realised the universal data mining, sharing (without informed consent or even knowledge) and potential interventions (on the whim of some named person/state snooper) will apply to them, and not just "at risk" or "looked after" children who are already being failed by a system which cannot cope. A petition raised by Schoolhouse which is now approaching 1,300 signatures suggests that Mr Crewe's interests are at odds with those of many caring parents who wish to nurture their own children without interference from those whose "values" they may not subscribe to. As others have mentioned, GIRFEC (like workfare) is a big money spinner for its cheerleaders.

Martin Crewe

Thursday June 20, 2013, 18:27

It is good to have a debate on GIRFEC but it is also helpful if this is informed by experience. This is why I highlighted the learning from the Highland Council area. The introduction of GIRFEC has actually led to less state intervention, as evidenced by the reduction in non-offence referrals to the children's reporter.

I also don't think it makes for an informed debate if assertions are made with no basis in reality. So to put the record straight, my article was not written in any part by government, Barnardo's Scotland does not anticipate gaining any additional funding as a result of the bill and I do not receive a six figure salary.


Thursday June 20, 2013, 22:51

The comments we have posted here and elsewhere are directly informed by the real life experiences of real "victims" of tick box tyrants; unsurprisingly the "perpetrators" of this policy all claim to know best for everyone else's children - "the sort of thing Hitler talked about" (quote from Tony Benn). So how exactly do children and young people opt out of illegal databases and forced "services" they do not want or need? Or are their human rights selectively expendable to fit the given policy-based evidence? Debate has already been stifled by the deliberate mis-selling of GIRFEC as being about child protection when it's really about Getting Information Recorded For Every Citizen in order to impose state dictated outcomes. Anyone in doubt about the (non-Scottish) origins and sinister nature of the early interference agenda might like to google "database masterclass" and other articles by the children's (non-selective) rights organisation ARCH.

Janet McDermott

Thursday June 20, 2013, 23:48

GIRFEC is no longer about the safety of children, it's now about raising kids the way the Government says is right. This is a violation to parental rights; also most of the so called named persons are more a risk to children than what families are. The Government need to focus on the mistakes that they are making instead of pointing the finger at parents. If my 2 year old daughter enjoys jumping on the sofa and play fighting does this brand her a risk in her community when she is older? I think not. Would this give a health visitor the rights to deem me a bad parent for having a disobedient child? How many ticks in her little boxes before the named person sees fit she is a risk? An example of advice from a named person - I was advised by a health visitor to allow my 4 year old son out to play even though she is aware of a sex offender in our area. Now in my opinion she needs more education on the safety and well being of children! Not more rights to tell parents what to do. Stop GIRFEC NOW!


Friday June 21, 2013, 00:21

Wow, Scotland really is entering the dark ages. To the sane, get out of there while you can. I am not joking. This is sinister wrapped up as benign. Even the idiots who are going to administer it cannot see it.


Friday June 21, 2013, 00:38

@Martin Crewe, could you please clarify your statement

"Barnardo's Scotland does not anticipate gaining any additional funding as a result of the bill".

I ask because I note from your 2012 accounts that you receive monies for the provision of intervention services from e.g. Inverclyde and I wonder whether you anticipate there will be no further demand for such services or whether you class income from them in a separate category to "funding", or even whether you anticipate a growth in the intervention services market regardless of whether the bill passes or not?

Susanna Matthan

Friday June 21, 2013, 00:39

The raising and nurturing of children is the responsibility of families - NOT the state. All other models are fraudulent. End of.

M Craig

Friday June 21, 2013, 10:40

Barnardo's 2012 accounts reveal three employees to have earned six figure salaries from the charty (+ expenses, of course):

One earned £150,000-£159,000

One earned £130,000-£139,000

One earned £110,000-£129,000

Presumably Mr Crewe's doesn't fall far short of that, lucky chap, but the above payment levels make pretty uncomfortable reading for those parents seeking specific assistance for their children's additional needs which is routinely denied due to budget constraints and/or skewed GIRFEC-dictated tick box priorities, or families living on low incomes who are doing the best for their children with support networks of their own choosing. Indeed it's pretty uncomfortable to have every detail of your life recorded and scrutinised by strangers, isn't it? And that is something I will be doing in relation to any named person imposed on my child, as well as submitting subject access requests on a regular basis. Incidentally, why does Barnardo's claim its mission is to help "the *most vulnerable* children" when there is no V in GIRFEC?


