Inclusive not Included

Words matter - as was recently pointed out by a member of the audience at "What's wrong with Named Person".

During the recent event at the University of Dundee looking at what is wrong with the Named Person scheme there was a lively Q and A. One of the most insightful questioners pointed out that the government documents frequently use the words “included” and "inclusion". They do not however employ “inclusive” when it comes to our children. There is a significant difference between these apparently similar words.

"Included" means to bring into a group or class, the direction of travel is inward. "Inclusion" implies (almost) everything is within the scope considered, the extremes as well as the area in between. For those families, who by reason of religious or moral conviction, race, culture, infirmity or happenstance find themselves at the edges of society, the difference is very significant.

A policy that is inclusive must accommodate the rich variety of human characteristics, abilities, idiosyncrasies and preferences.  It must move and bend to suit individual choices. The fixed point in an inclusive system is the individual, the system must be flexible; it must give.

The SHANNARI indicators, the awkward government acronym that seeks to camouflage the inconvenient fact that The Scottish Government cannot define wellbeing, do not use the word inclusive. The “I” in SHANARRI is for included.

If a person is included in a government scheme, then there is at least the implication that they must comply with it. Government, being a creature that demands loyalty or at least acquiescence, is ill-suited to relationships based on voluntarism. To be included in a government scheme, is not the same as choosing to be included. Be it HMRC, ATVOD or the DVLA, our experience of government teaches us a simple truth; that what the individual would voluntarily choose is not important in the eyes of these leviathan organisations. Hence, to be included is not to be given an option, a choice, as it would be coming from a private citizen. Rather to be included by the state implies that options are reduced, requirements are to be satisfied and lines are to be towed. The fixed point here is the government, it is the individual who must be flexible and move to meet the system.

In the named person scheme, the most horrible part is that every child is included. Information is stored, collated and shared, even if a child, their mother and their father all state clearly and forcefully that they do not want this to happen. It happens anyway. There is a hint of the terminator about this – it will not stop – ever. There is no opt out, there is no choice, ultimately there is no freedom. No freedom to be left alone- to not be included.

And with the state, the most fundamental freedom, the one that is ever more curtailed and confined, is the freedom to be left alone. We must be alert to the words chosen by the government in all of its forms, alert for signs of new attacks on this most basic right.