FIRST MINISTER REITERATES CLAIM ‘NAMED PERSON SCHEME NOT OBLIGATORY’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated her claim that the Named Person scheme is an ‘entitlement’ and ‘not an obligation’ when questioned in Holyrood today.

WATCH: First Minister reiterates ‘no obligation’ claims during FMQs

Speaking during First Minister’s Questions, she said: “Well as I have said and I’ll say again today, the Named Person scheme is an entitlement. I think it is a good and sensible entitlement. It is not an obligation. It helps children and families get the support they need from services, when they need it.”

She stated: “It does not in any way, shape or form replace or change the role of the parent or carer or undermine families.”

But just earlier this week her own Government published a response to a UN committee stating that “every child in Scotland will have a Named Person who will receive training in identifying, assessing and responding to their needs”.

And the Named Person legislation not only neglects to mention parental opt-out, but also completely misses the entire concept of parental consent.

Her own Government’s QC, Alistair Clarke, said during the Named Person legal challenge at the Court of Session that to allow an opt-out would “defeat the purpose of the scheme”.

The First Minister, responding to questions from Ruth Davidson MSP, leader of the Conservatives, told the chamber today: “The fact of the matter is that the children and parents are not legally obliged to use the Named Person service, or take up any of the advice or help that is offered to them”.

She added that, “parents are not legally obliged to use it because it is an entitlement not an obligation. I think that’s sensible, making sure it is there for everybody when they do need it, if they do need it, but not obliging anybody to use it if they feel they don’t need it.”

The First Minister was accused of sending “mixed messages” during an interview with BBC Scotland’s Political Editor Brian Taylor last week, when she said that the Named Person scheme was “not mandatory”.

There is no Named Person opt-out despite First Minister’s assurances

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of sending “mixed messages” in her claim that the Named Person scheme is “not mandatory”.

WATCH: Nicola Sturgeon contradicts her own QC and denies Named Person scheme is mandatory

During an interview with BBC Scotland’s Political Editor Brian Taylor, the First Minister commented on the Named Person scheme, saying: “It’s not compulsory, it’s an entitlement, not an obligation. If the parent doesn’t want to have anything to do with the Named Person scheme they don’t have to… It’s not mandatory.”
 
There has been a backlash in the press and from the public urging the First Minister to clarify her statement, which contradicts the Government’s own QC, who told the Court of Session that to allow an opt-out would “defeat the purpose of the scheme”.

A NO2NP spokesman told the press: “If the First Minister thinks the Named Person scheme is ‘not mandatory’ then she has been very badly misled by her advisers.”

“When she realises how inaccurate the advice from officials has been I imagine heads will roll. They’ve made her look very silly because she may be the only person in Scotland who doesn’t know that the Named Person scheme contains no opt-outs and no provision for parental consent. It is, on any ordinary understanding of the word, mandatory.

“Given how unpopular the scheme is, it is highly convenient for the First Minister to say it’s not compulsory. Sadly it just doesn’t happen to be true.”

The phrase ‘opt out’ appears absolutely nowhere in the legislation. The concept of parental consent is also entirely absent.

A Named Person will be appointed for every child in Scotland. They will have legal power to obtain your confidential family data without your consent or knowledge. They will have a legal duty to monitor your child’s happiness whether you want them to or not, and power to bring in other agencies to deal with your child without your consent. If that’s not mandatory, what is?

The frightening reality is that refusal to engage with a Named Person could well be treated by the authorities as a red flag leading officials to escalate concerns about a family. This increases the likelihood that child protection powers will be invoked to allow coercive intervention in the life of the family. So telling a Named Person you want to be left alone to take care of your own family could be the very thing they use against you to justify intervention.

If the scheme was voluntary, it would be fine. Parents who want help would know where to go to get it. But the Named Person law is universal – appointing a Named Person, with all their powers, over every child, with no opt-out, no right to confidentiality, and no requirement for parental consent.

Dr Stuart Waiton, a sociologist at Abertay University, called on the First Minister to clarify her statement.

He commented: “Named persons are being trained in a particular way to measure children’s progress and development and it is going to be very difficult for parents to reject their ‘advice’ – many will fear that rejection could count against them.

“By bringing in a kind of parental support agency, and suggesting that there is a ‘rulebook’ for parenting that must be adhered to, the Scottish Government risks undermining the authority of parents.”

VIDEO: NICOLA STURGEON ON THE DEFENSIVE OVER DATA SHARING

In Holyrood yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon was pressed by Liz Smith MSP over the compatibility of the Named Person scheme with a child’s right to privacy.

Smith was highlighting concerns raised by Community Law Advice Network (Clan Childlaw), who recently explained that the plans could result in children having no expectation of privacy, which could lead to them shunning helplines and advisory services.

Currently information can be shared without a child’s consent if there is a “risk of significant harm” to a child.

But under the Named Person scheme information can be shared if there is simply concern for a child’s “wellbeing” – a phrase so broad that it now embraces terms such as happiness, quality of life, economic status, health, educational achievement and levels of respect for the child and others.

When asked to respond to concerns raised by Clan Childlaw, Sturgeon said: “Information sharing should always be appropriate, and it should always be proportionate to concerns about wellbeing”.

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