We remain deeply concerned by reports of harassment, bullying and ultra vires activities on the part of the new ‘SHANARRI Stasi’, which has been unleashed on the unsuspecting families of Scotland as a result of the Children and Young People Act.
As we await the outcome of the judicial review just heard at the Court of Session, in which Aidan O’Neill QC reminded the government that “There is a responsibility in legislating. You can’t just put out any old rubbish”, we thought we would post a few anonymised case studies to demonstrate how things go very wrong for families when they don’t follow the parenting path that an unqualified, untrained, often prejudiced Named Person dictates to be “right” according to the state’s preferred tick box template for childhood.
We will continue to collect case studies and completely anonymise the data we receive from families (who trust us not to retain their personal information) so that we can show what is happening on the ground. It is telling that these same families no longer trust public and third sector ‘services’, especially health visitors, teachers and ‘support workers’.
As you peruse these horror stories, please remember that your family could be next because the tentacles of this sinister scheme extend to every child and associated adult in Scotland. Even if you are in another part of the UK, beware of the spread of this highly contagious and deadly disease.
A seven year old child was withdrawn from school last year due to bullying at a small remote rural school. After seeking information and support from home education networks, the parent sent a letter of request with an outline of her proposed home education provision to the Local Authority, who immediately sent a social worker and doctor to the family home to “check us out”, despite there being no indication of any problem other than bullying at school. After some delay and a number of reminders, consent to withdraw the child was eventually granted and the child is now successfully home educated, happy and thriving. Recently, a health visitor made unsolicited contact to notify the parent that she will be calling at the family home and seeing the child as his Named Person, although the responsibility lies with the LA, not a health worker, to communicate with home educating families and make enquiries about their educational provision on an annual basis. The parent does not want to deal with a health visitor and is quite capable of consulting the family GP when necessary, but the health visitor remains adamant that she has the “right” to see the child and enter the family home. The parent is now submitting a subject access request to obtain her child’s records as she can see no reason for this unwanted intrusion into her private family life, especially after no action was taken to address the bullying suffered by the child when he was at school. She is concerned that there is no effective complaints procedure or redress mechanism for parents subjected to harassment and who have had their personal data shared without their consent or knowledge.
A 15 year old girl from north east Scotland had been suffering depression and extreme anxiety related to school attendance for the past two years. Despite valiant efforts by the school and a very supportive guidance teacher, the child’s attendance had broken down completely and the parent decided that it would be in her best interests to be home educated until she regained confidence and felt able to attend college after she becomes 16. The guidance teacher (who is presumably her Named Person) has been fully supportive of this decision, but on hearing of the parent’s intention to home educate, the educational psychologist declared her outright opposition. Rather than process the parent’s request for consent to formally withdraw the child from school, a multi-agency meeting was called to question the decision. The child meanwhile became even more anxious as a result of her parent and guidance teacher being overruled by a psychologist, and the parent felt undermined by a “gang of outside professionals” who have had little or no contact with the family, no understanding of the child’s needs and no knowledge of how home education can help children experiencing school related anxiety. Left in limbo, the parent is presently seeking an independent psychologist’s report and taking legal advice.
A four year old child on the autistic spectrum had been attending a special needs nursery in the west of Scotland but had not been not enrolled in a primary school for August entry because his parents had decided to home educate him for at least the first year of his compulsory education. Without the parents’ knowledge or consent, the nursery forwarded all of his details to the LA, which proceeded to allocate him a place at a special needs school. When the parents formally declined the place, they were informed that they would require the council’s consent to home educate (although consent only applies to the withdrawal of a school-age child from a council school and no council consent is required to home educate per se). The council continued to mislead the family on the issue, which is clearly explained in the home education guidance, and their personal data were shared without their consent with myriad other ‘services’, resulting in bombardment with forced ‘support’ and misleading information, despite their having made suitable educational and social support arrangements for their son.
A parent seeking consent to withdraw her child from a school in the north of Scotland was concerned to be informed that the council would be undertaking “a police check, social work check, doctor’s check and psychological assessment of the child” as well as a “home inspection” before they could process her “application to home educate”. Alarmed to discover that this council had taken up to nine months to process other families’ consent applications and had placed myriad obstacles in the way of those opting to home educate, she contacted us to enquire as to the legality of such investigations. Given that there was no reason whatsoever to suspect that members of the family had criminal records, had been subject to social work intervention, or had any concerns raised about them, she was extremely angry that their personal data were being shared without consent across agencies with which they had had no previous contact and that their private family life was being subject to unwanted interference, when the LA ‘s responsibility, as outlined in the home education statutory guidance, is restricted to satisfying itself as to the suitability of the education provision. The parent rightly questioned the ‘necessity’ of undertaking so many intrusive investigations without express consent when the child, who was still attending school, had never been deemed “at risk” in any way. Her view remains that the council is guilty of abusing its power by seeking to humiliate and undermine parents who are simply exercising a lawful educational choice. We have received several more complaints from parents who have experienced delays and deliberate obstruction on the part of this council, some of whom have had to enlist the support of MSPs as a result of consent being “unreasonably withheld”.
