Keeping you up to date on the progress of the Named Person scheme and the NO2NP campaign.
Yesterday Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced in the Scottish Parliament:
“We will now not underpin in law the mandatory named person scheme for every child. We will withdraw the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill and repeal the relevant legislation.
“Instead, existing voluntary schemes that provide a point of contact for support will continue, under current legal powers, when councils and health boards wish to provide them and parents wish to use them.”
Mr Swinney’s announcement led to widespread media coverage, with some containing misleading content. So here we set the record straight.
What named person scheme has been scrapped?
It was a mandatory scheme
The Scottish Government wanted a statutory scheme which would make it mandatory to appoint a Named Person to monitor the ‘wellbeing’ – or ‘happiness’ – of every child in Scotland. Whether the family wanted one or not it would have been imposed, with or without the family’s knowledge.
The proposed scheme was not a ‘voluntary point of contact for parents who wanted it’ as some media reports suggest. If it was a voluntary service, that would have been uncontroversial.
But this was about compulsory state-sanctioned monitoring of every child in Scotland. Parents have spoken out about uncovering detailed dossiers filled with inaccurate information on them, which have been compiled by Named Persons behind their backs and used in damaging ways.
It was about monitoring wellbeing
The proposed scheme tried to give Named Persons legal powers to grab and share information at the low level of ‘wellbeing’. It was not about monitoring welfare as some media reports suggest. Social services and police already have legal powers to monitor welfare concerns.
Professionals working in child protection can already share information if they think there is a ‘risk of significant harm’, and intervene where necessary. The proposed Named Person scheme was not about welfare, but about monitoring ‘wellbeing’.
Commenting on the concept of wellbeing found in the policy, the UK Supreme Court ruling stated: “‘Wellbeing’ is not defined. The only guidance as to its meaning is provided by section 96(2), which lists eight factors to which regard is to be had when assessing wellbeing. The factors, which are known under the acronym SHANARRI, are that the child or young person is or would be: “safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible, and included”. These factors are not themselves defined, and in some cases are notably vague: for example, that the child or young person is “achieving” and “included””.
Elsewhere in the judgment the justices stated:
“[T]he assessment of that wellbeing under section 96… involves the use of very broad criteria which could trigger the sharing of information by a wide range of public bodies… and also the initiation of intrusive inquiries into a child’s wellbeing.”
The judges concluded that sharing private information at the level of ‘wellbeing’ “may in practice result in a disproportionate inference with the article 8 rights of children, young persons and their parents”.
It breached human rights
Let’s remind ourselves what else the July 2016 UK Supreme Court judgment said.
The ruling noted that “the sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person” (para. 78).
It then concluded that these information-sharing provisions:
• Were incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
• May in practice result in a disproportionate interference with the article 8 rights of many children, young persons and their parents, through the sharing of private information;
• Were “not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament”, deeming the legislation “defective” and blocking it from coming into force.
Bizarrely, Mr Swinney responded to the ruling at the time by saying: “I welcome the publication of today’s judgment and the fact that the attempt to scrap the named person service has failed.”
But three years later, he finally has to admit that the mandatory Named Person scheme, with legal powers to grab and share private information at the low level of wellbeing, cannot work without breaching the human rights of children and families.
It had to be scrapped.
So, where do we go from here?
John Swinney said in his statement yesterday: “Instead, existing voluntary schemes that provide a point of contact for support will continue, under current legal powers, where councils and health boards wish to provide them and parents wish to use them.”
A voluntary single point of contact
If you still see a Named Person service being offered, it will now be on a strictly voluntary basis. It will be up to councils and health boards to decide if they wish to offer a voluntary named person or some kind of voluntary single point of contact for parents, and it will be up to parents to decide if they want to use the service.
This ‘voluntary single point of contact’ will not be able to share information on ‘wellbeing’ concerns at will. Instead it will have to adhere to current data sharing frameworks.
There will no longer be a statutory Named Person service imposed on every child in Scotland.
Parents can feel confident that when they are given advice or offered a service by a voluntary ‘Named Person’ or ‘voluntary single point of contact’, they do not have to accept it.
As the 2016 Supreme Court judgment stated: “Care should therefore be taken to emphasise the voluntary nature of the advice, information, support and help which are offered”.
Will this reduce the level of protection for children?
We have always been concerned about the Named Person scheme diverting valuable resources away from vulnerable children who genuinely need help.
A significant case review into the tragic death of Fife toddler Liam Fee stated that the role of the Named Person “may have contributed to confusion”.
And the significant case review into the sad death of Inverness toddler Clyde Campbell mentioned the child’s Named Person, as among those who could have done more.
The report from Highland Child Protection Committee stated serious concerns “were not appropriately escalated to senior social care managers”.
Finding a vulnerable child is like finding a needle in a haystack, and the Named Person scheme, as proposed by the Scottish Government, would have made the haystack bigger, placing an even greater burden on already overstretched child protection services.
Now child protection services can concentrate time and resources on helping children who are genuinely at risk of significant harm.
This afternoon Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced that Named Persons, with powers to grab and share your private information, will finally be scrapped.
The statement comes following the news that Mr Swinney’s ‘expert panel’ was unable to find a solution to fix the unlawful information sharing aspects of the Bill, which were struck down by the UK Supreme Court three years ago.
In a statement today Mr Swinney told the chamber:
“I am therefore giving notice of our intention to seek to repeal Parts 4 and 5 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, using a suitable legislative vehicle in due course.
“I believe that today we have taken an important step forward in providing families and practitioners with certainty about how information sharing can support wellbeing in a transparent way which respects the rights of everyone.
He confirmed: “The mandatory named person scheme for every child – underpinned by law – will now not happen. We will withdraw our Bill and repeal the relevant legislation.
“Instead, existing voluntary schemes that provide a point of contact for support will continue under current legal powers, where councils and health boards wish to provide them and parents wish to use them.
When pressed in the chamber to apologise to families across Scotland, Mr Swinney refused.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said: “We mustn’t forget that the Supreme Court ruled that Mr Swinney’s legislation breached the human rights of families, and he’s never apologised for that.
“He’s eventually done the right thing, but he has done a lot of damage to public trust over the last couple of years by trying to prop up the Named Person scheme.
“Nevertheless, this is good news for families all across Scotland and it’s a great relief for a lot of people.”
He continued: “The question now is what is the Scottish Government going to do to unpick all of the legally inaccurate training that it’s been giving to local authority and health board officials over the last five years?
“There’s a big job of work to do to make clear to those people that they don’t have the powers that the Scottish Government wanted them to have.”
The Named Person scheme has suffered another major setback which could sink the entire scheme.
An expert group set up by Deputy First Minister John Swinney to try to salvage the scheme has failed to come up with any solutions, after almost two years of deliberation.
In late 2017 MSPs refused to back the Scottish Government’s proposed Named Person plans until they were given a detailed code of practice on how it would work.
Now, official minutes show the expert panel, set up to draft the code, has admitted defeat stating: “The remit was to produce a code of practice so we need to be clear and up front about the difficulties of that.”
The panel – launched in November 2017 – has now finally concluded that: “a statutory Code of Practice that must be applied in all situations is not the right thing to do at this time”.
It added that “it would not be desirable as the complexity of this would mean it would not be easy to understand or apply in practice”
That conclusion could spell the end of the road for the scheme. Holyrood’s education committee insisted on an authoritative code before they would even consider a new Named Person data sharing bill, drawn up after the UK Supreme Court declared the original scheme unlawful in 2016.
Simon Calvert of NO2NP, said: “This might just be the knock-out blow to the Scottish Government’s state snooper scheme.”
In 2016 Supreme Court judges ruled the central data sharing provisions of the Named person scheme were unlawful.
It also instructed the Scottish Government to ensure that any future version of the legislation made it plain that any advice from a named person was entirely optional for parents.
New proposals were drawn up, but Holyrood’s education and skills committee wrote to Mr Swinney saying they could not support the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill, which was designed to address the Supreme Court’s reservations. The Committee demanded a code of practice showing how private information on families would be shared by named persons, before it would consider progressing the bill.
The panel was set up after Mr Swinney’s own draft code was rejected by MSPs. But minutes of the panel’s meeting in March this year – only just published – reveal that stakeholders “had little appetite for further legislation”.
Mr Calvert said:
“Poor John Swinney has dug himself into a big hole over the hated named person scheme. After his Comical Ali-style denial of defeat in the Supreme Court in 2016, he said the scheme would be up and running by the end of that year. It was not. The following year he was forced to admit to MSPs that his own attempt to provide a draft code of practice was a ‘misjudgement’ that caused ‘confusion and uncertainty’.
“Then, instead of just dumping the state snooper plan, he called in advisers to try and come up with a new version.
“Mr Swinney promised they would ‘ develop a workable, comprehensive and user friendly code of practice’. They have, unsurprisingly, concluded that this is impossible.
“Time’s well and truly up now. This exercise in social engineering has finally hit the buffers and must be dumped. Where does Mr Swinney go now? No code. No legislation. No friends on this issue it would seem.”
Mr Calvert added: “The independent panel announced in November 2017 was meant to come up with that code. They’re telling Mr Swinney there should be no new code, which means no new information sharing law. This leaves us with a Named Person Lite, subject to the same laws and guidance on information sharing as everybody else.”
Everyone knows the Scottish Government’s attempts to re-legislate for Named Person data-sharing have run into the sand.
The UK Supreme Court struck down the original information sharing powers because they didn’t comply with human rights law and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The Named Person scheme is still being rolled out across Scotland but on a non-statutory basis, with none of the invasive powers that the Scottish Government originally wanted.
As things stand, can Named Persons still share personal information about you or your children?
Under the GDPR, the sharing of personal information is permitted if one of the bases for data processing in article 6 is satisfied. If the data is deemed sensitive, a basis in article 9 must also be met.
Under each article, the consent of the data-subject is a basis for sharing. Another basis is where “processing is necessary in order to protect the vital interests of the data subject”.
Child protection would be a prime example.
In the absence of consent or child protection concerns, does the GDPR provides any alternative lawful basis for named persons to share personal information about children, young people and their families?
The Government may consider that named persons will be able to rely (at least in relation to non-sensitive data) on the fact the “processing is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest “ or “processing is necessary for compliance with a legal obligation”.
However, it would be surprising if the GDPR (taken with the European Convention on Human Rights) allowed the state to circumvent fundamental rights of citizens by passing a blanket law to allow officials to override those rights. (This is what they tried to do the first time round.)
Of course there are cases where a legal obligation or public function is so specific and limited in scope that sharing the specified information is permitted.
The limited nature of the function clearly identifies a pressing social need. That justifies limiting the rights of the data subject in the narrow area concerned. The limited nature of the duty imposes its own safeguards and allows the proportionality of any interference to be challenged and assessed.
However, the breadth of the named person policy does not lend itself to this.
The functions of the named person do not impose a legal obligation. Not do they set out clearly circumscribed functions. Notably, section 19(5) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 states that the “functions” of the named person are “doing such of the following where the named person considers it to be appropriate in order to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person—
- advising, informing or supporting the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person,
- helping the child or young person, or a parent of the child or young person, to access a service or support, or
- discussing, or raising, a matter about the child or young person with a service provider or relevant authority.
At the heart of these functions is a jelly-like notion of wellbeing. The notion is so malleable it can mean what a person wants it to mean. As the Supreme Court said:
““Wellbeing” is not defined. The only guidance as to its meaning is provided by section 96(2), which lists eight factors to which regard is to be had when assessing wellbeing. The factors, which are known under the acronym SHANARRI, are that the child or young person is or would be: “safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible, and included”. These factors are not themselves defined, and in some cases are notably vague: for example, that the child or young person is “achieving” and “included””.
Elsewhere in the judgement the justices stated:
“[T]he assessment of that wellbeing under section 96 involves the use of very broad criteria which could trigger the sharing of information by a wide range of public bodies and also the initiation of intrusive inquiries into a child’s wellbeing.”
In short, the lack of any definition of wellbeing in the Act gave rise to the Supreme Court’s conclusion that the legislation “may in practice result in a disproportionate inference with the article 8 rights of children, young persons and their parents, though the sharing of private information”. This was the basis of the court’s requirement that the changes to the legislation required by the court judgment would involve providing safeguards and that this would “involve policy questions” for the Scottish Government.
An all-singing, all-dancing concept of wellbeing, which bundles together so many different and vague indicators, has created a policy framework which is like a swollen river. The torrent is gushing downhill and will submerge what lays before it unless a suitable dam is built. Yet, nearly three years since the Supreme Court gave judgment the Government has not been able to construct a solution to the problems identified.
The reason for the Government’s failure to find a legislative fix for the data protection problems identified by the Supreme Court judgment is that the policy around which they are seeking to legislate lacks precision at its core.
In 2017 the Government asked a panel of experts to come up with a new binding code of conduct for practitioners. That panel has so far failed.
Even if the panel come up with a draft, it would have to have such a high level of legal content – deconstructing the elements which make up the SHANARRI concept of wellbeing – that it will render the guidance impossible for non-lawyers to navigate. It will not be fit for purpose.
The problem for the Government is that they have been pursuing a policy which seeks to do everything. If professionals and practitioners are not to be drowned in the impenetrable mess caused by enshrining SHANARRI in law, the Government must focus on the source of the problem. Redirecting the river at its source means a fundamental policy rethink.
The Scottish Government is considering controversial proposals to implement the detested named person scheme “by the back door” … even if MSPs refuse to support changes to the law.
Discussion of a so-called “Plan B” is revealed in documents which have only been made public, after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by NO2NP stalwart Lesley Scott.
The papers were produced following a meeting of unnamed top level government officials and advisors in February this year.
An annex under the headline “CONTINGENCY” states: “Contingency plan? What if the legislation is not passed?”
And adds: “Plan B for if Bill fails to make sure parts 4&5 can be implemented without information sharing.”
The scheme has been riddled with problems and last month a further delay was revealed.
John Swinney set up a panel to produce a Code of Practice by September 2018, after Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee said it would not pass the legislation without one. But Professor Ian Welsh, chair of the panel, wrote to Mr Swinney to inform him that the panel would not be able to meet this deadline.
Lesley Scott of the TYMES Trust, said: “These worrying documents show the focus is clearly on implementing Named Person by the back door, regardless of whether the new Bill gets through Parliament. Clearly, we are now dealing with a Government which is ignoring the UK Supreme Court, has no regard for the elected representatives of the Scottish people and is determined to shun public opinion.
“They are riding roughshod over the democratic system in pursuit of a flawed, failed and discredited project.”
Ms Scott asked for all details from three key meetings of the Statutory Guidance Framework Group tasked to review the named person scheme in October and December last year and in February this year.
Only one set of minutes was released and NO2NP has been angered by the decision of the Scottish Government to redact the names of every single person who attended the key meetings.
