A Cautionary Note for Implementing the Named Person Scheme

by Harla Sara Octarra
PhD Candidate, Social Policy, the University of Edinburgh

The Scottish Government’s public service reforms for children are increasingly committed to promoting interagency working. Interagency working is often prescribed as a way to overcoming complex bureaucracy and delay in public services. GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) signifies such reform. It aims at improving outcomes for children by improving services; that is a shift from working in silos into partnership (Stradling and Alexander, 2012). Some considered GIRFEC as a policy, others a framework or approach. However, in practice, there has been questions so as to its effectiveness in improving outcomes for children (Davis and Smith, 2012; Education Scotland, 2012). Through the ‘landmark’ children’s legislation (Tisdall, 2015), which is the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, the Scottish Government continues to improve implementation of GIRFEC. In Part 4 of the Act is the Named Person Service. Consistent with the reforms and GIRFEC, interagency working is also key to implementing the Named Person service, which provides a single point of contact for children and families and services when there is a concern for a child’s wellbeing (Scottish Government, 2014).

Is the Named Person a person or a service?

Since its introduction, the Named Person has raised objections particularly because it is perceived as interfering family lives and violating parental rights (Christian Institute, 2014). Those who object to the scheme (as well as in some media coverage) see a Named Person as a state guardian (NO2NP, 2016). Also, the UK Supreme Court recently found that the information sharing provision of the Named Person scheme was unlawful. The lack of consent seeking and insufficient guidelines that could lead to professionals making a disproportionate judgement without parents or children’s knowledge was the basis for the Supreme Court objection. The controversies focus on the Named Person as the professional, the person, while not enough attention has been given to the Named Person as a service.

Drawing on ethnographic research in one local authority over a period of eight months, I found that the introduction of the Named Person service appears to be problematic in practice. I present three reasons. First, implementing the Named Person is changing relationships, and therefore creating tensions, between professionals in their ways of working together. Second, for professionals who become the Named Person, there are tensions between this role and their usual remit. Finally, the Named Person role brings extra bureaucratic work for those who would take up the role.

I argue that the Named Person is both a service and a person. The Act and the Named Person guidelines assume that the service will ensure existing approaches to interagency working are more efficient. The single point of contact, a person, is thus expected to coordinate services and responses to ensure wellbeing concerns are addressed timely and appropriately. The professional who is going to be a Named Person is an employee and also a practitioner; s/he is bound to follow the rules set by their organisation and to deliver the service based on their professional training. The Named Person service works through organisational work mechanisms and procedures that influence the day-to-day work of professionals. In the context of interagency working, such influence extends to the ways professionals work together. Understanding this complexity, and the dual nature of the Named Person scheme, is paramount to make progress in the Scottish Government re-design in the coming months.


Christian Institute, 2014. ‘Named person’ scheme. Available from: http://www.christian.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/namedpersonbriefing.pdf [Accessed 11th December 2016]

Davis, J.M., Smith, M., 2012. Working in multi-professional contexts : a practical guide for professionals in children’s services. SAGE Publications, London.

Education Scotland, 2012. Getting it right for every child: Where are we now? Available from: [Accessed 11th December 2016]

NO2NP, 2016. Round Up of Media Coverage of Named Person Plans. Available from: http://no2np.org/media-coverage-of-named-person-plans/ [Accessed 11th December 2016]

Scottish Government, 2014. Named Person. Available from: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0046/00465711.pdf [Accessed 11th December 2016]

Stradling, B., Alexander, B., 2012. Getting it right for children: promoting effective change, in: Hill, M., Head, G., Lockyer, A., Reid, B., Taylor, R. (Eds.), Children’s Services: Working Together. Pearson, Harlow, England, pp. 62–74.

Tisdall, E.K.M., 2015. Children’s Rights and Children’s Wellbeing: Equivalent Policy Concepts? Journal of Social Policy 44, 807–823.


Announcing the University of Edinburgh Young People’s Transitions Conference, 21 April 2017: Call for Abstracts open!

Young People’s Transitions: Dimensions, Difficulties and Diversity
Multi-Disciplinary Conference
University of Edinburgh, 21 April 2017

A one-day conference for youth researchers, policymakers and practitioners sponsored by the University of Edinburgh School of Social and Political Science and the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships.

