FAMILY AUTONOMY

FAMILY AUTONOMY

The family is a private realm into which the state should only reluctantly intrude out of necessity.  Unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, it should be assumed that parents care for their children with love and commitment, devoting themselves in a way that the state cannot begin to emulate.

The Named Person Scheme legislation has been abandoned, but the philosophy of seeking to inject state ‘wisdom’ into families lives on and the continuing non-statutory Named Person Scheme will still present a challenge to the integrity of family life.

This dangerous philosophy has seven elements:

1) Distrust of parents,

2) The imposition of “expert” parenting approaches on all parents,

3) The undermining of parental authority and the elevation of child autonomy (often in the guise of Children’s Rights),

4) An excessive assessment of the vulnerability of children to everyday events and interactions,

5) The assumption that parents who punish their children are damaging them (the Smacking Ban is just the first step),

6) A desire to “protect” children from the values and beliefs of their parents, where these diverge from those of the state,

7) Viewing parents as subordinate members of a larger team of adults looking after a child.

 

The tight knit world of Scottish Government, education, social work and children’s charities is dominated by this philosophy.  In some areas, this spirit will be embodied in non-statutory Named Persons, but everywhere the same insidious philosophy will still infuse professional attitudes.

Lowering the threshold for intervention from abuse or neglect to vague and all-encompassing “wellbeing” concerns opens the door to families being judged according to highly subjective and value-laden criteria.   Trivial deviations from parenting ‘best practice’ can be recorded, accumulated and presented as a case against parents.  There are many ways to be a good parent, and, with few exceptions, parents should be free to raise their children according to their own values.  

When the Scottish Government publishes guidance for parents, it reflects a narrow parenting style and must be seen as an indication of the criteria that state agents will use to assess parenting.  It should be remembered that the Scottish Government is undertaking a project to remove all punishments from schools and always wants children’s views to be given more weight.  Parents will be judged from such a standpoint.  What happens when pupils are taught at school that punishments are ineffective and counterproductive, and then dad sends a boy to his room for being rude to mum?

Particularly in schools, the Named Person and other staff can present themselves as an authority figure above parents, inviting children to complain about the service offered by their mum and dad.  Subsequent interventions “to help resolve the issue” erode parental authority.

Incessant enquiries into every child’s wellbeing invite criticism of parents by children, undermining the parent/child relationship.

Parents who smack their children should not be criminalised.  We would seek to repeal the smacking ban legislation.  The previous legislation was adequate to protect children.

We are extremely concerned by the Scottish Government’s proposals to redefine Child Abuse to include highly subjective criteria such as “make the child feel that their opinions, views or feelings are worthless.“, “expose a child to… anger”, “ridicule the child” and “make them feel that they are useless.”  These vague descriptions would lead to increased unnecessary intervention in family life and make parents wary of challenging children or denying their wishes.

Medical confidentiality should not be granted to under 16s, unless there are credible allegations of parental abuse or neglect.  Parents should be fully informed and involved, instead of the current culture of offering to keep secrets from parents.

Teaching children that they can choose their gender is extremely harmful.  Steering children and young people towards puberty-blocking drugs and sex reassignment surgery is grossly irresponsible, given that a clear majority of children will naturally outgrow gender confusion.  Parents should be free to overrule interventions by government agents when guiding their children on such matters.  Parents are best placed to understand their children and have primary responsibility for their care and wellbeing.

Abortion should not be available to under 16s without parents being informed.

The legal Age of Consent should be sixteen, without exception.  The current legal acceptance of sex involving 13 to 15-year-olds fails to protect young people from the possible negative consequences of sex at such a young age and communicates to young people that society approves of such behaviour.  Many parents are urging their children to wait until they are older before having sex, but the state currently undermines this message.

A small number of parents find it challenging to coordinate and communicate with the range of professionals involved with a child with more complex needs.  In this case, a parent should be able to approach a school and ask that someone be appointed to take on this administrative task for them and to be a single point of contact thereafter.  This meets a genuine need without undermining parental autonomy in any way.