Ms Scott has now contacted the Information Commissioner’s Office which deals with FoI appeals seeking a review of this decision.
Senior social worker Maggie Mellon, former chair of the Scottish Child Law Centre, said: “The names of all present – including the chair – are all redacted. So much for open government. There is no way of identifying which agencies are providing wrong advice or whether the persons present represent their colleagues and agencies properly.
“Is it now so toxic to be associated with the named person scheme that people are not willing to have their names made known?”
She added: “These are presumably many of the same people who advised the government so badly first time round, that breaching confidentiality is ok even when any concerns fall well below the proper threshold. What is so important about this flawed scheme that it has to be pushed through?”
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said: “This proposed scheme was intrusive, incomprehensible and illegal. It still is, and continued implementation of it must cease. As must plans to continue its implementation in the future.
Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee has refused to back the Named Person information sharing Bill, in what may be the biggest setback to the scheme since it was declared unlawful by the UK Supreme Court last year.
Yesterday, the Committee told Deputy First Minister John Swinney that they cannot properly assess the Bill until they have an “authoritative draft” of the Code of Practice explaining how it will operate. Mr Swinney has previously said he is “not minded” to consult on the Code of Practice until the legislation has passed.
The Committee’s letter said that without the code “the majority of the Committee do not consider that they are able to make a decision on whether to recommend that the general principles of the bill be approved”.
In taking this action the Committee has rejected John Swinney’s attempt to railroad through the legislation without addressing the concerns of the UK Supreme Court.
Mr Swinney responded to the Committee’s decision by announcing he will form a new independent panel to try to persuade the public that the Named Person policy is ‘workable’.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert commented: “This is further evidence of the terrible handling of this policy. The Committee has shown it will not have the wool pulled over its eyes and has bravely stood up to John Swinney.
“Initially he and the Scottish Government tried to steamroller through this deeply flawed and unworkable Bill without giving MSPs the chance to see the crucial details of how it would work in practice.
“Expert witnesses from the legal world and practitioners who will have to work with this scheme have all warned about the dangers and shortcomings of this Bill.
“The Committee has taken heed of that evidence – unlike the Government, which has ploughed on regardless. Now it is being forced to go back and think again.
“John Swinney cannot ignore this and must act on the Committee’s letter. He’s kept MSPs, parents and practitioners in the dark. It’s time he saw the light and consigned this appalling legislation to the Holyrood dustbin. It’s clearly not fit for purpose. MSPs know that. Parents and practitioners know that too. In fact everyone seems to know that except the Scottish Government.
“As things stand, the legal advice we have received is that the new Bill is vulnerable to more court action with good prospects of a victory for any challenge.”
In a parting shot, the Committee also addressed accusations that the Scottish Government had applied pressure to some of the witnesses who are before it to give evidence, demanding reassurances that the Government had not “sought to directly influence evidence to the Committee”.
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
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.
Yesterday Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee had its sixth evidence session on the Named Person information sharing Bill.
And it’s not looking good for the Scottish Government.
MSPs on the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee were not satisfied with the answers they got from John Swinney in September. The committee has now recommended that the Scottish Government “revisits its approach to the Code of Practice”, which is central to Named Person practice on the ground.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert commented: “This is a real rebuke for John Swinney. Hidden beneath the bland wording of a Parliamentary press release is the anger of a committee of MSPs denied the opportunity to exercise their constitutional and democratic duty … on behalf of the families of the country they represent.”
Maggie Mellon, giving evidence on behalf of the NO2NP campaign yesterday, told the Education and Skills Committee: “The problem we need to address is: is this about parents or telling people what’s good for them and acting in a way we all think is good for them, rather than listening to what they want?”
She raised concern that there was still a lack of definition for “wellbeing” and commented: “Asking for compulsory intervention on basis of subjective indicators and requiring professionals to interfere is not helpful”.
She asserted: “Are we going to get it right this time?”
Last week DCI Norman Conway, representing Police Scotland, appeared to admit to the Education and Skills Committee that the police had been involved in years of unlawful data sharing. He blamed the ICO guidance from 2013 and said, “we started to believe we were in good grounds to actually actively share wellbeing information regarding children”.
DCI Conway told MSPs: “And actually what’s happened following the Supreme Court judgment is that we have really tightened up in terms of individual rights, we’ve really tightened up in terms of the information that’s being shared”.
Commenting on the news, NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said: “It’s now been publicly confirmed for the first time that for three years the police – and possibly other organisations who relied on the ICO advice – were routinely disclosing the private and confidential information of children and families in an outrageous invasion of privacy and human rights.
“This was all happening before the scheme was fully implemented. Imagine what would have awaited families if the Supreme Court had not come to their defence?”
The evidence is stacking up against the Named Person scheme. When will the Scottish Government will admit it got it wrong for Scottish families and drop these intrusive plans?
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.”
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.
Significant changes were needed after the UK Supreme Court struck down the information sharing provisions at the heart of the Named Person scheme.
But has the Scottish Government done enough to address the issues?
NO2NP puts the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill to the test.
1. Not in accordance with law
The UK Supreme Court ruled that the Named Person information sharing provisions were not “in accordance with the law”. The legislation breached the rights of children and families under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Scottish Government managed to pass legislation which was not legal!
A big problem to solve.
So what has been done to make things right?
In a word, not enough.
Judges said: “changes are needed both to improve the accessibility of the legal rules and to provide safeguards so that the proportionality of an interference can be challenged and assessed” (emphasis added) (para. 107).
But this new Bill has failed to resolve these issues.
Anybody trying to understand what the law is will have to simultaneously consider several separate pieces of complex legislation: the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, the Data Protection Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Draft Code of Practice, as well as the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
This does not sound very accessible!
How can busy practitioners, those expected to carry out the role of Named Persons who are unlikely to have legal qualifications – particularly teachers and health visitors – be expected to negotiate this area with enough certainty to know that they are able to share information when the rules are spread out across at least four pieces of legislation?
As for providing safeguards against unlawful interference, the Scottish Government has taken a step forward, but the situation is still confusing. It has the opportunity to put proper, clear safeguards on the face of the legislation, and it should do so.
2. Voluntary nature of the Named Person service
The UK Supreme Court also said that the Scottish Government had to make clear that advice from the Named Person is entirely voluntary.
The Policy Memorandum published alongside the 2017 Bill has offered some clarification:
“Children and young people, and their parents, can accept or reject advice, information, support and help offered by a named person under Part 4 of the 2014 Act. … This freedom of choice must be made clear to them. Refusal to accept advice or services offered or refusal to co-operate with a child’s plan is not in itself to be taken as evidence of a risk of harm.”
However guidance is not law. So it’s doubtful that the words about the voluntary nature of the scheme would carry sufficient weight with parents unless it is on the face of the legislation.
Many parents remain unconvinced by the Government’s ‘voluntary nature’ rhetoric, and would prefer a proper ‘opt-out’ to ensure their personal information is not being shared and actions not taken without their full knowledge and informed consent.
3. Definition of wellbeing
The Scottish Government has done nothing to address the “notably vague” definition of wellbeing as identified by the UK Supreme Court. The wellbeing threshold is the driving force of the Named Person scheme. Without a clear definition it will be difficult for practitioners to know what is proportionate and in accordance with the law, leaving individual families at risk of having their human rights breached.
The Faculty of Advocates has also warned that the Scottish Government’s proposed changes don’t go far enough to meet the Supreme Court’s concerns.
Clan Childlaw, a leading children’s legal charity, expressed concern that the Scottish Government’s revised Named Person information sharing legislation wouldn’t fix the issues raised by the UK Supreme Court.
In its written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee that the bill “fails to overcome the difficulties identified by the Supreme Court, in relation to lack of precision and accessibility, and lack of safeguards and consent”.
We hope the Deputy First Minister and his team will take heed and listen to the serious concerns being raised, so that they are not forced back to the legislative drawing board… again.
Judges ruled that the data-sharing provisions at the heart of the scheme would breach human rights and sent the Scottish Government back to the legislative drawing board.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said: “The new proposals confirm one of the most remarkable, ignominious and expensive U-turns in the history of the Scottish Government and a huge victory for mums, dads and children across the country and the 35,000-plus NO2NP supporters.
“They have now been forced to accept that their original draconian Big Brother proposals were an utter shambles from the start, representing an interference in family life and a fundamental breach of European human rights laws on privacy and information sharing.
“In effect they say the duty of a Named Person will be to consider whether sharing information is likely to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person. They must also then consider whether sharing that information would be compatible with data protection law, human rights law and the law of confidentiality.
“That’s a 100 per cent climbdown on their original plan of a statutory duty to share information about people’s private lives almost without restriction.
“If they’d only listened at the start, they could have saved huge amounts of time and money. They now have to retrain those who have already been trained to implement an unlawful scheme.”
A financial memorandum published alongside the new Bill suggests that the cost of retraining teachers and NHS staff will top £1m – and that is probably on the optimistic side.
In addition, crucially, the policy memorandum makes clear that the advice etc offered by a named person is voluntary and states:
“Children and young people, and their parents, can accept or reject advice, information, support and help offered by a Named Person under Part 4 of the 2014 Act… This freedom of choice must be made clear to them. Refusal to accept advice or services offered or refusal to co-operate with a child’s plan is not in itself to be taken as evidence of a risk of harm.”
The Deputy First Minister John Swinney, speaking today, said: “We must ensure that we get it right for every child”.
But it’s quite clear they didn’t get it right – and actually got it completely wrong.
It’s already six months since the end of John Swinney’s ‘three-month period of intense engagement’… And still no word from the Scottish Government.
Could it be that officials are struggling to resurrect the Named Person scheme after the UK Supreme Court struck down the very heart of it?
The judgment noted that “the sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person” (para. 78).
It then concluded that these information-sharing provisions were:
• Incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
• May in practice result in a disproportionate interference with the article 8 rights of many children, young persons and their parents, through the sharing of private information;
• Not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament” deeming the legislation “defective” and blocking it from coming into force.
So, did the Scottish Government get any helpful advice on information sharing during its ‘three-month period of intense engagement’?
Well, a large number of groups including Social Work Scotland, Clan Childlaw, the Office of the Children and Young People’s Commissioner and several of the Third Sector organisations suggested that information sharing provisions should not be included in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act. They expressed a preference for relying on existing legal frameworks and having guidance on the Data Protection Act.
Even at the Information Sharing Stakeholder Reference Group meeting, you know, the GIRFEC data-sharing gurus, it was said that “absolute requirement to share information is not an approach desired by the majority of stakeholders”.
In terms of consent, the NHS GIRFEC leads thought a legislative duty to seek consent might alter commonly understood and accepted practice.
Another group highlighted that “obtaining consent is fundamental to effective support”.
Perhaps not the feedback the Scottish Government was hoping for… might explain why we haven’t heard much from them lately.
For several years, teachers and health visitors have raised concerns about the increased workload associated with the Named Person duties.
And those concerns have not gone away.
A look through the notes from John Swinney’s recent ‘three-month period of intense engagement’ reveals yet more riveting findings!
Unite was concerned about “the implications on members’ workload of fulfilling the Named Person role”, something that will be “influenced by any specific requirements and guidance on information sharing”.
And the Education Unions wanted to consider how the Named Person role fits with teachers’ wider workload to ensure that “the Named Person role does not create additional bureaucracy as there is already a lot of paperwork in schools”.
Speaking back in 2015 during a meeting of the Education and Culture Committee, General Secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland, Greg Dempster, said: “The biggest issue that I hear mentioned as an absorber of headteacher time is the bureaucracy associated with the named person duties and GIRFEC.”
In the same year the country’s largest teachers’ union, EIS, said that it would have “serious concerns” about any related workload demands during holidays.
An EIS spokeswoman said at the time: “Teachers are becoming increasingly concerned about the demands likely to be made of them which will have implications for workload and potentially for conditions of service.”
If the Scottish Government expects teachers and health visitors to carry out Named Person duties, it really ought to give some answers to allay these concerns… Don’t you think?
Sometimes it seems like the Scottish Government has forgotten that parents have responsibility for their children.
But the message from parents who were reached by the Government’s recent “intense engagement” (you know, the one where NO2NP were left out in the cold after Mr Swinney refused to engage with us) came through clearly: they do not want to be ignored.
Representatives at the Third Sector Organisations meeting said: “There is a need to build confidence with parents across the country and include them in the engagement. Some parents feel that this [the NP service] is being done to them and the concerns are wider than simply data sharing.”
The representatives from the Scottish Association of Social Work said that “parents should be informed about the information being shared”, a point also raised by the National Parental Engagement Steering Group.
Others described parental involvement as “essential”, noting that they “should be engaged to co-produce solutions”. Parents also wanted to be treated as ‘equal partners’ rather than sidelined when it comes to decisions about their own children.
A significant statement (well, to the Scottish Government, but not to us) came from parents and staff at HOPE for Autism: “Parents expected to be involved in discussions and decision making about assessments and support for their children and families.”
Now we just have to wait and see if the Government will listen closely to the points raised.
With the Government stubbornly ploughing ahead with a much more limited form of the Named Person scheme and much confusion still surrounding it, a team of NO2NP volunteers organised an Action Day outside the SNP’s Spring Party Conference in Aberdeen last weekend.
Delegates were given the new NO2NP Parents’ Guide to the Named Person Scheme, which is an easy-to-read 4-page leaflet to help parents understand their rights following the Supreme Court judgment.
As the legislation was declared unlawful by the Supreme Court and a breach of human rights, one NO2NP volunteer asked a delegate: “But don’t you believe in human rights?” The delegate’s response, “Yes, but not YOUR kind of human rights!” was disappointing.
A majority of those attending the conference did take a leaflet and a number of those we met were against the Named Person scheme. A senior union official declared himself completely against the scheme and a children’s work professional criticised the much-lauded Highland Pathfinder (the first Named Person pilot scheme).
One man acknowledged he “admired [our] persistence”, while another said that no other organisation produces as many different leaflets as NO2NP does – perhaps that’s one of the reasons why we won The Herald’s Public Campaigner of the Year Award!
A huge thank you to the hardy volunteers who persevered through thick and thin over the weekend! If you would like print copies of our new Parents’ Guide to distribute, please get in touch with us by emailing: email@example.com.
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.”
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT CLAIM:
Ever since they lost in the Supreme Court the Scottish Govt has been trying to downplay the significance of the ruling and of the information sharing provisions which the court ruled to be a breach of human rights. For example:
“I welcome the publication of today’s judgment and the fact that the attempt to scrap the named person service has failed.
“The Supreme Court has stated that the aim of the legislation, in promoting and safeguarding the wellbeing of children and young people, is ‘unquestionably legitimate and benign’. It makes clear that the principle of providing a named person to support children and families does not breach human rights.