Friday June 21, 2013, 10:41

As far as I am aware nobody had claimed you were getting a 6 figure salary but now you mention it, according to online reports Mr Crewe, there are 3 people working for Barnado's who are in receipt of a 6 figure salary (more than £100,000) which may not include you I guess but seeing as how there are then another 3 who are in receipt of £90,000-99,000 I would hazard a guess that even if you do not receive 6 figures, you are still not too far off it. Also a rather large portion of your funding comes from government so I would say that there is a very vested interest right there.

Sheila Struthers

Friday June 21, 2013, 13:34

Some facts based in reality:

GIRFEC requires gathering intimate and detailed information on EVERY child, their family and associated adults.

This information is then to be shared without consent "where a child's wellbeing is at risk".

As "wellbeing" is defined by the SHANARRI indicators (and will be legally by this bill) this will not leave a child in Scotland without some "risk" to their "wellbeing" and therefore the most intimate details of their lives being shared whether they (or their family) like it or not.

Ian Macdiarmid

Friday June 21, 2013, 14:45

I would like to know why there were excessive numbers of non-offence concerns referred to the children's reporter in the Highlands Council? This is a disturbing and traumatic intervention in the life of any family. Have the professionals involved been held to account? I doubt it.

Instead this fact is being used to justify other types of interventions across the whole of Scotland. That just will not do. We cannot trust professionals who are prepared to traumatise families on a whim.

What we need is to hold professionals accountable for their interference in family life. What we do not need is more interference. Unfortunately GIRFEC does not provide the safeguards. This is extremely worrying.

Ronnie Somerville

Saturday June 22, 2013, 08:25

Dr Ellie Lee, director of the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies at Kent University: “The view has become prevalent that bringing up children is far too difficult and too important to be left to mere parents. The main beneficiaries of this have been so-called ‘parenting experts’." _ The Telegraph,


Sunday June 23, 2013, 09:29

A couple of days ago, my son was picked up by the police on the way to picking up our morning newspaper from the village shop. He was doing nothing wrong. He has excellent road sense, he is sensible and, crucially, old enough to go to the shops on his own. But with no good reason the police lifted him. They are now submitting a "Vulnerable Person's Report" - apparently compulsory whenever they deal with a child - which will be submitted to the Social Work Dept of my local authority. I am hoping the social workers will laugh it off as a gross over-reaction on the part of the police officers, but they may not. Whatever happens, this VPR can now be passed to hundreds, if not thousands, of people through GIRFEC provisions. I am told there is nothing I can do to have the report deleted, although I am checking that. This the power GIRFEC commands, and allows - to both state officials and busybodies. My child, who was doing nothing wrong, now has a report about him flying around the system. All for popping to the village shop. Anybody who thinks that GIRFEC is not about state control of every single child in the country, and of creating a surveillance state needs to consider that your child could be reported, as a vulnerable person, to social work, for going about her or his legal life.

karen stobbie

Monday June 24, 2013, 14:37

GIRFEC isn't going to address the three and sometimes four generations now of socially degenerative parents. Birth control in the methodone will improve the outcomes of far more children than this ridiculous and untenable idea. Where is funding coming from? Already the majority of council tax budget goes on children and families.

Ronnie Somerville

Thursday June 27, 2013, 15:09

I have a friend who recently left a charity that had grown from a few million pounds turnover to tens of millions. He was made redundant when he wouldn't play ball with his new financial "targets". I would contend that the CEOs of these charities measure their personal success in terms of the revenues of their organisations. This leads to them making decisions that are coloured and certainly may be sub-optimal for society as a whole.

We have a whole raft of charities that are behaving like mini corporations. Barnardo's endorsement of GIRFEC should be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Good Reason

Wednesday July 24, 2013, 03:04

So is this an opt in system, an opt out system, or a can't opt out system? If the last, this is truly Orwellian.


