Mark McDonald, MSP for Aberdeen Donside, addresses the Scottish Parliament on 02 December regarding the Named Persons scheme. Watch the video below and click on "read more" to view the speech's text.
It is an occupational hazard of politics that we occasionally lapse into hyperbolic statements and over-the-top narrative. However, I have to say, first and foremost, that, as someone who has known Ruth Davidson for close to 17 years, I was extremely disappointed by her remarks in the press at the weekend. It is always disappointing when someone with whom one gets on says something outrageous, but there was another reason why I was disappointed with Ruth Davidson, which I will illustrate with reference to the review into the death of Daniel Pelka, which said that some of the failings in the case related to systems not working effectively rather than simply to individual errors because opportunities to intervene more effectively or to apply a greater child focus to interventions were sometimes missed by practitioners. Further, Anne Houston, the former chief executive of Children 1st—who most people in the chamber would accept speaks with a great deal of authority on these matters—stated: “Deaths like Daniel’s remind us why the principle behind the named person ... in the Children and Young People Bill is a sound one as it aims to prevent children slipping through the net.” Nobody in this chamber would suggest in any way that we can absolutely and categorically legislate to prevent a tragedy from occurring in the future. However, what we can do is legislate to make that less likely and to remove the gaps that exist that prevent services communicating effectively and prevent a round-table approach to the protection of children being taken. I looked at the briefing that was sent to us and the organisations that chose to write to us and put their organisations’ names to a briefing in support of named persons. Liz Smith cited some of them: Aberlour Action for Children, Barnardo’s Scotland, CELCIS, Children 1st, Children in Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland. They have all come forward in favour of the named person approach. Liz Smith said in her opening remarks that, because those organisations work with the most vulnerable children in Scotland, that somehow renders the universal application of the named person policy wrong-headed. I say to Liz Smith that it is her analysis that is wrong-headed. If those organisations that wrote in support of the policy thought for one second that the introduction of the policy would result in resources being diverted from the most vulnerable children in society or would lead to those children becoming more at risk, they would oppose it in a heartbeat; you can be guaranteed of that. The fact that those organisations have taken the time to write to us and express their support for the policy shows that they recognise the benefits that it will bring, and they understand that the named person policy is about supporting children. As Barnardo’s Scotland said in its briefing to us, “In many ways, the child at most risk is the one who has not yet been identified as being at risk.” Liz Smith: If the Scottish Government is saying that in the vast majority of cases the named person will no longer be necessary, or will never be necessary, why do we need them in the first place? Mark McDonald: If the member had listened to the first two and a half minutes of my speech, when I outlined the point in relation to the Daniel Pelka case, which could be equally applied to many other cases of tragic circumstances where there was not the required communication between the relevant organisations, and quoted the supportive remarks of Anne Houston of Children 1st, she would have known better than to offer me such a specious intervention at this stage of the debate. I will go beyond that, to the nub of this. I think that the reality was highlighted in Murdo Fraser’s speech when he spoke of the idea of parents being usurped. I am a parent of a child with a disability and of a child without a disability. I see no threat to my role as a parent from the named person policy. Maybe I just have a different view of that from Murdo Fraser. The most interesting thing was when Murdo Fraser said that the way to deal with the matter is through investment in health visiting and health visiting alone. I welcome the announcement from the minister about funding for additional health visitors. I also accept that there is a role for health visitors in the named person provision, up to a point. However, the idea that Murdo Fraser is propagating when he speaks about health visitors being the sole solution is that a child can be identified as being at risk at the point of birth and that at no point during that child’s transition through childhood into adolescence can they go from not being at risk to being at risk—that there are no circumstances that could lead to that. To me, that is fundamentally misguided. There is a range of external factors that can influence what happens in a child’s life. If the only eggs in the basket are those that are put there at the very beginning of a child’s existence, we run the risk of missing things later on. It is not so simple as being able to point to an individual child and say that that child is at risk. A child from a financially comfortable background is just as likely as any other to be in a household where the mother has post-natal depression, as happened in my own household where my wife went through a period of post-natal depression. Someone might have looked at us and not identified us as a household in which that might arise, but it did nonetheless. We can never categorically say that a child will never require a named person, simply on the basis of some arbitrary factor—it cannot be determined so easily. That is why the policy is correct and why the Conservatives are so wide of the mark. - See more at: http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10244&i=94294#sthash.gmhmdra0.dpuf