“The court’s ruling requires us to provide greater clarity about the basis on which health visitors, teachers and other professionals supporting families will share and receive information in their named person role. We will start work on this immediately so we can make the necessary legislative amendments. The service will be implemented nationally at the earliest possible date.”
Press release from the Deputy First Minister, 28 July 2017
“Last year the Supreme Court ruled definitively that the intention of providing a Named Person for every child to promote and safeguard their wellbeing was ‘unquestionably legitimate and benign’. Their judgement did, however require us to change the provisions relating to information sharing.”
Press release from the Deputy First Minister, 6 March 2017
“The Supreme Court determined that Ministers needed to provide greater clarity about the basis on which health visitors, teachers and other professionals supporting families will share and receive information in their named person role.”
Letter from Scottish Government’s “Better Life Chances Unit”, February 2017
The Supreme Court said (emphasis added):
2. On its introduction in April 2013, the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill was accompanied by a Policy Memorandum which was similar in content to the consultation paper.
It provided for a wide-ranging duty on all relevant public authorities to cooperate with the named person in the conduct of their duties. This would be of particular importance in the area of information sharing, since the “role of the named person will depend on the successful sharing of information between relevant public authorities” (para 73).
3. The memorandum explained that concern had been expressed about the existing legal framework for information sharing. This was felt to be confusing and potentially insufficient to enable the role of the named person to operate as well as anticipated. In particular, there were concerns regarding sharing information about children where consent was not given (para 75). The memorandum continued:
“Currently, information about a child may be shared where the child is at a significant risk of harm. However, the role of the named person is based on the idea that information on less critical concerns about a child’s wellbeing must be shared if a full picture of their wellbeing is to be put together and if action is to be taken to prevent these concerns developing into more serious issues. Without the necessary power to share that kind of information, the named person will not be able to act as effectively as is intended … Specific provisions in the Bill, therefore, set out arrangements on information sharing, to give professionals and named persons the power to share information about those concerns.” (paras 76-77)
4. It appears, therefore, that one of the principal purposes of Part 4, as envisaged at that stage, was to alter the existing law in relation to the sharing of information about children and young people, so as to enable information about concerns about their wellbeing, held by individual bodies, to be pooled in the hands of named persons and shared with other bodies, with the ultimate aim of promoting their wellbeing.
78. … while article 8 is engaged, not all that may be done under Part 4 would involve an interference with a person’s article 8 rights. There are elements of the role of the named person which are unlikely, by themselves, to involve any interference with the right of a parent, child or young person to respect for his or her private and family life. Thus, by themselves, the functions in section 19(5)(a)(i) and (ii) of providing advice, information and support and helping the parent, child or young person to access a service or support would not normally constitute an interference with the article 8 rights of either the child or his or her parents. But it is clear from the consultation paper, “A Scotland for Children” and the Policy Memorandum, which we discussed in paras 1 to 3 above, that the sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person. As we have explained, this may well constitute an interference with the article 8 rights of those to whom the information relates. We are therefore satisfied that the operation of the information-sharing provisions of Part 4 (in particular, sections 23, 26 and 27) will result in interferences with rights protected by article 8 of the ECHR. The question therefore arises whether such interferences can be justified under article 8(2).
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT CLAIM:
“Since the judgement, we have undertaken an intensive period of engagement with children, young people, parents, carers, practitioners and professionals.”
Press release from the Deputy First Minister, 6 March 2017
We have received complaints from numerous parents whose approaches to Mr Swinney were effectively ignored. In response to personal emails to Mr Swinney telling their stories and asking him to hold public meetings, all they got was a short, dismissive, unsigned stock reply from an unnamed official.
The Scottish Government specifically refused to meet with NO2NP, stating:
“we are not discussing the principle of the Named Person policy as the Supreme Court found it to be legitimate and benign. Your organisation has made it clear that it is against the provision of Named Persons, so there is a fundamental policy disagreement. The Scottish Government are engaging with people who wish to improve the legislation not those who wish to revisit a debate on its establishment as this has been agreed by Parliament.”
Polls show that only 24% of the population think every child should have a Named Person. By refusing to speak to anyone representing the overwhelming majority who don’t back their policy, the Government closed the door on advice which could help them to avoid more catastrophic blunders.
Despite this, NO2NP encouraged its supporters to email the Government anyway, which they did in their hundreds.
Here is the list of those the Government says it “engaged”. Note how many are in receipt of Government funding.
Back in December, NO2NPers wrote in their hundreds to the Deputy First Minister, making sure their concerns were heard as part of the “intense engagement” over the Named Person scheme.
After thinking that just a few minor tweaks would be needed, and with the Deputy First Minister John Swinney encouraging councils and health boards to continue developing their Named Person schemes on 8 September 2016, it seems to be taking the Scottish Government a long time to work out how to fix the unlawful scheme.
The Scottish Government has finally – after two months – got around to writing back to people. We thought we’d take a look at what they’re saying, just to see if there are any clues about what the Government are thinking about the future…
Hmm…the GIRFEC team “have been engaging widely”. Is that really true? They refused to see NO2NP as part of the engagement process, telling The Christian Institute, one of the parties involved in the legal action, that because of the “fundamental policy disagreement”, the Scottish Government would only be engaging with people who “wish to improve the legislation”.
This is despite the fact that a poll last year found that only 24 per cent of Scots think that every child should have a state-appointed Named Person and almost two-thirds believe the Named Person is “an unacceptable intrusion into family life”. If the Scottish Government took engagement seriously, they would be talking especially to those who have concerns, not leaving them out in the cold. There are also over 36,500 people who have expressed their concerns and opposition to the Named Person scheme via the NO2NP petition – does the Scottish Government think their views don’t matter?
The Supreme Court did not just have “concerns” about the information sharing provisions, they said in paragraph 15 that the new information sharing legal powers and duties for Named Persons formed “one of the central purposes of Part 4” and stated clearly in paragraph 78: “the sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person”. The judges continued that “the operation of the information-sharing provisions of Part 4… will result in interferences with rights protected by article 8 of the ECHR.”
Given that the Supreme Court ruling blew a hole in the Government’s plans by striking down the data-sharing which was “central” why boast about failing to consult widely? Clearly they need to consult widely to understand the problems with the scheme.
Well, if only that were the whole story. The Supreme Court actually said a lot more than that Ministers needed to provider greater clarity. In paragraph 73, the judges noted: “The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children…” – totalitarian sounds pretty bad. As well as a lack of clarity, the judges referred to “confusion”, so it looks like the scheme will be needing more than minor tweaks.
Finally, this is closer to the truth. Paragraph 106 of the Supreme Court judgment explains that “the information-sharing provisions of Part 4 of the Act… are incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under article 8 of the ECHR” and concludes by saying they are “not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament”.
The Supreme Court actually said that while it cannot be said that the operation of the Named Person’s functions will necessarily “amount to a disproportionate interference with article 8 rights” (para. 96), there was a definite risk that the Named Person in practice also could interfere with article 8 rights (para. 106).
This has to be the favourite…or wait, the only part of the Supreme Court judgment that the Scottish Government seem proud to quote. Even then, it should be taken in its context. The Supreme Court are talking about the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act as a whole, and say in paragraph 91 that it is the aim of the Act that is “unquestionably legitimate and benign” – that is, “the promotion and safeguarding of the wellbeing of children and young persons”. We never challenged that!
Due to the fact that Part 4 of the Act breached the Human Rights Act and the Data Protection Act, the Supreme Court judges ruled that the information-sharing provisions were “not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament” (para. 106). Regardless of what the votes were in the Scottish Parliament, we won! Whatever the vote, it was a breach of fundamental human rights and of the Data Protection Act.
So in the end, the Scottish Government have engaged with lots of people, but fairly reluctantly. They were forced into it by losing in the Supreme Court and then cut themselves off from a valuable supply of input – those proved right by the Supreme Court. Do these figures include the hundreds of NO2NPers who proactively emailed even though the Government didn’t want to hear from them?
No one objects to children and parents getting advice and help if and when they need it, but what we’ve argued, and what the Supreme Court accepted, is that the plans breached privacy and it is not clear that the scheme is not compulsory – as the First Minister has said. In paragraph 95, the judges explained that there is a risk that “parents will be given the impression that they must accept the advice or services which they are offered”. The Scottish Government have not been clear: on the one hand, the First Minister has insisted that the Named Person is an “entitlement”, but on the other hand, there has been no clear explanation given of how to opt out of the scheme. And “not engaging” is apparently a “risk factor”.
Well, this explains why some of you are still being told your children have a Named Person. Some councils are continuing to run a non-statutory Named Person scheme, but it is crucial to remember that they can’t lawfully share your personal, sensitive information in the way that the Government wanted, and any advice offered by a Named Person has to be optional.
We would beg to differ. This Government-backed leaflet said that the Named Person will check that your child is respected, including by seeing whether they get a say in how their room is decorated and what they watch on TV.
Yes, maybe it can free up resources, but it can also do the opposite by generating lots of unnecessary referrals over trivial matters. It won’t free up teachers – they are busy enough already and have expressed concerns about the increased workload. Greg Dempster, General Secretary of the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland said last year: “There is an issue with bureaucracy. The biggest issue that I hear mentioned as an absorber of headteacher time is the bureaucracy associated with the named person duties and GIRFEC. It would be useful to have a look at that bureaucracy.” A survey of health visitors represented by UNISON Scotland also highlighted concerns about the increased workload with Named Person duties.
We’ve always argued that generating unnecessary reports on well-adjusted families will overburden already overstretched social services departments. The Named Person scheme, far from freeing up resources, could see trivial matters being raised with social services on the basis that they may be relevant to wellbeing, even though they are not remotely near the threshold of child protection issues.
Surely parents have the primary responsibility for raising their children? Yet the Named Person scheme threatens to undermine parents. The Children’s Parliament even dubbed Named Persons ‘Head Gardeners’, while parents were demoted to mere ‘gardeners’ alongside ‘other adults’. If it doesn’t undermine families, why did the Faculty of Advocates say that it “dilutes the legal role of parents” and “undermines family autonomy”?
If that was it, no one would be objecting to the scheme. The trouble is, the Government haven’t really made it clear that parents can just use the Named Persons service as and when they want it. The Supreme Court judgment stated in paragraph 95 that “there must be a risk that… parents will be given the impression that they must accept the advice or services which they are offered… and further, that their failure to co-operate with such a plan will be taken to be evidence of a risk of harm”.
If the new legislation is just formalising a role that already exists and doesn’t change anything, why did the ICO say that it was lowering the trigger for the sharing of personal information? Why did the Supreme Court strike down the information-sharing provisions if nothing had really changed?
Well, this letter was still being sent to people in February. But finally after a long wait Mr Swinney has announced he will make a statement in Parliament today on the future of Named Persons. Watch it live at about 2:20pm: www.scottishparliament.tv
SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT CLAIM:
“Last year the Supreme Court ruled definitively that the intention of providing a Named Person for every child to promote and safeguard their wellbeing was ‘unquestionably legitimate and benign’”
Press release by the Deputy First Minister, 6 March 2017
What the court actually said was:
“The public interest in the flourishing of children is obvious. The aim of the Act, which is unquestionably legitimate and benign, is the promotion and safeguarding of the wellbeing of children and young persons.” (para. 91)
It was “The aim of… the promotion and safeguarding of the wellbeing of children and young persons” that was benign, not the Named Person.
What the court said about the Named Person was:
“…the sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person … the operation of the information-sharing provisions of Part 4… will result in interferences with the rights protected by article 8 of the ECHR” (para. 78).
“It is thus perfectly possible that information, including confidential information concerning a child or a young person’s state of health (for example, as to contraception, pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease), could be disclosed… to a wide range of public authorities without either the child or young person or her parents being aware of the interference with their article 8 rights” (para. 84).
“We conclude therefore that the information-sharing provisions … as currently drafted do not meet the article 8 criterion of being ‘in accordance with the law’.” (para. 85).
The Supreme Court said the confused drafting of the law created “very serious difficulties” for anyone attempting to understand or implement it and expressed “even greater concern” about “the lack of safeguards” [Paragraphs 83-84].
Because of the lack of safeguards “the overriding of confidentiality is likely often to be disproportionate” (para. 100).
“…the information-sharing provisions of Part 4 of the Act are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament” (para. 106).
“…since the defective provisions are not within the legislative competence of the Parliament, they cannot be brought into force” (para. 109).
After losing the case, the Scottish Government asked the court not to force them to pay their opponents legal costs. They claimed they had only lost on a “relatively limited ground”. The Supreme Court rejected this argument and ordered them to pay all the costs of the case.
Clearly the Supreme Court did not think the Named Person was “legitimate and benign”.
Watch John Swinney’s statement to Parliament on Named Persons today at about 2:20pm: www.scottishparliament.tv
The Scottish Government has thrown a veil of secrecy around stalled efforts to salvage its Named Person scheme after judges declared their original plans illegal.
Education Secretary John Swinney ordered a three month “intense engagement” period after the UK Supreme Court blocked the planned implementation of the scheme from August 31 last year. Officials also stated: “Before the end of 2016, the Deputy First Minister intends to return to Parliament and announce the next steps.”
But two months into 2017 there have still been no updates from the Government. A standard reply letter saying the Minister will return to Parliament “in the new year” is still being issued by officials.
A NO2NP supporter filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request last month in a bid to secure access to the minutes of these “engagement” meetings since August last year.
Normally such minutes must be made public, but officials blocked their request, exempting the Government from handing over the data “because we intend to publish that information within 12 weeks of the date of your request” (12 January 2017).
The letter responding to the FOI request states:
“We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption. We recognise that there is some public interest in release because of the interest in the content of discussions at the meetings, and this will be met by our planned publication. In the meantime, there is a greater public interest in taking the time necessary to ensure the information has been properly collated and checked before it is published as planned.”
Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust, who submitted the FOI request, said: “It would seem that the Scottish Government has learnt nothing over the last 3 years and is determined to repeat the same mistakes that ended up in them losing in the UK Supreme Court last year.
“Not only did they bar anyone who disagrees with the Named Person scheme from taking part in the ‘intense engagement’ in the first place, they are now refusing to even let us know what was said.
“For a Government that claims to value openness, transparency and citizen participation it has fallen far short of its aims yet again.”
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said:
“The engagement period was really a sham consultation because Mr Swinney only wanted to deal with those who support the scheme and organisations mainly funded by the Government.
“He refused to engage with us even though we represent an important cross-section of Scottish society, huge numbers of parents and more than 35,000 people who signed our petition. We have led the public discussion on this issue for two years – we even won an award for our campaign – yet he won’t meet with us.
“The three-month ‘engagement’ has long since ended. It looks like it could be more like six or seven months – March or April 2017 – before we hear anything.”
