Named Person data-sharing ditched In Scottish Government U-turn

Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced yet further delays to the Named Person scheme in a statement to the Scottish Parliament today.

He proposed bringing forward a bill that would include new Named Person data-sharing provisions, in an attempt to address concerns raised by the Supreme Court last July.

Setting out a proposed timetable he said the bill would be expected ahead of the summer recess with the view of commencement in 2018.

He told Parliament this afternoon that the Named Person legislation would be amended to comply with the Supreme Court ruling. He said: “information sharing that was rooted in consent, engagement and empowerment of families was the best way forward. Only in exceptional circumstances, such as where the risk of harm was present, should we consider departing from those core principles.”

This is simply a restatement of the existing law. This is what we argued for in the Supreme Court, and the judges agreed with us.

NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert commented:

“However they try to spin it, this is a major climbdown by the Scottish Government.

“After two years of causing fear and confusion amongst parents, they are now conceding that they cannot lower the threshold for non-consensual disclosure of personal information on families.

“They are reverting to the existing threshold of ‘risk of harm’.

“It’s about time.

“It all goes to show what a complete waste of time and money it has been to try to create a system to allow officials to pass round confidential personal information on children and families almost at will.

“Mr Swinney says he is going to create a new statutory duty on Named Persons to comply with their existing statutory duties in the Data Protection Act and Human Rights Act. This is pointless and superfluous. It is little more than a face-saving exercise for the Scottish Government.

“Ever since they lost in the Supreme Court the Scottish Government has been trying to downplay the significance of the ruling and, in particular, of their data sharing provisions which the court said breached human rights.

“This ‘central’ element of the scheme is now history.

“On the day of the ruling in July last year they were telling the BBC they hoped to roll out the system before the end of the 2016. By September were talking about an ‘ambition to work towards August 2017’. Now they admit it will take until 2018.

“Today’s climbdown is a recognition of the reality of the Supreme Court defeat. It is a major victory for parents and for those in the NO2NP campaign who brought the successful legal challenge.”

NO2NP supporters also commented on the announcement.

Dee Thomas, mum of four, said: “It is now left to the people of Scotland to demonstrate to this Government just how much this legislation is unwanted by most parents, unnecessary for the vast majority and will leave the truly vulnerable even more so.”

Dr Stuart Waiton, Senior Lecturer, Division of Sociology at Abertay University, said: “Swinney and the Scottish Government are obsessed with early intervention. They seem to think, not that families are positive and important and generally good, but that they are ticking time bombs, sites of abuse or just bad or inadequate parenting, that need an army of experts in waiting, keeping a constant check on us all so that they can give us that ‘extra help’ when they think we need it. The Named Person in any form is an imposition on families and a threat to our private lives. Swinney needs to scrap the Named Person and the GIRFEC approach, stop trying to monitor all of our children and focus resources on those children and families who really need it.”

Lesley Scott, Scottish Officer for Tymes Trust, said: “Mr Swinney in his statement to Parliament today on the proposed revisions to the Named Person legislation repeated many of the familiar arguments that have already been thoroughly demolished over the past three years.

“Not least of these was his claim that ‘wellbeing is defined by the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act 2014’. Either Mr Swinney has not read the full ruling from the UK Supreme Court or he is being wilfully misleading. The judgment from the Supreme Court states clearly on page 8: ‘Wellbeing is not defined’.

“To get such a basic and fundamental point so wrong does not bode well for any revision to a scheme that is rooted in safeguarding, promoting and supporting that very concept. Without a legally robust definition of ‘wellbeing’, GIRFEC and the Named Person are unworkable and the Deputy First Minister’s continued commitment to this scheme will simply result in further inappropriate unjustified interference by the state in the lives of Scottish families.”

CARE’s Scotland Parliamentary Officer, Dr Gordon Macdonald said: “The Named Person Scheme has been strongly criticised by both parents and leading professionals across all spheres of life – education, health and law enforcement. The Scottish Government must listen the majority and not shoehorn in a proposal that is deeply unpopular and serves to undermine the role of parents in family life.”