Wednesday July 24, 2013, 06:00

"It will also strengthen the corporate parenting of children..." A quote from the above opinion. Hmmm, "corporate parenting" - a "named person for each child"?

Why do we need "parents"? Only "breeders" will be necessary if someone else is "parenting". We take your kids; we will indoctrinate... oh I mean "raise" them to be the best "citizens", and now the "family" or "parents" will no longer get in the way of our "advancement" and "progress". Simply put - SCARY

Patrick Conway

Wednesday July 24, 2013, 12:33

Wallace must be rolling in his grave. I always believed that I was descended of a free and intelligent people. Crushing to see the truth.


Tuesday July 30, 2013, 06:55

This is nothing more than what the Communists did in Europe, before and after the Second World War.

Is this always what it comes down to? The theft of children from their parents?

The New World Order will never be implemented. The European peoples have stopped these "people" 109 times, and as a collective people, we will stop you again.

Caucasians are waking up.

In Jesus Christ's time, they feared that Jesus was going to the dispersed and would awaken us. The scriptures foretell that we will awake, and this Talmudic cabal will be squashed.


Tuesday September 10, 2013, 16:18

Have the Scottish govt learnt nothing from history??

Here are 3 quotes that are appropriate for this bill.

1. “The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”

quote from Adolf Hitler 1937


2. “In a totalitarian society, uniformity and conformity are valued. Hence the totalitarian state tries to separate the child from her family and mould her to its own design. Families in all their subversive variety are the breeding

ground of diversity and individuality. In a free and democratic society we value diversity and individuality. Hence the family is given special protection in all the modern human rights instruments including the European

Convention on Human Rights (art 8), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (art 23) and throughout the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child."

Baroness Hale of Richmond, UK House of Lords, 11 June 2008


3. "Society must be willing to tolerate very diverse standards of parenting including the eccentric, the barely adequate and the inconsistent. Those are the consequences of our fallible humanity and it is not the provenance of the state to spare children all of the consequences of defective parenting."

Hedley J, cited by Lord Neuberger, UK Supreme Court, 12 June 2013




Thursday September 12, 2013, 11:48

How dare this SNP govt think it's ok to strip me of my rights as a mum. This govt are an embarrassment to the people of Scotland. And as for the so called "charities" you should be ashamed of yourselves. You claim to have the needs of the child at heart but that is an insult to every single mum and dad in scotland who can see through this sinister, Nazi-ish plan.

This is the sort of thing Hitler did and if this is the future for Scotland then I'm ashamed to admit I'm Scottish .

"As long as the govt is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation."

(quote from Adolf Hitler)

"Make a big lie, make it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it."

(quote from Adolf Hitler)

"To conquer a nation first disarm its citizens."

(quote from Adolf Hitler)

Steve Donaldson

Sunday September 22, 2013, 02:57

As a parent, I absolutely refute the need for this in the majority of individuals. I abhor the potential of my children's information being used in a manner that is outwith the remit of their educational and health needs. To use this information without my express consent, and without being told the purpose of such use, takes away my ability to protect my children in the way that I deem fit. This legislation is repugnant, and should not go through.

Vulnerable children and adults require the best possible protection from workers who are not inundated with extraneous and irrelevant paperwork. Every case should be judged on the individual circumstances surrounding it, not a series of tick boxes. What may be good for my child may not be good for another. Have the govt forgotten, that even children are individuals with their own personalities, skills and learning styles?

Mary Linton

Sunday September 22, 2013, 03:06

While protecting children is important, this legislation uses these real concerns as an excuse to require us all, adults and children, to give up our rights to privacy and autonomy, and give the state unwarranted rights to intrude into our family lives.

A MacIntosh

Sunday November 3, 2013, 14:23

This is all part of the SNP separatist agenda. Hasn't anyone ever heard the saying Divide and rule?

Quote from Wikipedia: "In politics and sociology, divide and rule (or divide and conquer) (derived from Greek: διαίρει καὶ βασίλευε, diaírei kaì basíleue) is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The concept refers to a strategy that breaks up existing power structures and prevents smaller power groups from linking up."

Sound familiar yet ?