“It just shows how difficult they are finding it to salvage their Named Person plans. The initial Government reaction to the Supreme Court ruling was to pretend we’d lost our challenge – a classic example of spin and denial.
“On the day of the ruling in July 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 even that looks optimistic if they are going to bring in a Bill and get it through all its stages in Parliament – and consult on new statutory guidance to go with it – in time for the summer recess.”
When the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on the Named Person scheme back in July the Scottish Government did its best to play down the judgment. Deputy First Minister John Swinney tried to claim a victory, stating that with just a few tweaks the scheme would be ready for roll-out in a matter of few weeks.
It’s now seven months later and we are none the wiser.
Perhaps the Scottish Government is more aware of the judgment’s significance than it would like to let on in the media.
Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust submitted a Freedom of Information request in August asking to see legal advice which the Scottish Government’s QC James Wolffe provided to Ministers ahead of the Named Person Supreme Court hearing. After the initial request was rejected she challenged the decision by lodging a complaint with the Scottish Information Commissioner. This too was rejected but the response is rather revealing.
Scottish Government Ministers argued that the legal advice should not be disclosed because “the litigation in question has led to significant re-evaluation of some of the content of the Named Person scheme and has raised issues that are still very much live and are currently being considered following the court case.”
Change of audience, change of tune? Surely not…?!
Here are some further extracts from the Scottish Information Commissioner’s Decision Notice. [Emphasis added]
Public interest test – the Ministers’ views
24. The Ministers acknowledged that there is likely to be some public interest in the contribution that release of this information would make as part of open and transparent government and to inform public debate as to the reasonableness and appropriateness of the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme. They acknowledged that it has been a contentious issue.
25. However, the Ministers did not consider that these public interest arguments were sufficiently compelling to outweigh the public interest in maintaining the right to litigation privilege and legal advice privilege. The Ministers argued that it was in the public interest that they should be able to communicate with their legal advisers, fully and frankly, in confidence when preparing for and during court cases in order to be able to develop arguments, reach fully informed legal views, finalise their position in relation to legal points and generally defend their position robustly in an adversarial legal environment.
26. The Ministers noted that the litigation in question has led to significant re-evaluation of some of the content of the Named Person scheme and has raised issues that are still very much live and are currently being considered following the court case. They believed that it is clearly in the public interest that the Scottish Government, like any individual or organisation, can receive the most comprehensive and robust legal advice when preparing for and conducting litigation and dealing with the consequences of that litigation. The Ministers contended that it is in the public interest for that advice to remain confidential as its disclosure would have the effect of substantially prejudicing the Scottish Government’s ability to defend itself when subject to legal challenge by unfairly exposing internal legal exchanges to challenge.
The Commissioner’s conclusions are also worth noting.
38. In this case, the legal advice under consideration relates to legislation which affects every child (and parent) living in Scotland. Given this, it is clear that a large number of people would potentially be affected by the legal advice and the Commissioner is satisfied that this factor weighs in favour of disclosure in the public interest.
39. The Commissioner agrees with Mrs Scott that there is a strong public interest in the disclosure of information that would demonstrate the legal basis for the Scottish Government’s decision to defend a court case which incurred costs of some £500,000 of public funds. Furthermore, the Commissioner also agrees that there is a public interest in understanding why the Scottish Government contended that the 2014 Act was fully compliant with human rights legislation, when the Supreme Court took an opposing view.
40. The Commissioner has considered carefully the public interest arguments put forward by both parties. She accepts that there is a public interest in authorities being open to scrutiny and being accountable for their actions. The 2014 Act has been controversial and subject to significant public debate, and she considers that disclosing the advice would enable the general public to better understand the Scottish Government’s reasons and grounds for defending the court case. She accepts that disclosure of the legal advice obtained by the Scottish Government would contribute to transparency and accountability in understanding why the Scottish Government pursued its defence of a case which cost it (and the Scottish taxpayer) significant sums of money (while noting that the appeal was only partially successful, and that the Scottish Government successfully defended the appeal on other points).
42. The Commissioner is aware that the Scottish Government is currently establishing how to amend the 2014 Act to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling and that the legal advice that has been requested relates to a live issue. This suggests that the legal advice should be withheld.
On Monday this week, around 200 local residents from across Perth and Kinross attended a public meeting hosted by the Scottish Cabinet at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.
The purpose of the meeting was to enable local residents to air their concerns about issues affecting them so, since the Scottish Government’s imposition of a Named Person will affect every single family with children under 18 in Perth and Kinross (as well as the rest of Scotland), NO2NP volunteers were there to greet them.
The flyer that most people took summarises what the Supreme Court judgment achieved last July in stopping the unpopular legislation in its tracks. In a nutshell, the Named Person’s blanket powers to ‘grab and share’ data on families were unanimously struck down by the judges.
One gentleman had not heard of the campaign but as soon as he was told, he was enthusiastically in support of it. Another delegate’s outraged response at the scheme was another example of how angry people are at the imposition of such a scheme on every family in Scotland. Especially when it was never consulted on or requested by the vast majority of Scottish parents.
Even Deputy First Minister John Swinney took a leaflet – we hope it will remind him that he still needs to make his announcement on the future direction of revised Named Person legislation in light of the Supreme Court’s damning judgment.
There were lots of questions asked at the meeting and sadly there wasn’t time for everyone to ask their questions publicly. But, to their credit, the Cabinet met delegates over tea and coffee afterwards, and local NO2NP supporter Lesley Scott took this opportunity to ask the Deputy First Minister her question.
She wanted to know why the Scottish Government had not told Perth and Kinross Council to remove inaccurate data sharing guidance from their website, since they had removed it from their own. The Council made the excuse that the Scottish Government had not told them to remove it.
Mr Swinney argued that each local authority was an elected body that was autonomous in its decision-making – but Perth and Kinross Council don’t seem to think so…! “Does the Information Commissioner’s Office have the power to tell the Council to remove it?” Lesley then asked. The Deputy First Minister agreed to look into the matter, so we’ll be keeping an eye on developments.
In the meantime, preparations are well underway for a major NO2NP event in Edinburgh on Monday 20th March, so make a note in your diaries now – more details to follow soon!
|Council||Status of Named Persons|
|Aberdeen City Council||The Named Person scheme was implemented within Aberdeen City in 2012. The Council’s GIRFEC website notes the Supreme Court judgment and states that “Practitioners should continue to ensure that all information sharing is in keeping with current legislation.”|
|Aberdeenshire Council||The Named Person role was being implemented as early as 2012.
The Council’s GIRFEC website notes that following the Supreme Court judgment, “the legal aspects of this scheme were not formally introduced in August 2016 as anticipated”.
|Angus Council||The Named Person was introduced in Angus in 2012, and the Council say that the scheme currently operating is in accordance with data protection principles.|
|Argyll & Bute Council||The Named Person scheme was being implemented from January 2012. The Council reported in September 2016 that they have fully implemented the Named Person scheme and remain committed to continuing with that work.|
|Clackmannanshire Council||Named Persons have been in operation since at least early 2014 and the Council website suggests the scheme is ongoing.|
|Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)||The Named Person scheme was being developed from 2014 and by June 2016, 3400 children had Named Persons in the area.|
|Dumfries & Galloway Council||The Council were implementing the Named Person scheme in 2015, aiming to ensure every child had a Named Person by May 2016. Following the Supreme Court judgment, Named Persons are still being used to support the application of GIRFEC.|
|Dundee City Council||Named Persons have been operating in Dundee City for several years and continue to function after the Supreme Court judgment.|
|East Ayrshire Council||The Named Person role has been in place since at least 2014 and the Council website says that each young person’s Named Person is either their health visitor or a teacher.|
|East Dunbartonshire Council||East Dunbartonshire began rolling out the Named Person scheme in August 2013.|
|East Lothian Council||The Council have been implementing a Named Person scheme and after the Supreme Court judgment the Head of Education at East Lothian said they would “carry on sharing wellbeing concerns” and “continue training staff on the Named Person application”.|
|East Renfrewshire Council||East Renfrewshire Council say that ALL children will have a Named Person.|
|Edinburgh City Council||The Council began implementing GIRFEC and the Named Person policy across 2010 and 2011.The Council seems to still be running a scheme, with a link to find Named Persons on the Council website.|
|Falkirk Council||All children of school age in Falkirk had a Named Person by October 2015. GIRFEC implementation is ongoing and school handbooks for 2017 state that every child will have a Named Person.|
|Fife Council||The scheme seems to be continuing with a contact on the Council website for a central mailbox to find out who the Named Person is or to raise a wellbeing concern. Following the Supreme Court judgment, the Council are continuing to prepare for the introduction of the whole Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, and note they will continue to share information in a proportionate manner.|
|Glasgow City Council||A Named Person scheme was in operation before the Supreme Court ruling, under development from late 2012. Since the Supreme Court ruling, the Glasgow Council website says: “The ‘Named Person’ scheme has not started yet – we are still waiting on a date for when it will start.”|
|Highland Council||Under the heading “The Named Person role” the Highland Council website says: “We started working with the Scottish Government to develop the GIRFEC reform programme in 2006. It was fully implemented across the authority in 2010.”
At the end of August 2016, after the Supreme Court judgment, Highland Council confirmed that it is still running a Named Person scheme in the area.
|Inverclyde Council||Inverclyde were setting out to develop a Named Person scheme at least from early 2015, if not before. Inverclyde Council’s website says (from August 2016): “The ‘Named Person’ service has not started yet – we are still waiting on a date from the Scottish Government.”|
|Midlothian Council||The Named Person scheme was being rolled out in Midlothian and by June 2016, training had been delivered to all staff who would have Named Person responsibilities. Midlothian continues to work on the Named Person scheme and says that 50% progress has been made, stating: “The Named Person legislation rollout has been delayed until 2017, work will continue for implementation and take account of changes to the legislation.”|
|Moray Council||The Named Person service began to be introduced in 2012 and by May 2015, every child at school was expected to have a Named Person. The Council website says that guidance is being revised due to the Supreme Court ruling. “The Practitioners Guide to Information Sharing, Confidentiality and Consent will be revised once those changes to the legislation are known.”|
|North Ayrshire Council||North Ayrshire Council’s GIRFEC website says that it has implemented the roles and responsibilities of the Named Person.
However, in response to an FOI, North Ayrshire Council said in October 2016: “Implementation of the Named Person Service in August did not go ahead in the light of the Supreme Court ruling however, we continue to support all of our children and young people across North Ayrshire Council through the wide range of services we offer.”
|North Lanarkshire Council||Education and health staff were aware of the implementation of Named Persons in 2013 and by 2014, Named Persons had been introduced across North Lanarkshire.|
|Orkney Islands Council||Named Persons were referred to as early as August 2012 as part of implementing GIRFEC.
However, a recent health action plan states: “Single point of contact in place for named person requirements however implementation now deferred until August 2017.”
|Perth and Kinross Council||A Named Person scheme has been operating for several years in Perth and Kinross, with implementation well underway by October 2013. The Council is continuing with the Named Person scheme, still offering training in December 2016.|
|Renfrewshire Council||Named Persons have been in place in Renfrewshire for a few years, and the full statutory duties were to be in place by the end of August 2016.
A September 2016 report notes: “A local, interagency implementation plan was at a final stage to ensure the relevant policy, procedure, communications and training were in place for the planned commencement of the Act. This work has been suspended pending the outcome of the Scottish Government response to the Supreme Court.”
|Scottish Borders Council||Named Persons were in operation in the Scottish Borders from late 2013.
Several school handbooks in the area for 2016/17 list the headteacher as the Named Person.
|Shetland Islands Council||Preparation for implementing the Named Person scheme was beginning as early as May 2009, with guidance for contacting a Named Person fully in place by 2014 and they have continued operating.|
|South Ayrshire Council||GIRFEC started to be implemented in 2009 and Named Persons were in place across South Ayrshire by February 2012. Named Persons were still in operation in December 2016, but a newsletter did highlight that as a result of the Supreme Court judgment, “the duty on practitioners, that they must share wellbeing information with the Named Person is not lawful”.|
|South Lanarkshire Council||A South Lanarkshire Council spokesman said that every child in a South Lanarkshire school has had a Named Person since about 2009, with GIRFEC running from 2006. It was reported in September 2016 that implementation of the Named Person would not be affected by the Supreme Court judgment and that it would continue.|
|Stirling Council||By 2014 it was reported that “Staff in education are confident in their role as named person” in the Stirling Council area. Stirling Council website states that implementation of Part 4 (Named Persons) was paused so that the Scottish Government could make necessary changes to information sharing provisions in the Act. Information sharing in Stirling will continue in line with the Data Protection and Human Rights Acts.|
|West Dunbartonshire Council||West Dunbartonshire Council said in August 2016 provisions of the Named Persons scheme were already in force through the Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) scheme. Council SNP spokesman Jonathan McColl said there was “no reason” for the council to stop preparing to enact the legislation.|
|West Lothian Council||Named Persons were being introduced in West Lothian as early as Autumn 2013. The scheme seems to be continuing and in September and October 2016, there were update sessions on the Named Person service in West Lothian.|
When Deputy First Minister John Swinney recently told concerned parents he would not be holding public meetings to listen to their objections to the Named Person scheme, NO2NP volunteers were not discouraged. If he would not come to them, they would go to him and his team on their roadshow on education governance.
Wherever it went – Dumfries, Glasgow, Perth, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dunoon – local NO2NP volunteers turned up, whatever the weather, to give out flyers (called Let Teachers Teach) that specifically addressed the issue of these roadshow events. (Oh, we were in Edinburgh too, but you can read about that here.)
What’s the connection between education governance and the Named Person scheme, you may ask? Well, John Swinney is on record saying “I have been taking measures to simplify and clarify the experience of teachers and reduce the burden of bureaucracy.” Great news!
So does that mean he’s scrapping the Named Person role for head teachers, deputy heads, guidance teachers and others, already overstretched with admin? Sadly, no – it’s “business as usual”, as the Scottish Government presses ahead with its discredited and unpopular scheme across Scotland. How will it be possible for teachers who are Named Persons to have reduced bureaucracy when the role of a Named Person will increase that bureaucracy exponentially?
Our volunteers spoke with a number of people who attended these roadshow events. Here’s a sample of what was said:
“I don’t like the sound of that!” – Businessman, Glasgow
“It’s okay, you don’t need to persuade me, I’m all signed up!” – NO2NP supporter, Perth
“Hello to the Campaign of the Year!” – Mother, Perth
“It was a waste of time and not what we had expected. We were put into groups to discuss the proposals which the Scottish Government intend to implement regarding the Named Person process, which head teachers etc have already discussed and raised objections to. Civil servants were taking notes.” – Head Teacher, Highland
We also heard from someone who attended the Aberdeen governance event, who said his table agreed that the Named Person’s responsibilities would increase bureaucracy.
