Named Persons pummelled by lawyers and health professionals

Lawyers and health professionals have expressed major concerns about the Named Person information sharing bill.

Giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee, Kenny Meechan representing the Law Society of Scotland said teachers and other professionals who have to navigate the complex proposals “will need their lawyer on speed dial”.

Janys Scott QC, on behalf of the Faculty of Advocates, told MSPs that if families don’t know what professionals are going to do with their personal information it may affect what they are willing to share.

She gave the example of a mum who may be hesitant to talk about her post-natal depression with medical professionals if she thinks it might be fed back to her child’s teachers. NO2NP has long argued that the invasive Named Person scheme would damage trust between families and professionals.

Both lawyers said the Scottish Government’s current plans could result in further legal challenges.

The lack of definition of the term “wellbeing” remained a central problem, and concerns were raised about potential confusion over the threshold for intervention by a Named Person.

The Faculty’s written submission to the Committee highlighted “two principal issues” that had been identified by the Supreme Court: “The first was that there was a serious lack of clarity for those implementing the legislation and the second was the lack of safeguards for those affected”.

It warned: “Neither of these issues is easy to resolve and some of the criticisms of the Supreme Court will continue to apply if the Bill as drafted is passed and the accompanying Code of Practice is approved.”

Swinney grilled

Yesterday Education Minister and Deputy First Minister John Swinney was grilled about the Faculty’s concerns. MSPs on the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee asked why he was snubbing the nation’s leading lawyers.

He responded saying: “I disagree with the Faculty of Advocates.”

NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert commented on the Deputy First Minister’s response saying: “It is quite astonishing that having been condemned by the Supreme Court the Government is still not willing to listen to legal advice.”

Health professionals were also invited to give evidence to the Education and Skills Committee today.

Royal College of Nursing Scotland’s Policy Officer Lorna Greene said the ‘duty’ on professionals to ‘consider’ sharing private information on families could have “quite a significant impact in the form of leading to defensive practice”.

She warned that by putting in the duty to consider they were “leading professionals towards what might become a tick-box exercise and which could take away from meaningful practice” and commented that it was a “very vague strange concept”.

Annette Holliday Health Visitor and Unite member told MSPs: “There’s nervousness about where responsibilities lie around delivering of Named Person services.”

Swinney told MSPs yesterday that “the law must be crystal clear”. It seems to us and to anyone who is listening, that the law in its current form is anything but clear.

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