BY Ian Dunn | June 23 2017 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Parents welcome government ‘u-turn’ on named person scheme

Deputy First Minister defends changes to the proposals which campaigners have labelled an ‘ignominious climbdown’

Parents and campaigners have been celebrating this week after the Scottish Government announced substantial changes to its controversial named person scheme.

The proposals will appoint every child a named person, usually a teacher or health visitor, who will be responsible for ensuring their welfare. Last year the Supreme Court ruled that the original legislation was unlawful because of the way it dealt with data about children. Campaigners have long argued the scheme could ­undermine the family.

Simon Calvert of the No to Named Persons (NO2NP) coalition said the new proposals ‘confirm one of the most remarkable, ignominious and expensive u-turns in the history of the Scottish Government’ and are a ‘huge victory for mums, dads and children across the country and the 35,000-plus NO2NP supporters.’

The changes to the legislation mean public bodies can only share information about children if it is likely to ­‘promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing’ of the child.

Public bodies will also be required to consider whether sharing the ­information would be compatible with data protection, human rights and ­confidentiality laws.


Government’s view

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the changes would bring ­‘consistency, clarity and coherence to the practice of sharing information about children and young people’s wellbeing across Scotland.’

“The Supreme Court ruled ­definitively that the intention of ­providing a named person for every child to promote and safeguard their wellbeing was ‘unquestionably ­legitimate and benign,’” he said

“But young people and families must have confidence that information will be shared only where their rights can be respected. We must ensure that we get it right for every child, but in a way that respects the rights of families fully.”

Supreme Court judges ruled in July last year that specific proposals in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act about information-sharing were incompatible with the rights to privacy and a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

They said the legislation made it ‘perfectly possible’ that confidential information about a young person could be disclosed to a ‘wide range of public authorities without either the child or young person or their ­parents being aware.’



The appeal was brought to the Supreme Court by the NO2NP ­coalition, which includes the Christian Institute, Care (Christian Action Research and Education), Tyme Trust and the Family Education Trust.

NO2NP’s Simon Calvert said that the changes were a ‘100 per cent climbdown on their original plan of a statutory duty to share information about people’s private lives almost without restriction.’

“If they’d only listened at the start, they could have saved huge amounts of time and money,” he said. “In addition, crucially, the policy memorandum is also clear that the advice offered by a named person is voluntary.”

“The Scottish Government say they want Scotland to be the best place in the world for children and young ­people to grow up,” he added. “That might have a chance of happening now these state snooping powers have been consigned to the legislative ­dustbin.”

The Catholic Church in Scotland had called on the Scottish Government to revise the law after the High Court ruling.

“While acknowledging the Scottish Government’s desire to protect ­vulnerable children, legislation must always balance protection with the right of parents and children to live a family life in private,” Bishop John Keenan of Paisley, co-president of the Catholic Church’s marriage and family office, said.

“While this legislation failed to strike a reasonable balance, hopefully the Scottish Government will now amend the legislation to get that ­balance right.”

A spokesman for the Catholic Church welcomed the new legislation.

“While acknowledging the Scottish Government’s desire to protect ­vulnerable children, legislation must always balance protection with the right of parents and children to live a family life in private,” he said.

“The original legislation failed to strike a reasonable balance; hopefully the proposed changes will remedy this failure. Ensuring that public bodies can only share information about ­children if it is likely to ‘promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing’ of the child, seems a more sensible approach.

“It is reassuring to know that public bodies must consider whether sharing the information would be compatible with data protection, human rights and confidentiality laws.

“Respect for parental primacy must be at the heart of all government action. In this context, the fact that parents will not be forced to take the advice of a named person, as stated in the policy memorandum, is also to be welcomed.”

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