Children’s legal charity warns Named Person breaches children’s rights

A charity that gives legal help to children and young people in Scotland will tell the UK Supreme Court next week that Named Persons legislation violates the rights of Scottish children.

Clan Childlaw will warn that health, education and social work will be given the power to share information about a child simply on the basis of ‘wellbeing’ concerns, rather than the previous higher threshold of being ‘at risk of significant harm’.

The children’s legal charity says this breaches article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights and makes it easier to share confidential information about children.

Clan Childlaw is intervening in the judicial review of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 which will be heard in the Supreme Court on the 8th and 9th March.

Alison Reid, Principal Solicitor at Clan, said: “The Act drops the threshold from the widely understood child protection test of “risk of significant harm” to a much lower one around concern for a child’s “wellbeing”, which involves a highly subjective judgment on the part of the Named Person and others as to whether to share information.

“There is a serious risk that the overriding of confidentiality when there is no child protection concern will lead to children being reluctant to engage with confidential services.”

She fears this could lead to some children failing to access the help they need.

Reid added: “We all want to make sure that children and young people in Scotland are protected and recognise that when child protection issues arise, these need to be shared appropriately amongst professionals. However, where there are no child protection concerns, a child, like anyone else, should be entitled to a level of confidentiality when accessing advice.”

Colin Hart, director of The Christian Institute, one of the organisations involved in bringing the legal challenge against the Named Person scheme, said: “We would endorse Clan Childlaw’s concerns. The named person scheme is all about the free flow of private information about children and about families in a way that to us is clearly illegal.”

He added: “Lowering the bar for information sharing to being about a child’s ‘wellbeing’ which merely means ‘happy’. If a Named Person’s own view is that it might lead to being happier, then the child won’t be able to object.”

Read more:
Charity warns ‘named persons’ law may breach children’s rights to privacy, The Herald, 04 March 2016