As 2016 comes to a close, can we take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all our tireless volunteers for all your hard work over this past year, delivering flyers, displaying car stickers, raising the campaign’s profile online, writing to papers, attending Action Days in all weathers – all your efforts have paid off! We couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you!
Information watchdogs have been criticised over disparaging comments made in emails when the Scottish Government lost the Named Person legal case.
A senior Information Commissioner’s Officer (ICO) official admitted to a colleague in Scotland she hadn’t “the foggiest” what the historic court judgment was about.
The official, employed in the Cheshire headquarters of the ICO, went on to say that she didn’t have the “time or inclination” to read the decision of the UK Supreme Court, despite it being the biggest ruling affecting the ICO’s work since the Prince Charles letters case.
In response, her colleague David Freeland, a Senior Policy Officer at the ICO’s Edinburgh office emailed back saying: “I don’t particularly blame you”.
He also disclosed that the ICO was aware they could get complaints about information breaches following the ruling.
He wrote, “we may get complaints that non-statutory pilot schemes were either sharing personal information unlawfully by lacking sufficient conditions for processing, or disproportionately”.
In 2014 Mr Freeland controversially told a seminar on information sharing not to offer parents the chance to object to the sharing of private information on them and their children: “Consent is not the be-all and end-all”, he said, lamenting that “Consent can be difficult and it should only be sought when the individual has real choice over the matter”.
The internal emails, revealed in a recent Freedom of Information (FOI) request, also disclosed concerning comments from the head of the ICO in Scotland, Ken Macdonald, who expressed his “disappointment” after judges struck down the Named Person scheme’s intrusive information sharing provisions. The ICO is responsible for protecting the privacy of citizens and upholding the Data Protection Act – the very law the Supreme Court said was breached by the Named Person provisions.
The officials were criticised for their dismissive comments by NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, who said:
“The attitude on display here is breath-taking. Are these people so out of touch with the concerns of ordinary families? There’s been massive public anxiety about the Named Person data sharing, yet they say they are ‘disappointed’ when the Supreme Court sides with families and upholds the Data Protection Act.
“The ICO as an independent body has been entrusted to uphold information rights, oversee data protection and investigate complaints from members of the public. Yet here we find ICO officials behaving in a most dismissive manner about a court case which goes to the heart of their work and has profound implications for personal privacy and data protection. It may be the most important case on Data Protection that Scotland has seen, yet officials charged with Data Protection in Scotland don’t seem to think it’s important enough for ICO officials to even bother reading.
“This is the kind of conversation that goes on when officials don’t think the public are listening. It is disturbing that this kind of culture exists within the ICO. Perhaps there should be a review to address the problem.”
“The comments by Ken Macdonald suggest the ICO is only paying lip service to the idea of being an independent body. They say they are disappointed with a court ruling against the Scottish Government in an action brought with the backing of thousands of ordinary mums and dads concerned about their family privacy. If they were truly independent they would simply accept the ruling.
“The ICO got the law wrong. They failed to protect the public. They should have warned the Government, not collaborated with them. In the wake of the recent court decision to award legal costs against the Government, Mr Macdonald might wish to revisit his views.
“It should also be noted Mr Macdonald has recently had to withdraw flawed advice given to public bodies about the Named Person scheme in light of the decision by the judges.”
The dismissive email exchange between Cheshire-based Laura Middleton, ICO Team Manager, and David Freeland, ICO Senior Policy Officer in Edinburgh, took place on August 4, after they’d heard about the Supreme Court decision.
The ICO is the UK’s independent body set up to uphold information rights and also oversee complaints about freedom of information requests.
Ironically, the emails about the Named Person scheme were obtained by a Freedom of Information request forcing the ICO to make public all their emails on the subject.
The response also reveals there was concern within the Scottish Government before the judges banned them from implementing the Named Person scheme.
Ken Macdonald, Head of ICO Regions, who leads ICO Scotland and was involved in advising the Scottish Government on the issue, wrote an email to Maureen Falconer on 27 July 2016 – the day before the judgment – stating (page 15):
After learning the court verdict, Ken Macdonald wrote in an email on 28 July 2016 to the Wales ICO regional manager and the Deputy Chief Executive (page 14):
Scotland’s ICO chief clearly did not understand the ruling, or even how Parliament operates. The “six weeks” was the time given by the court to allow the parties to make submissions to the court over costs and other issues. It would have been impossible to reconvene Parliament from its summer break and pass new legislation in six weeks.
Another email, from Anya Burgess, Lead Communications Officer, sent to the UK Information Commissioner, the Head of Policy Delivery at ICO and the Deputy Chief Executive on 28 July 2016 stated (page 9):
In another email David Freeland, Senior Policy Officer at the ICO, emailed Laura Middleton, a Team Manager on 4 August 2016 (page 17):
Mr Calvert of NO2NP said:
“What we can see here is anything but independence. This is a one-sided attitude, determined to stand by the Government line, with little regard to the needs of the public or even the actual demands of the law.
“It would seem the ICO is in need of a reminder of its duties and obligations to the people that pay their wages. Action must be taken urgently. Otherwise, how can we be confident they will uphold and enforce the Supreme Court ruling in cases where public authorities have breached privacy law in pursuit of the Named Person scheme? How can we be sure they’ll even read it?”
The Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney put a ban on NO2NP’s campaign spokesman Simon Calvert from attending a meeting of third sector groups to discuss the future of the Named Person scheme.
The talks were held as part of an “engagement process” session in Edinburgh on 1 December, to discuss possible ways of changing the scheme following the Supreme Court defeat earlier this year.
But The Christian Institute, a lead party in the legal case, and which helped spearhead the formation of NO2NP, was told its presence would not be welcome at the meeting.
The brush off was contained in an email from a Scottish Government official which stated:
“The aim of the engagement process is to adequately, properly and fully address the issues that were raised in the Supreme Court judgment, and we are engaging widely on those questions.
“However we are not discussing the principle of the Named Person policy as the Supreme Court found it to be legitimate and benign.
“Your organisation has made it clear that it is against the provision of Named Persons, so there is a fundamental policy disagreement.
“The Scottish Government are engaging with people who wish to improve the legislation not those who wish to revisit a debate on its establishment as this has been agreed by Parliament.
“If you would however like to provide your views on the issues raised by the Supreme Court judgment, I attach the engagement discussion paper for your comment.”
Simon Calvert of The Christian Institute, who has been a regular spokesman for NO2NP, said:
“The Government doesn’t seem to realise you can have a principled disagreement on an issue and still be capable of making a worthwhile contribution to the debate. That’s the way politics works. It seems rather petty to exclude us like this.
“But this is typical of the ‘intense engagement’ period which Mr Swinney announced in September after losing the court case. They really are only interested in creating an echo chamber for their own views. This so-called consultation is virtually worthless.
“Polls show that only 24% of the population think every child should have a Named Person. By refusing to speak to anyone representing the overwhelming majority who don’t back their policy, the Government is closing the door on advice which could help them to avoid more catastrophic blunders. They are making the same mistake they’ve been making all along: they think they know best.
“More than 36,000 people of all walks of life and political persuasions have signed the NO2NP petition – so Mr Swinney is snubbing them as well as us.”
As part of its efforts to promote its GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) policy, the Scottish Government has been holding a number of day conferences for selected stakeholders at their Victoria Quay offices in Leith.
In a meeting yesterday, it invited a number of Third Sector organisations to discuss future plans for the controversial Named Person scheme. NO2NP got wind of the meeting and asked if a representative could attend, but in a frosty reply the request was denied. So much for John Swinney’s “intense engagement” with “those who have concerns” about the scheme!
Not to be put out, a group of NO2NP volunteers assembled to hand out leaflets at the main entrance. As well as delegates for the conference, a number of civil servants and other visitors took a leaflet and one lady said “I’m not going to the conference, but I will take a leaflet, as I am interested in this.”
We were encouraged when Early Years Minister Mark McDonald (who was to be addressing the gathering) took a leaflet, however former Education Secretary Mike Russell declined to take one.
Lesley Scott from Tymes Trust had joined the local volunteers and here’s what she had to say about the response to the leafleting:-
“The lack of awareness of the Named Person scheme amongst those working with and for the Scottish Government is alarming.
“What’s more, former Education Minister Mike Russell’s attitude to us yesterday, his dismissive sweeping aside of any attempt to offer a NO2NP leaflet even before it was made, shows in our elected members of government a disturbing contempt for any opinions except those that echo their own.
“No change then in the Government’s strategy that led to this problem in the first place.”
You can let the Scottish Government know that you are still opposing the Named Person scheme by signing and sharing our online petition.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney told the Education and Skills Committee a few weeks ago that he wasn’t prepared to meet with NO2NP, but would consult only with those who supported the Named Person scheme.
NO2NP supporters asked him to hold public meetings to hear parents’ concerns, but he told them he would not. Instead, his team have taken a leaf out of NO2NP’s book and have held their own roadshow around the country – not about Named Persons, sadly, but about the related issue of education governance.
John Swinney has promised to reduce the administrative burden on teachers, but how will this be achievable when those appointed (without choice) as Named Persons will be responsible for “promoting, supporting and safeguarding” the wellbeing of perhaps hundreds of schoolchildren?
NO2NP supporters have been out at these roadshow events, handing out flyers to delegates to show the contradiction between Mr Swinney’s plans and the reality of what life as a teacher who is a Named Person will be – a bureaucratic nightmare.
Last Thursday, a team of local NO2NP volunteers were out for the morning and teatime meetings at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre. As with previous meetings around the country in Dumfries, Glasgow and Perth, a number of people were already aware of the NO2NP campaign and were opposed to the Named Person scheme in general.
Those who took a leaflet readily appreciated the huge amount of administration that would inevitably accompany the role of a Named Person. A Named Person might easily be responsible for 200 or more children and young people, as well as having to be constantly aware of the 222 “risk indicators” to their “wellbeing”.
It’s no surprise Aberdeen City Council Leader Jenny Laing said last year: “The legislation may be putting people off becoming head teachers at primary school, because in this role you are the state guardian for all the pupils at the school. It means you have to take legal responsibility for every child in the school….People don’t want added responsibility.”
Our supporters couldn’t agree more! A special thanks to those who braved the bitter cold last Thursday morning to give educators in the north east yet another reason to say “no to Named Persons”!
The Scottish Government has repeatedly tried to claim the Named Person Supreme Court legal challenge failed, even though judges stated that they “unanimously allowed the appeal”.
Now the UK’s highest court has ordered the Scottish Government to pay the legal bills incurred by those who brought the court case, in yet another humiliating ruling for ministers.
The costs for the petitioners, who are all part of the NO2NP campaign, are estimated to top £250,000. The Scottish Government’s own bills will also be substantial, possibly bringing the total to around £500,000.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert commented:
“The Government has been hammered on costs. This is a total and utter vindication of the legal action that we were involved in, and underlines how deeply flawed this illegal scheme was.
“The Scottish Government argued we should pay our own costs. But the judges disagreed, awarding us our costs, further proving that we have been right all along.
“Had the judges agreed with the Government spin that they basically won the case and just had to make a few tweaks to the Named Person law, the court would not have awarded us our costs.”
IN THE MEDIA
The Herald: Half-million pound bill for bungled Named Persons law
STV: Government told to pay legal bill of Named Person opponents
The Scotsman: Government ordered to pay costs for named person court case
Daily Record: Taxpayers facing £500,000 bill as SNP’s controversial named person scheme suffers another court setback
BBC: Scottish government faces named person legal bill
The Daily Telegraph: Taxpayer facing £500,000 legal bill over SNP ‘state guardian’ court battle
The Times: Taxpayers face huge legal bill for named persons
Daily Express: Scottish Government hit with £500K in legal fees as ‘Named Person’ scheme deemed illegal
Utopia: “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.”
You would perhaps expect to see ‘utopian’ ideals populating the pages of fiction, but not perhaps on the floor of the Holyrood chamber or in front of a Parliamentary Committee. But when it comes to the Named Person scheme, the normal rules don’t apply.
Highland Council is often wheeled out by proponents of the Named Person scheme as Scotland’s utopian ideal. It’s frequently used as ‘evidence’ of the scheme’s success, and the reason for a nationwide roll-out. And this time it was Deputy First Minister John Swinney’s turn to spin the wheel.
In front of not only the Holyrood chamber but again in the Education and Skills committee, Mr Swinney confidently stated some impressive sounding stats about a drop in referrals to the Children’s Reporter in Highland.
Predictably, he attributed the success to Highland’s Named Person pilot scheme.
But as the saying goes… the devil’s in the detail.
You may be surprised to learn that Mr Swinney’s stats did not paint the whole picture.
What he didn’t tell you was that in the same time period there was a drop in referrals across Scotland. In fact many local authorities which did not have a Named Person pilot scheme saw an even higher percentage drop in referrals.
Highland was not even close to being an isolated case study.
Highland’s figures were only mid-range in comparison to the rest of Scotland.
There is therefore no evidence to suggest a link to the Named Person pilot scheme.
It’s time to wake up from the utopian dream and face reality: Highland is not the model and inspiration for the national Named Person scheme that Mr Swinney and others would like us to believe.
Report by Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust
It was a cold, damp Saturday morning as our dedicated NO2NP volunteers gathered outside Perth Concert Hall to leaflet delegates as they arrived for day 2 of the Scottish Greens autumn conference. The updated NO2NP leaflet highlights July’s UK Supreme Court decision that sent the Scottish Government back to the drawing board on their flagship Named Person scheme.
Most delegates took the leaflet, with only a few expressing strong opposition – although very few seemed willing to engage in discussion about the issue. One delegate revealed she is a teacher but declined a leaflet claiming she was undecided; another lady refused a leaflet and stated that she had tabled a motion on the Named Person which was due to be debated that afternoon.
That motion before the conference, however, fell into the dangerous and unhelpful trap of conflating welfare and wellbeing. It began “Child Welfare and the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014” and continued, “In light of the Supreme Court ruling on the legality of Part 4 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 it is necessary to develop a policy that supports the principle of an integrated and co-ordinated range of services to support children’s well-being while safeguarding the human rights of children, young people and their parents.”
Contrary to the Act as it stands, the full text of the motion put before the conference at least recognised that “there is no objective measure of what is in a child’s best interests, nor objective standards of approved parenting applicable in all social circumstances”. It acknowledged that “each and every child and their family relationship is unique and does not require state monitoring”. Furthermore it recommended that “parents and guardians retain the right to withhold consent from involvement in the Named Person scheme”. However, it did accept in principle the role of a Named Person, however diluted, as an instrument of the state within the family.
John Finnie MSP, member for Highlands and Islands, was approached and offered a NO2NP leaflet which he refused saying, “I was a Highland Councillor, I know about it” – apparently conflicting with John Swinney’s claims that the Named Person scheme running in Highland is not of the same ‘capacity and capability as that envisioned in our legislation’.
