The head of NHS Highland has given his full backing to the controversial Named Person policy – saying it is “much misunderstood”.
The practice – whereby a “named person”, usually a health visitor and then a teacher, is appointed for every youngster under the age of 18 – has provoked a storm of controversy ahead of a nationwide roll-out.
The model began to be developed by Highland Council in 2006, before being fully implemented in 2010, but critics claim it is a state intervention into the private lives of families which is unnecessary in the vast majority of cases.
However, Mr Alston, who was a senior councillor as the policy was developed and now serves as NHS Highland chairman, defended the scheme.
“I’m very much in favour of it, but I think it’s very much misunderstood,” he said.
“I used to sit on the children’s panel and it’s one of the most difficult things I’ve done because I suddenly saw the things that were happening to children in communities I knew.
“And the system had failed, and often it failed because it wasn’t clear whose responsibility it was.
“What the named person is saying is that each stage there’s a single person, a named person, who doesn’t do everything but is responsible for making sure that there is a response.
“I find it difficult to find anything to disagree with in that. I’m sorry it has been caught up in understandable concerns about the state interfering with the family, but there are points that the state, in the widest sense, does need to step in because children suffer. I’m all in favour.”