On April 21, 2017 the University of Edinburgh’s Childhood and Youth Studies Network and the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships will be holding a free, one-day conference for youth researchers, policymakers and practitioners. Young People’s Transitions: Dimensions, Difficulties and Diversity seeks to explore, illuminate and interrogate the complexity of young people’s lives today and ask questions relating to the myriad factors that shape the youth phase. The conference aims to include delegates from the academic, policy and practice communities that engage with young people, and conference presentations will be given by PhD or early-career researchers from a variety of disciplines.

The conference will also feature two renowned keynote speakers: Divya Jindal-Snape, Professor of Education, Inclusion and Life Transitions, University of Dundee and Andy Furlong, Professor of Social Inclusion and Education, University of Glasgow.

The Call for Abstracts is now open to PhD or early career researchers for 20 minute presentations (250 word abstract). The two conference streams for abstracts are:

  • Inequality and Its Impacts
    How does inequality manifest itself in the multiple transitions of young people, and what are the impacts?
  • Who or What is in Control
    How do the structural determinants of society interact with the agency of young people as they make transitions in this life stage?

Abstract deadline: 13 February 2017. See detailed Call for Abstracts here.

For more information about the Conference, including detailed abstract guidelines, please click on the menu ‘Young People’s Transitions Conference 2017‘ above.  Registration for delegates opening soon!

Our next presentation Wednesday 23 November: ‘Issues in Scotland’s Named Person Scheme’

The Network’s November presentation will be given by Harla Octarra, a PhD Candidate in Social Policy, on the timely policy issue of Scotland’s Named Person scheme and what it means for social workers and local authorities.

When: Wednesday, 23 November 2016 4:00 – 5:00 pm 
Where: Practice Suite, Room 1.12 Chrystal Macmillan Building 
               15 George Square, University of Edinburgh 

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 establishes that all children and young people under the age of 18 in Scotland will have a Named Person. The Named Person will be a clear point of contact for children, young people and their parents when they require advice and support. At the moment, the implementation of this scheme is being delayed due to UK Supreme Court decision against its information sharing provisions. Although this presentation will not address the law debate about the scheme, because the judgement requires changes to the legislation in relation to the sharing of information provisions of the Act, there can be no better time to discuss the issues arising from the introduction of the Named Person. The presentation will focus on the issues at practice level; particularly on how the scheme is affecting the work of professionals (who are going to be Named Person) in education setting. This draws from research experience in 1 Local Authority over the course of 8 months in 2015.

Our first Writing Retreat! 11 November 2o16

Do you have a chapter, abstract, article, coursework or conference paper that you are working on? Join us for a day dedicated to writing—either virtually or in person!

We will meet at 9:30 am in the Practice Suite in CMB (First floor, Rm 1.12) and set our goals for the day. Depending on what people are looking for, we can find partners to exchange writing with, ‘critical friends’ to read over abstracts, etc. The day will be flexible —  you can stay and work on your laptop in the Practice Suite if you’d like (Cara will be there) or go off to another location. At lunch we will come back together, discuss our progress and take a walk through the Meadows to refresh our minds before another block of writing time.

If you can’t make the whole day just come along for the time you can: Cara will be in the Practice Suite at the retreat ‘hub’ so head over whenever you’re available. If you want to join us virtually for feedback and more, just get in touch with Cara at c.b.blaisdell@sms.ed.ac.uk.

This is not only a great chance to block out a day dedicated to writing but, if you’d like, to get feedback on your work. We look forward to seeing you there for a wonderfully productive day!

Our next presentation & discussion Thursday 27 October: ‘Social Justice & Youth – Stability Interrupted’

The Network’s October presentation by one of our PhD members, Alan Mackie, is fast approaching, where he will share his initial findings on the lived experiences of young people experiencing poverty and inequality through the lens of social justice theory. We hope to see you and your friends there!