Ross Greer, MSP for West Scotland, did take a leaflet, but Patrick Harvie refused and hurried past.
The Scottish Parliament website states: “The people of Scotland elect 129 Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs). MSPs represent their constituents on devolved matters in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.”
The UK Supreme Court found that the Named Person legislation contained within the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 passed by the Scottish Parliament was in fact unlawful; that it breached human rights.
Scotland’s MSPs failed the people they were elected to serve when they passed into statute unlawful legislation that breached human rights.
Given that, at the very least, our MSPs should now be more minded to hear and present concerns that do not align with their own or that of their party but which are, nevertheless, resolutely held by growing numbers of those they have been elected to serve.
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has been accused of arrogance for ignoring concerned parents and constituents over the Named Person scheme.
Large numbers of parents contacted Mr Swinney in his capacity as education minister, urging him to hold public meetings where he can be questioned over the Named Person, following the Supreme Court ruling against the scheme earlier this year.
But parents have been disappointed to receive anonymous, dismissive, standard replies from a Government department calling itself the ‘Better Life Chances Unit’.
After the Supreme Court defeat, Mr Swinney pledged a three-month period of “intense engagement” – including parents and those with ‘concerns’ – in a consultation process designed to come up with alternative proposals which might meet the approval of the court.
But he ruled out meeting with NO2NP, whose members warned more than two years ago of the problems with the scheme, and brought the legal action which resulted in the Named Person law being struck down.
It has now emerged that Mr Swinney’s office has failed to properly respond to parents, including some of his own constituents, seeking to become involved in the consultation process.
Simon Calvert of NO2NP said:
“We have received complaints from numerous parents whose approaches to Mr Swinney were effectively ignored. In response to personal emails to Mr Swinney telling their stories and asking him to hold public meetings, all they got was a short, dismissive, unsigned stock reply from an unnamed official.
“Even Mr Swinney’s constituents who wrote to him have been ignored by their own elected MSP.
“We’re one month in to his three-month period of ‘intense engagement’. I don’t know who he is speaking to, but it’s certainly not ordinary parents.
“Parents feel frustrated and disappointed to be treated with such arrogance by a minister. He said he would hold an ‘open’, ‘inclusive’ dialogue which would include parents and those with concerns. These parents wrote to him within a week of that announcement. Civil servants took a month to come up with an anonymous 166-word reply that makes clear they are simply not interested in the opinions of anyone who does not support Government policy.
“They’re consulting on a law that dictates to parents, yet they don’t want to speak to any of those parents unless they are supine supporters of the minister’s plans.”
Alongside the SNP Conference in Glasgow last week, IdeaSpace hosted a fringe event debate on Friday on the subject: “Is Scottish child protection promoting wellbeing or a climate of fear?”
The debate’s chairperson started by saying that the Scottish Government’s Named Person policy had been the most debated subject on IdeaSpace’s website in recent times and when she later took a straw poll of the audience, those who were opposed to the scheme made up the largest group.
Social work consultant and NO2NP supporter Maggie Mellon was first to speak. She said she gave up statutory children and family work a few years ago because of the increased unnecessary intrusion into families’ lives, and the distrust between many of these families and social workers that often resulted.
She argued that the Government had “taken a wrong fork” with its legislation, which had not helped the situation and that “Named Persons are not the answer” to the very real needs of families blighted by poverty. Named Persons observe poverty as “risk” rather than “need”.
Next up was Professor Andy Bilson, Emeritus Professor of Social Work at the University of Central Lancashire, who spoke about his research into referrals under the child protection system.
He referred to a study of trends in physical abuse and neglect in six countries, focusing on children under 11, which had concluded that there was “no clear evidence for an overall decrease in child maltreatment despite decades of policies designed to achieve such reductions”.
Prof Bilson also pointed to research he had carried out in Western Australia, where, following the introduction of wellbeing legislation in 2006, referrals and reports on alleged harm had doubled over the first three years, yet there was no increase at all in the actual instances of harm.
He argued that there needs to be a new way of thinking that moves away from a singular focus on abuse and its prevention, and instead builds social capital in deprived communities and encourages advocacy and representation, rather than dictating what professionals believe to be best.
John Davis, Professor of Child Inclusion at the University of Edinburgh, started his talk by saying that he tells his social work students (jokingly!) that he is training them to become “storm troopers for the state”! He went on to say that professional interventions can make things worse and instead there needs to be minimum intervention and collaboration with parents, aiming to find support in the community, like we used to.
During Q&A, in response to a question from someone who supported Named Persons, Maggie Mellon said it was hard to define emotional abuse, and to distinguish neglect from poverty. She said that help isn’t on offer for poorer families but parents will instead end up being judged.
Prof Bilson added that if social workers go in with an orientation that looks to blame, even if they find nothing, the family will be less likely to trust them in future.
Report by Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust
The NO2NP campaign was back in action again on the streets of Scotland leafleting delegates at the SNP Conference in Glasgow.
It was a grey drizzly start to the day but the rain held off for NO2NP volunteers who donned the red sweatshirt.
First familiar face to appear was Michael Russell, former Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning who arrived in a golf cart waving and smiling. However, those smiles did not last long when he was approached by a NO2NP volunteer holding out a leaflet and asking if he would take one. He responded with an outstretched palm and a curt “No! Certainly not.”
Delegates started to arrive in large numbers. One group refused a leaflet because they said they supported the Named Person scheme, but one of the members of this group later peeled off and returned to tell the NO2NP volunteer that they worked with children and had major concerns over the scheme. They said they understood the campaign’s points and encouraged NO2NP to keep going.
Sadly, not everyone was as pleasant or civil. One NO2NP volunteer politely offered a leaflet to a passing delegate but was met with an expletive. A small minority of those we encountered responded with similar hostility.
Far more interactions however were very positive with one lady stopping to say she had trained social workers and teachers and was strongly against the Named Person – she added that she wished she had been consulted. A member of teaching union NASUWT stopped to take a leaflet saying “we’re against it” and asked “what is meant to happen in the summer holidays?”
Our great team of volunteers coped admirably with all of the lively interactions, including the hostile ones as they continued to voice the concerns raised by the vast majority of ordinary Scots who realise the central importance of family life.
In her closing speech to the SNP conference, Nicola Sturgeon said:
“So whatever our disagreements let us always treat each other with respect and let’s work harder to understand each other’s point of view.”
If only such sentiment went further than the microphone on the SECC stage. John Mason MSP took the time to stop and chat but he was a lone voice amongst the politicians we encountered; and all debate on Named Person at the conference appears to have been blocked. It’s difficult to understand another’s point of view if you don’t take the time to hear what that view is.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has claimed during a BBC interview that the Supreme Court did not say the Named Person policy was illegal or breached human rights.
She maintained the Government spin that the bulk of the scheme is unaffected by their defeat in the Supreme Court, downplaying the court defeat as “a particular concern upheld in the Supreme Court around the data-sharing aspects of this”.
If only she had read the judgment for herself:
“the sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person” (para. 78).
“one of the principal purposes [of the Named Person law]… was to alter the existing law in relation to the sharing of information about children and young people, so as to enable information about concerns about their wellbeing” (para. 4).
“the information-sharing provisions … are incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under article 8 of the ECHR because they are not ‘in accordance with the law’ … may in practice result in a disproportionate interference with the article 8 rights of many children, young persons and their parents, through the sharing of private information … the information-sharing provisions of Part 4 of the Act are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament” (para. 106).
“…since the defective provisions are not within the legislative competence of the Parliament, they cannot be brought into force” (para. 109).
Still claiming it’s about child protection
The First Minister said her Government was “determined” to “progress with this policy … because it is about trying to protect children”. But even arch loyalists like Alistair Gaw have admitted the Named Person is “not about child protection”.
The First Minister also claimed she wanted to act “in a way that brings people together and addresses people’s concerns as we go”. Her Deputy First Minister’s refusal to consult with anyone who doesn’t agree with his policy doesn’t augur well for this.
As BBC Scotland’s political editor says to the First Minister, “Folk are still not very happy with this.”
The media and the Government know we are not going away. Let’s keep up the pressure.
The Deputy First Minister has claimed the Supreme Court defeat “does not require current policy to change” and that it “vindicated” the Parliament vote for the Named Person legislation.
John Swinney made the remarks during a statement on Named Persons to the Scottish Parliament today.
Reacting to the statement, NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert said:
“This would be laughable if it were not so offensive to the parents whose human rights were so cavalierly ignored in the drafting of the Named Person law.
“The Supreme Court said the kind of widespread, routine sharing of sensitive personal data that the Government wanted is unlawful and a breach of human rights and cannot go ahead. It said this data sharing was ‘central’ to the Named Person policy and its ruling blew it out of the water.
“So whatever the Deputy First Minister may claim, the Named Person scheme he ends up with in a year’s time will be very different from the policy he wanted.
“Instead of focusing on saving face, the Government should be apologising to parents for ignoring their human rights.
“We welcome the Deputy First Minister’s pledge to consult widely with professionals and parents, including people who do not agree with the Named Person.
“The consultation, and the acknowledgement that it will take a year to draw up and implement the new proposals, is an admission that they have to heavily rewrite key aspects of the Named Person policy.
“The ‘business as usual’ message which the Scottish Government had been sending out since the Named Person ruling was in danger of leading local authorities to carry on with unlawful sharing of private information on families.
“Having spent years encouraging the widespread illegal sharing of sensitive personal data, they should now be doing everything they can to put a stop to it.
“Parents who feared that Named Persons were sharing embarrassing personal information behind their backs have been frightened by the Government’s bluster about barrelling on with the Named Person.
“Today, Mr Swinney has made clear that data-sharing needs to comply with the Data Protection Act and the Human Rights Act. That is welcome.
“Will his Government now also launch an inquiry to discover what illegal data-sharing has already taken place, and announce what they are doing to stamp it out?”
Full statement on Named Person – Deputy First Minister, 8th September 2016
Named Persons with statutory powers to grab and to share confidential information about children and families across Scotland will not be rolled out today, following the successful Supreme Court challenge.
The Scottish Government’s plan to give every child in Scotland a Named Person to monitor their ‘wellbeing’ was due to come into force today. But the UK Supreme Court said the data sharing provisions at the heart of the scheme were a breach of human rights, and declared the legislation unlawful.
The ruling has blocked the scheme from being implemented nationwide today as planned, forcing the Scottish Government to go back to the legislative drawing board.
If a new version of the scheme is now introduced it will not be able to operate in the way the Scottish Government had originally intended.
A NO2NP spokesman said:
“Today would have been the day this intrusive big brother scheme was rolled out across Scotland, but instead it has been stopped.
“This is a victory for the many thousands of ordinary mums and dads who have been saying NO to Named Persons.”
“Every child from 0 to 18 would have been assigned a Named Person to monitor their ‘wellbeing’, according to a vague Government checklist.
“Practitioners working with children, including health, police, schools and social work, would have had a legal duty placed on them to share confidential information with a Named Person at the much lower threshold of ‘wellbeing concerns’.
“We’re delighted parents no longer have to worry about unjustified interference into their private family-life based on vague Government notions of ‘wellbeing’.
“The intrusive data sharing powers, which were central to this scheme, have been struck down by the court.
“The big brother scheme is history.
“Families can now live free from the fear of having their confidential information shared and stored without their knowledge or consent, or worry their case will be escalated unnecessarily.
“We are aware some local authorities are continuing to operate a form of Named Persons. There is nothing preventing local authorities running a non-statutory scheme, but service providers must make sure these schemes are compliant with existing laws.
“Supreme Court judgment makes clear that parents and families cannot be compelled to accept the advice or services of Named Persons and information cannot be shared in breach of the thresholds in the Data Protection Act.
“We are encouraging parents to submit Subject Access Requests to find out what information a local council or health board holds about their family. Local authorities which have been operating as if the Named Person legislation was in force, ought to be very concerned about facing legal actions from parents.”
While the Scottish Government has said it intends to push ahead with a revised version of the scheme, the truth is that there will have to be radical changes to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The information-sharing provisions, which the Supreme Court said were central to the scheme, have been ruled unlawful. The legislation has to be amended by the Scottish Parliament, and guidance will need to be redrafted too.
The Supreme Court will be keeping an eye on the revised proposals the Scottish Government brings forward – as will we.
Any amended statutory scheme will definitely not commence on 31st August, as John Swinney has confirmed.
It has been brought to our attention that some local authorities are continuing to operate a form of Named Person. There is nothing preventing authorities running a non-statutory Named Person scheme, as has been the case with the pilot schemes which have been operating over the past few years.
But service providers are constrained by the existing law, which includes the terms of the recent UK Supreme Court judgment.
1. Parents and families should not be compelled to accept the advice or services of the Named Person;
2. Information cannot be shared in breach of the thresholds in the Data Protection Act, which emphasises consent unless sharing is necessary for one of the reasons specified in that legislation – a test that “wellbeing” does not meet.
We have been aware for some time that some authorities in Scotland have been operating as if the Named Person legislation (including its specific data sharing provisions) was in force.
But after the decision of the Supreme Court, it should be easier for a family to raise a complaint or bring a claim against a public authority where data has been shared in line with the tests in the Named Person legislation rather than in compliance with the Data Protection Act.
This is because the UK’s highest court has declared the thresholds in the Named Person legislation to be unlawful.
To find out what information your local council or health board holds about you or your family, you can submit a subject access request. More information on making a subject access request can be found here.
Many have been asking what will happen when the 42 days proposed by the UK Supreme Court comes to an end and what exactly is the Section 102 order.
Section 102 is a mechanism that allows for the suspension of the effect of a court’s decision to strike down a piece of legislation while the problems with it are sorted out.
This is a rarely used constitutional power. Section 102 was intended to be used in cases where the court is proposing to declare a statutory provision which is already in force to be unlawful. In order to avoid resulting chaos from striking down the law, they give the executive a period in which to fix it, while allowing the unlawful law to remain in force and effect.
In this case, the law is not in effect and the UK Supreme Court has declared that it cannot be brought into effect. However, section 102 could allow the UK Supreme Court to keep a supervisory role in settling any replacement legislation.
The 42 days cited in the judgment are for the parties involved in the legal action to make submissions on whether or not the UK Supreme Court should use its section 102 power. At the conclusion of the submissions, the Court could maintain a supervisory role over the Scottish Government/Parliament, given them a period to change the law and guidance into what the Scottish Ministers think to be a Convention compatible form and then re-present this to the court for their approval.
It is certainly not expected that the necessary legislative/guidance changes will be presented to the court within the 42 day period mentioned in the judgment.
