‘Postcards from the Fringe’: Families give evidence about Named Persons

Guest blog by Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust and Alison Preuss of Scottish Home Education Forum

Evidence from families affected by GIRFEC shows parents shun family services as they do not trust Named Person scheme

A ‘fringe’ event was held in Edinburgh on 15 November to hear families’ own testimonies on the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill, which is currently before the Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament.

Although the Government has claimed the new Bill will remedy the defects of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, those adversely affected by the GIRFEC policy and the premature implementation of the Named Person scheme were excluded from Holyrood’s invitation-only evidence sessions and focus groups. In order to redress the balance, Tymes Trust and the Scottish Home Education Forum issued their own call for evidence.

‘Postcards from the fringe’ allowed attendees-in-person to respond to questions that had arisen from over 90 pieces of evidence submitted, and to raise other points for discussion.

A delegation of parents and children later visited the Scottish Parliament to deliver their evidence (www.np-fringe.uk/the-evidence) to James Dornan MSP, convener of the Education and Skills Committee.

Desired outcomes from the fringe event

  • Scrap the current bill. It cannot change the legal framework or consent threshold upheld by the Supreme Court.
  • A public inquiry into how unfettered mass data misuse became embedded in policy and practice, as admitted on the record by ‘services’ acting on unlawful Government guidance.
  • Access to justice for those who have had their rights infringed and are still suffering harassment.
  • Removal of legal immunity for professionals who breach data protection law and act beyond their powers.
  • Fully consent-based model for any ‘wellbeing’ data processing, from collection to deletion, with special protection from coercion for children in schools and ‘care’ settings.
  • Recognition of parents as experts on their own children.
  • Urgent review of information governance and data security.

Reflections from the fringe

Participants were asked whether they believed the new Bill would satisfy the terms of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, which struck down key provisions of the 2014 Act, and how they thought the Government and Parliament should proceed in the face of continuing opposition to its proposed legislation and an overarching policy framework which places state outcomes above citizens’ autonomy.

Much discussion focused on the data sharing and undefined, subjective notion of ‘wellbeing’ on which the Named Person scheme and wider GIRFEC policy rely, and inconsistent messaging (support or mass surveillance?). Families noted their irrevocable loss of trust in public/third sector providers, which has already resulted in avoidance of services, refusal to disclose information that may be misused or lost, covert recording of all engagements with professionals, opt-out from health visiting, nurseries and, increasingly, schools.

Other recurrent themes were the lack of access to justice for those whose human rights had been, and continue to be, infringed by public and third sector bodies, and the lack of accountability of those who failed to get it right in the face of case law and legal opinion that had predicted the outcome of the judicial review.

Families believed their own evidence and experiences had been filtered out in order to push through legislation and a code of practice whose only purpose is to seek circumvention of the Supreme Court ruling.

Many people were of course unable to attend the daytime event on 15 November. The event was held during the day so that we could hand deliver the evidence ‘postcards’ to the Parliament, but we had planned to live-stream the event for those unable to attend. With this in mind we had initially booked the Quaker Meeting House, 7 Victoria Terrace Edinburgh which was “well equipped with audio-visual equipment and […] Wi-Fi.” Unfortunately the Quaker Meeting House cancelled our booking out of the blue. The Quaker Meeting House has hosted National Third Sector GIRFEC Project as well as other GIRFEC supporting events.

This spanner in the works forced us to find an alternative venue at short notice – not an easy task in the middle of Edinburgh a month before Christmas. Unfortunately the broadband provision in the venue we finally secured was not what we had expected and did not support live-streaming of the event. What is more the acoustics have rendered the recording sub-standard. We are endeavouring to save what we can of the day’s discussions and may post the salvaged footage if we can.

We thank you for your patience.

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"I oppose the Scottish Government's plan to assign a 'Named Person' to every child in Scotland because it undermines families and diverts resources from children who need them."

I am a resident of Scotland and 16-years-old or over