Social Justice & Youth — Stability Interrupted

A presentation and discussion by Alan Mackie, Phd Candidate in Education (Moray House)

Thursday, October 27th at 4:00 – 5:00 pm
Seminar Room 2, Chrystal Macmillan Building,
15 George Square, University of Edinburgh 

Young people, as a distinct social group, have been overlooked in the dominant theories and conceptualizations of social justice (Rawls 1971; Young 1990; Fraser 1997). Young people are experiencing generational inequalities in that their real wages are stagnating in comparison to older age groups, their access to social welfare is diminishing and fewer jobs with social protections are available – particularly for those leaving school with few formal qualifications (Côté and Bynner, 2008; Côté, 2014). In addition to these material inequalities, young people must also negotiate a politics of misrecognition in which they find themselves disparaged in popular media and in policy discourses where ‘non-participation’ in society is pathologised in terms such as ‘at-risk’ and ‘NEET’ (France, 2008; Simmons and Thompson, 2013).

The critical theorist Nancy Fraser (1996, 2005, 2008) offers us a conceptual framework through which to analyse young people’s inequalities and consider what their experiences mean for the ways in which theorists and practitioners think about social justice. Fraser’s critical framework seeks to analyse justice issues across three separate, but interwoven, spheres; the redistributive (economic), the recognitional (cultural) and the representational (political). Importantly, Fraser’s work hinges on a single normative principle – that of ‘participatory parity.’ Participatory parity is the standard by which we ask if members of society are able to interact with one another, in social life, as peers.

Alan’s presentation will examine some initial findings of his doctoral research exploring the experience of 25 young people, aged 16-24, living in an outer-urban area of a Scottish city in the grip of gentrification. In-depth, qualitative interviews have been conducted with these young people looking at issues of redistribution, recognition and representation in their lives since leaving school. He will argue they are not achieving participatory parity and worse, the three spheres of injustice work to reinforce each other in a vicious circle of exclusion.



Côté, J. and Bynner, J.M. (2008). ‘Changes in the transition to adulthood in the UK and Canada: the role of structure and agency in emerging adulthood’, Journal of Youth Studies, Vol. 11, (3), pp251- 268
Côté, J. (2014). Youth Studies, London: Palgrave Macmillan
France, A. (2008). ‘From Being to Becoming: The importance of tackling youth poverty in transitions to adulthood’, Social Policy & Society, Vol. 7, (4), pp495-505
Fraser, N. (1996). ‘Social Justice in the Age of Identity Politics: Redistribution, Recognition, and Participation’, The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Stanford University, April 30-May 2
Fraser, N. (1997). Justice Interruptus: Critical reflections on the ‘post-socialist’ condition, London: Routledge
Fraser, N. (2005). ‘Reframing Justice in a Globalizing World’, New Left Review, Vol. 36, pp1-19
Fraser, N. (2008). Scales of Justice: Reimagining Political Space in a Globalising World. Cambridge: Polity Press
Rawls, J. (1971). A Theory Of Justice, London: Harvard Univerity Press
Simmons, R. & Thompson, R. (2013). ‘Reclaiming the disengaged: critical perspectives on young people not in education, employment or training’, Research in Post-Compulsory Education, Vol. 18, (1-2), pp1-11
Young, I.M. (1990). Justice and the Politics of Difference, New Jersey: Princeton University Press


Dates for your Diary: Welcome, Seminars, and Writing Days!

This semester is shaping up to be a great one for childhood and youth studies across the Edinburgh network. Below are some important upcoming dates for your dairy — we hope to see you at some or all of them!

1. Our welcome meeting: 4pm, Thursday, September 29th in the Chrystal Macmillan Building Practice Suite (1.12).
*See previous post for more details!

2. Seminar by Professor Nigel Thomas: ‘Children as political actors and the strange permeability of disciplinary boundaries’. 3pm, Friday, October 14th in the Chrystal Macmillan Building, Seminar Room 2 (abstract below)

3. Seminar by Polly Atatoa Carr: ‘The impact of housing policy in New Zealand on child health and equity’. 3pm, Friday, November 4th in the Chrystal Macmillan Building, 6th floor staff room (abstract below)

4. Writing Retreat Days

We are so pleased to announce two informal (free) writing retreats for the Childhood and Youth Studies Network this year! We will have two days of supported writing, where we can work together, exchange writing, and get critical feedback on any and all writing you’re doing in the course of your work. The day can be shaped by you and what you need. More info to follow!

