Yesterday we passed the Children and Young People Bill – with many admirable provisions – but no proper costings, particularly in relation to the capital costs of building the school infrastructure required to deliver high quality school meals. I was also concerned by the issue of the lack of progress on support for kinship carers. When I met kinship carers at lunchtime at their lobby of MSPs they expressed their disappointment that they were still not getting the support they needed. Both the Kinship Carers I met talked not just about the challenges they faced, but their also their passion and commitment. It was particularly disappointing to hear that the SNP Government having promised to bring a key report on Kinship care before the bill was passed had simply failed to deliver.
The most controversial element in the Bill was the proposal to create a “named person” for every child. I was initially very sceptical about this provision firstly as I was worried that it might dilute the focus and investment that is needed to ensure that vulnerable children do not slip through the net and secondly that parents would feel that their role was being usurped.
The Scottish Government was not very effective in their advocacy of this proposal and failed to outline the purpose and opportunity that could come from it. I do understand the points made about the need for a clear process to ensure that concerns can be picked up and cited upon where a child is potentially at risk. However, I remain concerned about the lack of resources to make sure that all children and their parents have the right support in relation to the early years in particular where health visitors and high quality childcare are vital in giving parents the support they need. I believe that it will be crucial that there is monitoring carried out afterwards to ensure that the concerns that were raised do not come to pass.
The extension of childcare is less revolutionary than claimed by the SNP because for many children it will only mean an extra half an hour at lunchtime rather than the transformation that is needed in terms of affordable childcare throughout the year. As Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Member for Local Government I remain concerned that the resources available to implement the Bill are simply not enough and will lead to yet more tensions with difficult decisions on priorities to come.