9 Q17: Duty to help the Named Person
9.1 Section 9 of the draft guidance concerned the duty on service providers and relevant authorities to comply with a request from a Named Person for help or support to assist a Named Person in carrying out their functions. The guidance relates to Part 4 (Section 25) of the Act.
9.2 Question 17 focused on paragraphs 9.1.1 - 9.1.8 of the guidance and asked: 'Does the draft guidance make clear the arrangements which should be in place for service providers or relevant authorities to help a Named Person?' Table 9.1 shows that 64% of organisations and 11% of individuals agreed, while 36% of organisations and 89% of individuals disagreed.
Table 9.1: Question 17
|Partnership bodies and joint responses||11||(79%)||3||(21%)||14||(100%)|
|Other national public sector bodies||4||(80%)||1||(20%)||5||(100%)|
|Third sector organisations||10||(50%)||10||(50%)||20||(100%)|
|Other organisational respondents||2||(33%)||4||(67%)||6||(100%)|
Percentages do not all total 100% due to rounding.
9.3 Most organisational respondents thought the arrangements which should be in place were clear. However, third sector organisations were more divided in their views and a majority of 'other' organisational respondents did not think the guidance was clear on this point.
9.4 Altogether, 87 respondents (77 organisations and 10 individuals) made comments.
Aspects of the guidance respondents found helpful
9.5 Those commenting positively on the guidance at this section particularly welcomed the emphasis on collaborative working.
Aspects of the guidance requiring clarification or additional guidance
9.6 Respondents highlighted a number of specific areas where they sought clarification or additional guidance.
The nature of the duty
9.7 Although some respondents welcomed the collaborative approach described in the guidance, others felt that the duty offered too much discretion to refuse a request - the phrase, 'This power is not expected to be used in a directive way…' (9.1.2) was picked out by some. There were calls for further guidance on minimum expectations in responding to requests, grounds for refusing requests, and accountability if services were not provided.
The referral process
9.8 Respondents representing services queried if Named Persons would always be best qualified to assess needs and urgency, and frame a specific request for assistance (e.g. in relation to the need for speech and language support). They sought clarity on acceptable responses to requests and whether service providers were expected to carry out their own assessment and provide advice on the appropriate course of action. They also highlighted the difficulty of assessing potential impact on 'wellbeing' on the basis of a single referral.
9.9 Respondents suggested the following requirements be added to the guidance:
- Logging and monitoring of requests and responses
- Informing the Named Person on the outcome of an intervention
- Informing the family of the outcome of requests.
9.10 Other respondents noted that, currently, local practices did not always allow direct referrals from all professionals, and that not all service providers and relevant authorities would be familiar with the wellbeing indicators.
9.11 Respondents thought that examples of appropriate requests from Named Persons and responses from service providers would be helpful.
Timescales and prioritisations
9.12 Respondents frequently asked for additional guidance on timescales and prioritisation in responding to requests. In particular, guidance was sought on the relative prioritisation of Named Person requests and other referrals, particularly where there were waiting lists for services.
Grounds for refusing requests
9.13 A key point of clarification for respondents related to the grounds for refusing requests. Although the duty to provide 'clear reasoning' was welcomed by some, others were concerned that this was open to interpretation. Respondents sought further clarity on acceptable reasons for refusing requests and, in particular, whether resource constraints would be regarded as an acceptable reason.
Action following refusal of request
9.14 There was a clear view among respondents that the guidance needed to cover action which might be taken when requests were refused and processes for resolving disputes. Some were keen for disputes to be resolved through dialogue, while others favoured an appeal or complaints process.
9.15 Respondents frequently expressed concerns about the resource implications of this duty, the impact on the delivery of other services and targets, and whether services had the capacity to respond to all requests.
9.16 Respondents emphasised the importance of ensuring that relevant organisations and the staff within them were aware of and understood the duty. Several respondents highlighted the need for shared understandings of concepts such as wellbeing, and suggested the need for joint training on roles and remits of different services, and partnership working.
9.17 Third sector respondents were keen to see reference to the third sector in the guidance. They acknowledged that third sector bodies were not subject to the duty but argued that they played an important role in providing services to vulnerable children and families. Some raised concerns about the resource implications for third sector bodies, perhaps indicating a misunderstanding about the duty, and a need for clarity about the term 'service provider' (9.1.1).
Views of individual respondents
9.18 Specific points made by individual respondents on the duty to help a Named Person included concerns about information sharing and the power and discretion given to service providers.
Email: Richard Kaura