The divide part is coming soon with the referendum, the rule part , well just read "named person"... Check Mate.

Linda Murray

Saturday November 9, 2013, 22:55

This bill risks enshrining into law the ability for "strangers" to have unrestricted access to all kinds of sensitive/private information about all families. This is not only very alarming from a data protection point of view but also there are genuine child safety concerns. The potential for this information to be misused is very real and cannot simply be swept aside by a govt that is not interested in listening to the concerns of the parents.

It's a fact that this bill has no safeguards for data subjects despite this being a fundamental part of the current data protection legislation. It is a fact that this legislation has a very real potential to undermine families and diminish the rights of parents. It is a fact that this legislation has the potential to infringe the human rights of every family in Scotland.

There is massive opposition to parts of this bill not only from the parents but also from the legal community and our govt are choosing to simply ignore it. It seems everyone from the govt to the stakeholders to the "service providers" are very very quiet when asked specific questions by parents. I've asked several questions not only to my own MSP but also directly with the govt and with the bill supporters on the "engage for education" blog and I've yet to receive any reply that answers my questions.

It beggars belief that this bill can become law yet the people who are there to administer it cannot answer even the most basic question about what this means for the average parent.

If the people who are going to be running this cannot understand the concerns of the parents then they cannot also understand the huge implications of when things go wrong (and they will) and for me that is unforgivable.



Wednesday January 22, 2014, 20:44

I don't believe that the author has read the Bill. It gives the named person the power (in their sole discretion) to share information about the child and advise and support the child. This gives the named person the ability to override the decisions of parents in any case that they deem appropriate. This puts all children in Scotland at risk of abuse by the state, particulaly those with additional needs. To suggest otherwise is incredibly naive.

When my son was born it was discovered on a brain scan that he had brain damage. Immediately we became subject to an intense degree of state intrusion. We were told we would not be able to care for him and that he would be profoundly disabled. Social workers, health visitors, support workers all came round and we were forced to spend time away from our son while he was cared for by support workers employed by the state. They all deemed that he required this surveillance. I argued from the start that he didn't and eventually my formal complaint was upheld and they all disappeared. The sad thing is that they never believed in him and didn't offer him proper care or give him a chance to develop properly. He was put on medication that he didn't need.

Once I managed to kick them all out, I focused (as almost any parent would) on making sure that my son achieved as much as possible.

As time went on, it became clearer and clearer that he was not impacted by his brain damage the way that the doctors had thought he would be. Today he is a happy, bright little boy with virtually no problems at all.

If this Bill had been in force I would never have won my case to have the intervention stopped and my son would not have achieved all that he has.

In the vast majority of cases, the parents know best. A child should never be deprived the right for his parents to fight for his wellbeing. This is what parents do. State intrusion should always be a last resort.

Gemma Gillon

Saturday February 15, 2014, 05:59

Trust our Government to start using an apparatus that’s banned by UNICEF, ruled incompetent by the Supreme Court and outlawed by the EU.

What does that say about out current Government if it fails to comply with the rule of law ?

William Crawford

Sunday February 16, 2014, 20:26

It is self-evident that there are indeed difficulties relating to the co-ordination and accountability of those involved in child protection in this country. But that is because no one is held to account for the same failures that occur repeatedly without any lessons seemingly being learned.

Instead, and as was widely reported, we can have the bizarre situation in Edinburgh where two social workers were recently found guilty of contempt of court for ignoring a court order in a child protection case - presumably because they thought they knew better than the court - and their union seemed to think that they should face no consequences.

I find that both astonishing and deeply worrying.

Rather than tackle these fundamental issues of accountability head on, this proposal does exactly the opposite. It is a very odd response to police and social work failure.

From my point of view I would like to be convinced that the present set up is running as efficiently as possible and provides a seamless, joined up services.

The truth is that social services and the police can already identify most of the children who are at risk within our society and because of a lack of joined up working these children do not get the support that's required.

Simply because this joined up working is not in place the majority of families who do look after their children face having a draconian, almost Orwellian system imposed on them.

The parents and others are absolutely correct to oppose it.

The rule of law is fundamental to any healthy society. The SNP can interfere or ignore it at their own peril.