Semester One: Friday, November 11th, Chrystal Macmillan Building, Practice Suite 1.12
Semester Two: Friday, March 17th 2017, Chrystal Macmillan Building, Practice Suite 1.12


Nigel Thomas:
Children as political actors and the strange permeability of disciplinary boundaries

In this presentation I ask why children as social and political actors are largely absent from mainstream political theory, in particular from theories of democracy. A review of standard texts indicates that in general children, when they are noticed at all, are regarded as the object of adult obligations and perhaps as future citizens. It is rare for them to be considered as subjects in the present, or as political actors. Although classic examples of participatory democracy often exclude children, there are others that successfully include them and show that children can be very effective political actors; yet these instances also tend to be ignored in the literature. I suggest that this blindness is due to a number of factors, including a residue of liberal paternalism, ideological assumptions traceable back to ‘socialization’ theory, economic instrumentalism and a crude developmentalism based on an outdated reading of psychology. I conclude by reflecting on the space for children as political actors in both representative and participatory democracy, including the issue of voting ages.

Nigel Thomas is Professor of Childhood and Youth Research at the University of Central Lancashire and Co-Director of The Centre for Children and Young People’s Participation. He was previously a social work practitioner, manager and advisor, and then a social work educator. Nigel’s research interests are principally in child welfare, children’s rights, children’s participation and theories of childhood. His publications include Children, Family and the State: Decision-Making and Child Participation (Macmillan 2000, Policy Press 2002); Social Work with Young People in Care (Palgrave 2005); Children, Politics and Communication: Participation at the Margins (Policy Press 2009); and A Handbook of Children and Young People’s Participation: perspectives from theory and practice (with Barry Percy-Smith, Routledge 2010). He is Chair of the Editorial Board of Children & Society, a Visiting Professor in the Centre for Children and Young People at Southern Cross University, and an Honorary Professor in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at Aberystwyth University. Nigel Thomas is featured in the book Key Thinkers in Childhood Studies by Carmel Smith and Sheila Greene (Policy Press 2014)

Polly Atatoa Carr:
The impact of housing policy in New Zealand on child health and equity

Housing has long been recognised as a key social determinant of health, and a critical target for achieving health equity. Current housing issues are also in part responsible for New Zealand’s poor child health and safety ranking. Over the last few decades, housing policy in New Zealand has been constantly reshaped, reformed and restructured as part of wider shifts in political ideology and priorities. Despite (and also as a result of) such policy focus, the state of New Zealand’s housing quality, safety, affordability and availability is dire. This seminar will provide a brief description of the recent history of New Zealand’s housing policy and the current state of housing in the New Zealand context. Examples will be provided of the impact that housing has on New Zealand’s children, and on how housing policy contributes to inequities that are unfair, unnecessary, avoidable, and unjust.

Polly Atatoa Carr is a specialist in Public Health Medicine at the Waikato District Health Board and an Associate Professor in Population Health and Equity at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Dr Atatoa Carr is also a named investigator on Growing Up in New Zealand, a longitudinal study following approximately 7000 New Zealand children in the context of their family and broader environment since before they were born. Polly has broad clinical and research interests in population health, policy translation and child development that include working on housing quality improvements and homelessness. In her professional, community and personal life Polly is passionate about achieving health and social equity in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

We’re Back! Network Meeting, Thursday, September 29th

Thursday, 29 September – Practice Suite, CMB Room 1.12

The Childhood and Youth Studies Network is a group for postgraduate and early career researchers with a shared interest in doing research related to children and young people. We are back for another academic year!

Our first meeting this year will be a welcome mixer for new researchers who are interested in connecting with us, and a big welcome BACK event for the familiar faces we saw last year. We aim to connect with researchers from across the university, from different departments and disciplines, and learn more about how to best grow our little community. Please join us at 4:00 pm, Thursday September 29th at the Practice Suite (Room 1.12) of the Chrystal Macmillan Building.

We (Cara and Sarah) have some ideas for events in the coming year, but we would like to hear from network members about how the network can work for you. What topics would you like to see covered in roundtable discussions or panel presentations? Would you like to practice for a conference by presenting your work-in-progress? Feedback on papers or chapters? We’d also like this to be an opportunity for you to meet other postgrads outside of your department or school and to catch up with Network members after the summer break.

We want this Network to work for you this year, so your input is vital to the group’s success – we hope to see you there! Also, if you have colleagues who are not connected with this group just yet, please feel free to forward this invitation on to them.

See you soon!
Cara and Sarah