Family E (on behalf of local home education group)
We were contacted by a longstanding member and experienced home educator who had just provided his LA with an annual update relating to his children’s progress. He was deeply concerned to have been (mis)informed by the council official that home visits were to become mandatory for every home educating family so that children could be “checked”. The parent also reported increasing attempts by inexperienced officers to impose non statutory requirements on local home educators, which had now been dealt with but had caused families unnecessary stress and anxiety. Lack of training and knowledge of the law and statutory guidance on home education was considered by local home educating families to be likely to result in future problems.
A child who experienced a difficult transition from primary to a high school in the Lothian area developed depression and suffered a decline in her physical health due to stress. Support from the school was said to be poor and the guidance teacher largely unsympathetic, leading to severe anxiety, panic attacks and attendance problems. The parent contacted us in desperation after deciding that home education would be in her daughter’s best interests and provide respite in the short to medium term. She proceeded to seek the council’s consent to withdraw the child from school, but was met with delays and had many obstacles placed in her way because the school did not agree with her decision, despite the child being miserable in school and attendance breaking down. The parent sought a medical certificate from her GP to cover absence until the consent application was processed, but it became an ongoing “battle” with the school using delaying tactics of endless meetings and assessments, as well as threats of referral to the children’s reporter if they did not agree to a “support” plan to keep her in school. Although it is the LA’s role, not the school’s, to grant or refuse consent to withdraw the child (which should be based on the proposed parental educational provision), it is currently being withheld unreasonably in the view of the parent, who feels that “nobody is on my side and I am fighting against a whole system for my daughter’s health and wellbeing.” This parent has also felt it necessary to consult a solicitor and submit a subject access request to obtain her child’s records so that she is aware of what has been recorded and shared without her knowledge or consent.
A parent of a 9 year old attending a school in north east Scotland contacted us to express serious concerns about the implementation of GIRFEC by her child’s head teacher, who had assumed the role of her son’s Named Person (despite the legislation not yet being in force). He has a specific medical condition, the nature of which was shared in confidence with the head teacher, who subsequently disclosed details to others without consent. Owing to ongoing health issues, the child was educated at home by the LA (as opposed to electively home educated) for a time, remaining on the roll of the school but with the parent providing most of his education by agreement. At a multi agency meeting from which the parent was excluded (and she was subsequently refused a copy of the minutes), the education at home arrangement was revoked and a package of “support” decided without consultation, leading to what the parent described as “an onslaught of people offering so called support, but in fact they only make things worse.” When the parent indicated that she was unhappy with the arrangements, a social worker visited to inform her that, although social work “support” was being offered on a voluntary basis, if it was refused, a referral would immediately be made to the children’s reporter. The parent has since submitted a subject access request to obtain her son’s records in order to find out what personal data have been recorded and shared without her knowledge or consent, since the minutes of the meeting from which she was excluded are being withheld by the ‘Named Person’. The parent has meanwhile formally withdrawn consent for personal data to be shared (citing the Minister’s assurances on the public record that there is no compulsion to consent), is taking legal advice and is obtaining an independent psychologist’s report so that she can make an informed decision on her child’s wellbeing needs. She also plans to make a formal complaint about the actions of the head teacher.
The parent of a P7 child from the west of Scotland contacted us in September while researching home education, which she planned to undertake after the end of her daughter’s primary schooling. She had also contacted the Scottish Government for clarification on consent and was reassured that this would not be necessary if she chose not to send her daughter to secondary school. The child has a number of health issues which require ongoing medication and treatment and has experienced panic attacks. She is under the competent care of relevant services, including an educational psychologist who negotiated part time attendance as part of an overall plan to support the child in school. The family GP further provided a letter supporting the appropriateness of these arrangements. Although the parent was under no obligation to notify the primary school of her decision to home educate rather than send her child to secondary school, she did so out of courtesy and was immediately subjected to what she described as “bullying and harassment” as a result. Despite part time attendance having been agreed as being in the child’s best interests and the educational psychologist supporting the parent’s future plans, the head teacher, having assumed the role of Named Person, proceeded (at the end of the school year) to refer the child to the children’s reporter for poor attendance and other nebulous “wellbeing” concerns, declaring the GP’s letter insufficient evidence of reasonable excuse for absence. The distressed parent told us: “I’m really quite scared. The school is making me feel like the worst person in the world.” She has now made a subject access request to obtain her child’s records and is taking legal advice, but the actions of this Named Person, who has stated that she is personally opposed to home education, have caused unnecessary distress to the parent, who need never have informed her of her intentions for her daughter’s post-primary education, and have also undoubtedly compromised the child’s wellbeing.
Families I, J and K
All have left Scotland for the Irish Republic as a result of unwanted interference in their lawful parenting choices and forced interventions initiated by Named Persons. One recently returned to the south of England.
Nursery school concerns
A private nursery contacted us to clarify aspects of the law on home education as they were so concerned by the advice given by the LA to a family who were planning to home educate their child rather than send him to primary school. The parents had been wrongly informed that they would need to “apply to home school through the council and the head teacher from the catchment school can reject the request.” The family and the nursery, whose principal was aware of the home education statutory guidance, were naturally concerned by the level of misinformation emanating from the LA, and that other parents may also be routinely misled, deliberately or otherwise, by Named Persons within public services.
These are only the tip of a very large iceberg of professionally orchestrated abuses of children’s and families’ rights, with which the government and publicly funded children’s charities appear to be colluding without a hint of remorse.