Council areas where we believe Named Persons have been rolled out include…
• Aberdeen City Council
• Aberdeenshire Council
• Angus Council
• Argyll & Bute Council
• Dundee City Council
• Edinburgh City Council
• Falkirk Council
• Fife Council
• Glasgow City Council
• Highland Council
• Moray Council
• North Lanarkshire Council
• Perth and Kinross Council
• Renfrewshire Council
• Shetland Islands Council
• South Ayrshire Council
• South Lanarkshire Council
You have the right to request copies of any personal information an organisation may be holding about you. This is known as a Subject Access Request.
A warning about information sharing practices has been issued to local authorities and health boards by the Scottish Government, following the Supreme Court ruling.
In a statement released at the weekend by the Scottish Government it was disclosed that Named Persons have been told to “take care to reiterate the voluntary nature of any advice, information, support or help offered”.
This latest development is in contrast to last week’s public response from Deputy First Minister John Swinney, in which he claimed a Government ‘victory’, despite the judgment rendering the Named Person legislation unlawful.
The statement also revealed that Swinney had begun talks with “senior figures from the public and third sectors including NHS, local authorities and Police Scotland to discuss our next steps”.
It said the Deputy First Minister had joined a conference call following the Supreme Court ruling, involving:
• Perth and Kinross Council
• NHS Dumfries and Galloway
• Highland Council
• Children in Scotland
• National Parent Forum Scotland
• Police Scotland
• Care Inspectorate
• Education Scotland
• Information Commissioner’s Office
• Social Work Scotland
• Health Scotland
Commenting on the news, a NO2NP spokesman said the group was “sad and disappointed” that Swinney was only consulting with “those who support his government’s policy”.
The spokesman said: “As the organisation which successfully challenged the policy through the courts, we would like a meeting with the minister to place our views on the record as to why he should scrap this scheme and the pilot projects. We believe our views chime with a significant and growing number of people in Scotland.”
Following the Supreme Court decision last week serious questions have been raised over the prospect of parents suing councils which have been operating pilot schemes.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said: “The point is there are local authorities that have been running Named Person pilot schemes on the expectation that this law would come into force. They have in practice been sharing data at the much lower level enshrined in the Named Person law.”
“So, those local authorities should be quaking in their boots, they should be worried, very worried, about parents making subject access requests and finding out data has been shared on them in breach of the data protection and human rights law. They should be worried parents are going to sue them.”
Judges at the UK Supreme Court have declared the Scottish Government’s ‘state snooper’ Named Person scheme to be illegal.
The controversial legislation has been condemned for breaching the human rights of families.
It is the first time the Supreme Court has prevented a major piece of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament from coming into force.
In a historic verdict, five of the UK’s most senior judges, including two Scots, unanimously overturned decisions by the courts in Edinburgh on the legality of the Named Person provisions of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
The judges branded the law “defective” for breaching article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which guarantees everyone’s “right to a private and family life”.
They declared Holyrood had exceeded its powers by making a law which allowed public bodies to share sensitive private information about children and parents without consent.
The judges stated:
“The sharing of personal data between relevant public authorities is central to the role of the named person … the operation of the information sharing provisions will result in interferences with the rights protected by article 8 of the ECHR” (Para. 78). Because of the lack of safeguards “the overriding of confidentiality is likely often to be disproportionate” (Para. 100).
“…the information-sharing provisions of Part 4 of the Act are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament” (Para. 106).
“…since the defective provisions are not within the legislative competence of the Parliament, they cannot be brought into force.” (Para. 109)
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, said:
“We are delighted with the decision, which proves our concerns, and those of the 35,000 people who signed our petition, were properly founded.
“This proposed scheme was intrusive, incomprehensible and illegal.
“This ruling means the Scottish Government has been blocked from implementing this scheme on August 31. It must scrap its plan for state snoopers with intrusive data sharing powers. It has to go back to the legislative drawing board if it wants to try again. But it would have to come up with a much more limited scheme that actually respects the rights of children and parents.”
“The Big Brother scheme is history.”
“It’s wonderful news for mums, dads and children all across Scotland who no longer have to worry about this unjustified invasion of their private lives. To many of them the Named Person scheme felt like a legal battering ram to gain access to their homes. The court has taken sides with ordinary families and put the Scottish Government back in its place.”
The judgment emphasises the importance of article 8. In a withering verdict on the Government flagship legislation, it said:
“The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.” (Para. 73)
They also quoted from a US Supreme Court judgment which states:
“The child is not the mere creature of the state” (Para. 73).
To read the judgment or see the hand down visit the UK Supreme Court website.
NO2NP wrote to the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh highlighting a “series of contradictory and conflicting statements” made by MSPs who support the scheme.
The Government is responding to massive public opposition to the Named Person with pamphlets trying to explain the scheme.
But the harder they try, the more confused they become.
The most recent leaflet is called Named Person: Supporting children, young people and parents and, to be fair, we do quite like its use of origami bird graphics. But the actual content (i.e. the important stuff) is unlikely to allay the fears of genuinely concerned parents.
• The leaflet explains that, from August 2016, every child in Scotland will be appointed a Named Person.
• It says there is “no obligation” on families to use the Named Person. Yet everybody knows the scheme is compulsory. All children will have a Named Person by law. It will be implemented regardless of whether or not there is any need for state intervention. And the authorities will be able to collate and share data on you and your children without your knowledge, let alone your consent.
• Elsewhere, it says Named Persons have “no new legal powers to compel parents…to accept advice, support or help”. In reality of course, if mums and dads refuse to engage with the scheme, they will inevitably find themselves under scrutiny. Separate Government guidance even lists “parental resistance” as a “risk indicator”.
• The leaflet refers to ‘wellbeing’ over ten times. This is because a Named Person will be tasked with looking after a child’s ‘wellbeing’. It sounds nice. But other guidance says “wellbeing is another word for how happy you are”. How can the state monitor the happiness of every child?
• Teachers or health visitors will most likely become a child’s Named Person. According to the leaflet, their new duties are simply ‘integrated into their current role’. In other words, it places an extra burden on busy professionals. Remember that health visitors and teachers have already expressed serious reservations. Advice to local authorities issued by an implementation partnership group even says: “Compliance with the legislation can only be achieved through significant transformational change supported by systems, practice and culture change.”
• The leaflet claims that the new law and supporting documents provide “a clear set of steps for practitioners”. Yet the guidance on implementing the scheme is littered with strange graphics.
– A so-called ‘National Practice Model’ has been drawn up using a series of diagrams called the ‘Wellbeing Wheel’, the ‘My World Triangle’ and the ‘Resilience Matrix’.
– The ‘Wellbeing Wheel’ is to be used to examine eight ‘key’ aspects of every child’s life, known as the ‘SHANARRI’ indicators: Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, and Included.
– In total, teachers and health visitors will need a working knowledge of 221 risk indicators and 308 ‘wellbeing’ indicators.
• The leaflet refers to “the needs of vulnerable children and families”. Yet the Named Person law says nothing about vulnerability. Appointing a Named Person to every child, regardless of need, will further overstretch resources. Those that really need help will be more likely to be missed.
• In explaining the role of Named Persons, the leaflet gives the example of “a health visitor [asking] for help from a speech and language therapist”. This seems innocuous enough. But why should parents have to rely on a Named Person to agree that their child should get a service?
• It assures us that families will “in most circumstances” know when confidential information is being shared. This may be the biggest falsehood in the entire document.
– The concept of parental consent appears absolutely nowhere in the legislation.
– The Information Commissioner’s Office suggests data protection law should not be seen as an obstacle to data sharing.
– NHS documents endorse widespread sharing of data on children and adults.
– And guidance to health visitors actively discourages them from seeking consent for data sharing.
• 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’. So why does the leaflet specifically refer to “a concern for the safety of a child” when it comes to information sharing?
It’s all just very confusing. No wonder so many parents are saying ‘No’ to Named Persons.
Civil servants are infamous for trying to spin statistics. But even the most cunning Government official would struggle to ’emphasise the positives’ in recent public surveys about the Named Person scheme.
Last month, a ComRes poll commissioned by The Christian Institute found that almost two-thirds of Scots believe the Named Person is “an unacceptable intrusion into family life”. Only 24 per cent – less than one in four – think every child should have a state-appointed named person.
A YouGov poll commissioned by The Times, which asked a rather cuddly question about Named Persons who “look after the interests of each child”, still found that less than a third (32 per cent) of people support the scheme. Almost half (48 per cent) oppose it.
And of those who expressed an opinion in the recent Sunday Times Panelbase survey, 59 per cent said they are “broadly opposed” to the scheme, with only 41 per cent saying they are “broadly supportive”.
The stats vary slightly but the message is clear: when the public get a chance to have their say about the Named Person scheme, it’s obvious there is huge opposition.
So why is it that the Scottish Government’s website says:
“When we consulted about the Act, 72 per cent of respondents agreed with our proposal to provide a Named Person for every child and young person.”
The consultation on which they rely closed in September 2012. The ‘72 per cent’ were actually responding to the question:
“Do you agree with the proposal to provide a point of contact for children, young people and families through a universal approach to the Named Person role?”
Clearly the language of “point of contact” doesn’t begin to do justice to the powers Named Persons are going to have.
The forgotten 98 per cent
More recently, in June 2015, the Government published the outcome of a consultation on the guidance that accompanies the scheme.
The Government ‘summary’ of the consultation repeatedly highlights the views of “organisations”. By ignoring responses from members of the public they scrape together 55 per cent support for their Named Person guidance. Hardly a ringing endorsement.
But what is particularly shocking is that this required them to gloss over the fact that 98 per cent of responses from individuals (presumably including many parents) opposed it.
Look at this table produced by civil servants. The 98% is downplayed by the use of bold text.
That’s what they think of ordinary public opinion.
Who knows best?
Sadly Education Secretary Angela Constance recently confirmed this perception when, writing in The Sun on Sunday, she said that the scheme is “very widely supported by those best placed to know — namely, those groups who work directly with children and families”.
The Named Person is “very widely supported by those best placed to know — namely, those groups who work directly with children and families” – Education Secretary Angela Constance
You’ll never hear the Government claim widespread support from parents. And they’ll certainly never cite the 25,000 Scots who have signed the NO2NP petition. They prefer instead to invoke a handful of government-funded charities, some of whom will benefit from referrals made under the Named Person scheme.
But to say those charities are “best placed to know” beggars belief. Better placed than parents?
This is the kind of arrogance that makes parents so angry about the Named Person scheme.
A big thank you to all those who braved Storm Henry to come to the latest NO2NP roadshow event in Falkirk on Monday night!
After Dr Stuart Waiton welcomed everyone, community paediatrician Dr Jenny Cunningham contended that children’s rights should not trump parents’ rights. “Parents are fully autonomous beings,” she said, “able to make their own decisions, while children are not. The principle of parental autonomy is fundamental to a democratic society.”
She went on to say that, far from respecting this parental autonomy, in recent years, social policy has seen parenting as “deficient” or “problematic” and there is a widespread consensus that the state has to intervene to address it.
Jenny emphasised that “there’s a world of difference between parental behaviour that puts children at risk of significant harm” and parenting that doesn’t fit the Government’s expectations.
She said that “everything has been ‘GIRFEC’ed” [GIRFEC is the Government’s Getting It Right For Every Child framework] throughout health, education and social work. The legislation obligates all professionals to identify deficiencies in children’s lives and make decisions about whether their wellbeing is threatened and this is clearly seen in the new Universal Health Visiting Pathway, which will be introduced this August.
Jenny finished by saying that parenting isn’t a tick box list to be assessed by the state but a relationship between parent and child that grows at its own pace, as we are all individuals.
Lesley Scott from TYMES Trust then spoke about the recent decision of the Inner House of the Court of Session to reject our legal challenge. She quoted their use of the word “welfare” to describe the purpose of the legislation and showed how it is not interchangeable with “wellbeing”, but fundamentally different.
The Scottish Government has made this clear in their final statutory guidance, which states that “welfare and wellbeing are different, in that wellbeing is a broader, more holistic concept.” Even First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seems to be unsure about the purpose of the legislation, as she has said it is “about making sure that we are doing everything in our power to protect vulnerable children”. So, is it about child protection or children’s wellbeing?
On further scrutiny of the guidance, Lesley argued, there is “a dangerous conflation of the two [ideas]”, with the Information Commissioner’s Office conceding that there was a “lowering of the trigger” for data sharing from risk of “significant harm” to threat to “wellbeing”. This is confirmed in the guidance, which states that “a series of low level indicators of wellbeing need (whether obviously related or not) taken together can amount to a child protection issue”.
Lesley went on to point out, chillingly, that the guidance “is clear on the ability of Named Persons to use compulsion against parents and families who show any degree of non-engagement, non-compliance or mere ambivalence in the face of state functionaries’ opinions”. She went on to refer to sinister “compulsory supervision orders” which the guidance encourages Named Persons to use “at an early stage…to ensure compliance”.
After a short video, CARE for Scotland’s Parliamentary Officer Gordon Macdonald, gave an overview of the passage of the Bill through Holyrood, stressing that it was really only children’s charities that were consulted and many of them tend to view families as potential problems. No consideration was given to religious liberty during the one morning given over to scrutinising the Bill, whose terms were applauded by the majority of the agencies invited to the session.
As a result, CARE and others involved in the NO2NP campaign, had no option but to go to court to seek to have the legislation overturned. Gordon suggested that the Court of Session had taken a “very optimistic view” of the legislation, but we were going to the Supreme Court in March and would, if necessary, go on to Strasbourg and Luxembourg, as the matter is so important.
Gordon concluded that there is a real risk of the scheme being operated in a “totalitarian” way, because individual children’s rights are being viewed in isolation from – and at times in opposition to – their relationship with their parents.
After some practical points were shared, there was an in depth Q&A, which brought out further revelations about the scheme, including that “wellbeing” was sometimes seen as whether children had sufficient “hope, love and spirituality” in their lives!
A dedicated group of volunteers will be in Falkirk’s High Street on Saturday morning for our latest Action Day, handing out flyers to shoppers and encouraging them to sign the online petition – if you are free to join us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A teacher who served as a Named Person for 200 pupils has been struck off the teaching register after being found guilty of child sex offences.
Dayna Dickson-Boath was appointed one of the first Named Persons in Scotland, but could now be banned from working with children for the rest of her life.
She had held a senior position at a secondary school in Moray, but yesterday consented to being struck off by the General Teaching Council for Scotland on the charge that, between 8 August 2014 and 10 September 2014, she “did send, by means of a public electronic communications network, messages to another person that were grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, in that you did converse regarding the sexual abuse of children.”
Hugh Paton, convener of the panel, said: “The registrant should be removed from the register in view of the facts admitted. The panel has also decided that it is appropriate that the registrant’s name is referred to Scottish Government ministers for consideration in connection with inclusion on the list of those barred from working with children and vulnerable young adults.”
He said: “The panel decided to do so because …the respondent engaged in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature involving a children or protected adult.”
