I haven’t paid a lot of attention to the Named-Person-for-every-child controversy but there’s clearly something not quite right about it if the folk who object can take their objections all the way to the UK supreme court.
However, information reaching me suggests that – unbelievably – the SNP are now considering extension of the scheme to older people.
The word is that the idea has been floated with a select group of longer-standing older party members and the ‘go’ button merely awaits the successful implementation of the children’s Named Person scheme (and of course the return of an SNP majority in May).
My sources (see footnote) have only been able to glean partial knowledge of what’s happened so far but it seems that the idea began in the coterie that surrounds Alex Neil, cabinet secretary for social justice, communities and (this is obviously significant) pensioners’ rights. Whether from genuine concern about the plight of older people in Scotland or piqued by his cabinet colleagues Angela Constance and Shona Robison’s success in pushing the children’s scheme, Neil requested SNP HQ to undertake some off-record research into the possibilities. Hence the ‘select group of longer-standing older party members.’
It seems that during the 2015 summer parliamentary recess a series of focus groups (that politicians’ much-loved device) was commissioned from an as yet un-named but sympathetic-to-the-SNP market research outfit. The lucky party veterans were given a choice of groups in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dumfries or Inverness to attend.
The results make intriguing reading.
In an ironic reversal of the indyref result (it’s not clear if anyone in the bunker at Gordon Lamb House spotted this) 55% of the attendees across all four events who had a view are said to have been ‘keen or very keen’ on having a named person, and 45% were against. It’s not clear if any couldn’t form a view despite two hours with a well-briefed market researcher and a tape recorder taking down their every word.
Some of the elderly nats’ verbatim comments have been passed to me, although it wasn’t clear which venue they come from. They include
That’s nae a bad idea, ken. Does it come with an extra pension, like?
I cannae see it mysel’. Who’s gonna do it an’ aa? The home help? The minister? Another b***** social worker?
Oh, I’m no so sure about that, hen. Would I have to have the same named what-do-you-call-it as my man?
That’s lovely, dear. Would she come every week for a fly cup and a blether?
If it’s another step on the road to freedom I’ve waited for for my whole life, bring it on.
Buoyed by the response, Neil has had his civil servants work up a draft scheme. Concerns are said to include public perception, costs, and technical issues like the age at which a named person is assigned. Social work professionals are said to have argued for fifty, pragmatists want to peg it to the rising UK pension age. One benefit Neil has ordered not to be committed to paper is believed to include aligning elderly ‘No’ voters more closely with the SNP’s aspirations.
The trail stops there – my informants either could or would only go so far. Being an amateur blogger I have neither the resources nor the accreditation to follow up the story. I can only hope those with the professional skills and contacts do so.
Watch this space, as they say.
My thanks to anonymous members of the Scottish Pensioners Open Online Forum who clearly have (much) better links to older, and disgruntled, SNP members than I do.