Dickson-Boath was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Register and ordered to undergo treatment when she was convicted in Elgin Sheriff Court last August.
Commenting after the news broke last year, NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert, called on the Scottish Government to tell parents what additional steps it is taking to vet Named Persons.
He said: “Given their greatly increased involvement in the personal lives of children, there clearly ought to be greatly increased background checks to make sure they cannot abuse that position of trust.”
A Scottish Daily Mail editorial, at the time, asked – “Who guards against state guardians?” and said the Scottish Government should “use the case of Dickson-Boath to pause for thought on this new law”. It went on question if the Scottish Government would accept responsibility if “a Named Person was later found to be an abuser”.
The editorial concluded: “The best people to make decisions on behalf of children are parents. The state has no place in dictating how families should live their lives. Parents of children at Moray had no veto when Dickson-Boath was appointed their Named Person; they had no choice but to accept her into their lives.”
Families will be under “surveillance” as new Government guidance reveals that health visitors will make a record 11 home visits to monitor not just the health and development of a baby, but also a range of personal details about parents, including finances and mental health.
Under the Named Person scheme health visitors will also act as a Named Person for 0 – 5s, and this latest 64-page document published last week discloses an extensive checklist by which families should be ‘assessed’ during the visits.
The Scottish Government’s £41.6 million Universal Health Visiting Pathway Scotland: Pre-Birth to Pre-School programme sets out a strict schedule of 8 visits within the child’s first year and 3 between 13 months and 5 years, with each visit lasting up to an hour and a half.
A NO2NP spokesman said: “Much of this is gobbledygook. But, alongside the talk of ‘Health Plan Indicators’, ‘salutogenic approaches’ and ‘human ecology’, some things come through loud and clear.
“Firstly, this calls itself a surveillance programme – how could 11 visits by the age of four with questions about family finance, TV time and sun cream use be considered anything else?
“Following this guidance threatens to turn health visitors into family managers. And health visitors will be typing up a wide range of extremely private information into a state database.
“Secondly, consent is not required for information sharing with or by a Named Person to promote ‘wellbeing’, even where there is a duty of confidentiality. The document says consent shouldn’t even be sought in case it’s refused and the parent-health visitor relationship is damaged. Fundamental principles of consent are being thrown aside, which is what we’ve been saying all along is part and parcel of the Named Person scheme.”.
Liz Smith MSP said: “This completely undermines the trust within family relationships and is exactly the reason for the increasing fears about the Named Person and the nanny state.”
Theresa Fyffe, Director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said the plan would “help children and their families get support if they need it”, but added: “However, we have significant concerns about implementing the Named Person scheme.”
The Scottish Government has published ‘Top ten Named Person facts’ on its website. The first of these ten ‘facts’ says the Named Person ‘does not undermine families’ and “will not interfere in how a child’s room is decorated” or “the TV programmes they watch”.
But if this is true, then why does the Government’s GIRFEC leaflet tell parents the Named Person will check if a child “gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV”…?
So parents, how do you make a complaint about the Named Person scheme? Well, it’s easy… just follow this flow chart…
Confused? So were we! But don’t worry, the Government has proposed a supposedly ‘simpler’ option 2 flow chart…
The two complex diagrams are found in the guidance to the Government’s consultation on the complaints procedure for the Named Person scheme.
Read the Government’s full document here: Consultation on Complaints Concerning Functions Relating to the Named Person and Child’s Plan
Option One Flow Diagram states that parents would have to raise complaints with “every organisation or body involved in the matter”.
The flow chart shows six possible organisations which need to be contacted – the “listed authority”, the “named person service”, the “managing authority”, the “directing authority”, the “relevant authority” and any “third party”.
The second flow chart option is supposedly the simpler of the two with just one organisation to contact, but this one organisation would then have to contact all the other organisations. In reality there could be as many as 13 stages and could take up to a whole year to complete.
And if parents were not satisfied with the response to their complaint, they would then have to lodge another complaint to the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO).
However, the SPSO only has powers to make recommendations to the organisations overseeing the Named Person scheme, which they are free to ignore.
A NO2NP spokesman, said: “There will be gross breaches of privacy under the Named Person scheme. But the complaints procedure for parents is to be made as easy as crawling over broken glass. And even if at the final stage the Ombudsman does uphold a parental complaint the state guardians will be free to ignore it. This is an outrage.”
He added: “Under the named person scheme the watchdog will be a toothless tiger. It should be fundamental that any complaint against the Named Person process which is upheld by the Ombudsman should never be ignored and that robust safeguards be implemented to make sure that is the position in practice.”
The Government claims in its Executive Summary, “… it is important that any complaint process for parents and children, where possible, is accessible, clear and straightforward. It is also important that parents and children have confidence in the process and are not put off making complaints due to overly complicated processes.”
Commenting on the latest guidance, NO2NP spokesman, said: “Every time the Government issues a new document to ‘explain’ how the Named Person scheme will operate, all they do is remind everybody how the whole thing is one big, invasive bureaucratic mess.”
Questioning the identity of the six organisations, he said: “I don’t think a room full of lawyers would have any idea about how this will operate, let alone a mum or dad seeking to make a complaint.”
The Scottish Government has released a video showing its highlights of the Fairer Scotland ‘conversations’. The Government’s report, however, sounds somewhat different to what has been reported elsewhere. (more…)
Around sixty locals turned out for the latest stop in Scottish Government Minister Alex Neil’s summer tour in Kilmarnock on Thursday. The lunchtime event was held in the town’s Centrestage Theatre and, in keeping with the venue, the opening item was a medley of traditional Scottish songs sung by a local male voice choir – not at all what those who had gathered were expecting.
The bemused audience were further surprised when it became clear that Mr Neil would not be present for the “conversation” that was to take place during the meeting, but instead, local individuals noted questions from each table.
Alex Neil returned after about 40 minutes to hear from each table the major concerns people had about community life in Scotland and what the Scottish government could do better. A retired businessman referred Mr Neil to the Scottish government’s publication, Creating A Fairer Scotland – What Matters To You? – a copy of which had been made available to everyone. The publication states: “The vast majority of children starting primary school don’t show any signs of social, emotional or behavioural difficulties” and the businessman wanted to know why, given that frank admission, the Scottish government has appointed a guardian for every single child and young person until they are 18.
Mr Neil explained that the scheme was intended to identify the many children he claims have been abused but have not yet been identified (thereby treating every parent as a potential child abuser) and he believed parents would be consulted on who their child’s Named Person was going to be (even though there is nothing at all said about this in either the Act or the draft guidance). The Minister confirmed when pressed that there would definitely be a review of the legislation within a year or two of its coming into force in August 2016.
At the end of the event, Mr Neil did finally address all those gathered and highlighted the many concerns he had heard raised about the Named Person scheme. He indicated that these would be “fed in” to the other feedback they were receiving from around the country and would hopefully be addressed in the coming days.
The meeting was finished with a rendition by some local teenagers of the song from the Joseph musical Any Dream Will Do, but perhaps there should be added to the title “provided your Named Person considers it promotes your wellbeing”.
It was revealed at the weekend that Scotland’s police force is concerned that children could be the victim of “further criminal acts” caused by “significant time delay” created by the extra layers of unwieldy bureaucracy linked to the Named Person proposals.
A NO2NP spokesman said a ministerial public statement is required “as soon as possible” to explain how many youngsters have been left in danger and for how long.
The Police Scotland warning is contained in an official police submission on the guidance to how the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 will operate.
The submission states: “A potential risk has been identified that ‘wellbeing concern’ assessments are being carried out by a range of practitioners from organisations when there is actual information that a child has or is the victim of abuse and or neglect deemed as criminal acts.
And it continues: “This has resulted in a time delay, at times significant, during which time the children (or other children) are exposed to the potential of further criminal acts and the potential for evidential opportunities to be lost or compromised. Specific examples can be provided if required.”
The NO2NP spokesman said: “This submission essentially discredits the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”
He added: “The allegations made by Police Scotland could not be more serious. Rather than speeding up help for abused and neglected children, the extra layers of bureaucracy significantly delayed the reporting of criminal acts against the youngsters.
“‘Wellbeing’ assessments, which are at the heart of the entire Named Person scheme, have apparently caused delays that allowed abused children to be exposed to yet more abuse.
“Named Persons, unlike social workers, are not experts in handling child abuse cases. It is unfair on teachers and health visitors to burden them with this responsibility. This statement from the police shows that involving non-experts in serious cases of abuse and neglect risks losing key evidence, allowing child abusers to avoid justice.
“This damning piece of new evidence gives the lie to the Government’s main defence for the Named Person scheme. The incompetent Named Person policy will not protect abused and neglected children – it will expose them to even more danger.
He continued: “The police offered the Government specific examples where following the Named Person policy actually delayed reports of child abuse and neglect. The public must be told immediately if the Government has asked for that evidence and if not, why not.
“The minister must make a public statement at the earliest possible opportunity about any and all cases where Named Person pilot schemes have resulted in delays reporting child abuse and neglect.
“This latest shocking development confirms that the Named Person policy is going to be a disaster: a disaster for abused and neglected children and a disaster for good Scottish families.
“The time has come for the Government to admit it has made a huge mistake and scrap the whole scheme.
The NO2NP spokesman added: “The Government will point to the fact that Police Scotland say they support the Named Person scheme. But what else are they going to say? The police can’t lobby against a key government policy. But they have essentially discredited the entire Named Person scheme by telling the world that the policy risks allowing more abuse to take place while non-experts sit on evidence of serious criminality against children, and jeopardise the prospects of bringing abusers to justice. The Named Person policy is a catastrophic idea and it must be scrapped immediately.”
Police warnings over state guardians, Scottish Sunday Express, 19 July 2015
Police abuse warning over SNP state guardian plan, Scottish Sunday Telegraph, 19 July 2015
Police Scotland submission, 2015 (See page 2)
A senior member of the SNP Government has come face to face with critics of the Named Person plans. (more…)
Writing in the Sunday Express the Scottish Conservative Spokeswoman for Young People has warned that the Scottish Government’s Named Person plans “will not work”.
Liz Smith MSP said many parents and professionals are likening it to “the totalitarian imagery in George Orwell’s famous book, 1984”.
She acknowledged the Scottish Government’s motivation to tackle “appalling abuse which is suffered by some children”, but asserted that “you do not do that by insisting that all children between the ages of zero and 18 have a state guardian”, and branded the policy “both sinister and hugely misguided”.
The article stated: “For a start, what is implicit in this proposal to have a Named Person for every child is the assumption that the state, rather than parents and families, has the primary obligation to look after children. That is entirely the wrong way round.
“If there are thousands of parents across Scotland doing a thoroughly good job – and there are – then what right does the Scottish Government have to tell them that the state knows better? What on earth is the point of insisting that these families have a Named Person on the same basis as those families who face genuine problems? I do not believe that anyone can work out the logic of this thinking.”
She continued: “Secondly, by insisting every child has a Named Person, the Scottish Government will, by definition, dilute the resources which are available to help those children in genuine need. Is the Scottish Government really suggesting that an 18-year-old couple who are very successfully bringing up a toddler are in need of three Named Persons when there are some children out there who desperately need our help?
“Little wonder that local authorities, who are already under considerable financial pressure, are throwing up their hands in horror at what this might mean for them”, she declared.
The MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife noted that the recent controversial Hampden event, where organisers were accused of bribing parents to turn up, was a recognition that the policy was in “big trouble” and an attempt to persuade parents that there was nothing to worry about.
“So it is little wonder that large numbers of parents are starting to rebel and those who are supposed to operate and oversee the policy are voicing serious concerns. Whether it is the police, our lawyers, groups of teachers or health visitors, a number of professional bodies have said that they don’t think the scheme can really work in practice.
“They say it will be impossible to avoid controversial sharing of confidential data and confusion over the lines of family responsibilities.”
Suggesting that better options were possible, she concluded: “The Named Person policy is intrusive, unnecessary and the accompanying guidance is nothing more than bureaucratic gobbledygook.
“Perhaps this is why some MSPs, who initially backed the legislation, are now coming out of the woodwork, having second thoughts because they now understand the implications of this terrible legislation.
“They can see the growing fury amongst parents who will simply not accept that they need to be told how to bring up their own children and they can recognise the alarm bells amongst professional organisations.
“The best thing the Scottish Government can do now is scrap it all together – before George Orwell’s famous book becomes a reality.”
Source: Scottish Sunday Express, 12 July 2015
Hugh Henry MSP for Renfrewshire South has become the latest voice to question the controversial Named Person scheme.
Henry says he is concerned about overburdening schools which are not set up to take the extra workload, as well as the financial implications for councils.
Henry said: “I do have concerns about the way in which the SNP government is introducing the Named Persons Policy.
“There could be significant financial implications for councils and I am worried that children that have no need for a named person will have one imposed upon them.
He added: “I fail to see how in large schools staff will have sufficient time or knowledge to make this work properly.
“The Scottish Government should listen to parents and others who are calling for a rethink,” urged Henry.
His comments are just the latest in a mounting chorus of criticism. In recent weeks concerns have been expressed by Police Scotland, EIS (the country’s largest teaching union), children’s panel members, sociologists, activists of all parties and newspaper editors.
This is on top of the Law Society, the Faculty of Advocates, Child Clan Law, the Scottish Association of Social Workers, the British Association of Adoption and Fostering, the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council and many others who have been expressing concerns for some time.
Even those supporting the Named Person scheme are failing to coherently answer basic queries about the plans.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Alan Small, Chair of Fife Child Protection Committee, faced questions from presenter Kaye Adams about the catch-all, intrusive nature of the legislation.
Attempting to defend the scheme, Small said people understand that “at times” families need somebody to turn to, but Adams pointed out that it is unclear to what extent the Named Person will have the power or inclination to interfere or pry into family life.
When asked if a parent can hang up the phone on the Named Person and say they’re not interested, Small responded with an unconvincing “No. Er… Yes and No”. Hesitating, he said “it all needs to be taken into context with the needs of the child”.
This caused Adams to ask: “But who decides the needs of the child?”
To which Small asserted that it would be public services and the Named Person who decide.
Adams continued to probe asking: “And where’s the parent in that?”
Avoiding the question, Small instead spoke about “proportionality”, which he says is an important word to be used when discussing the scheme, but he was unable to explain what the word actually meant when pressed by Adams.
Adams said: “Define for me proportionality.”
Small replied: “I actually don’t think there is a definition suitable for proportionality… er… proportionality is fairly well understood in public services…”
A columnist for the Scottish Daily mail has written extensively on why the Named Person plans are unwise, unlawful and unfounded.
John MacLeod said: “Many fear that the named person could have too much power. Others wonder about implications under the Data Protection Act or the terms of confidence. How much might lawfully be kept from parents?”
He continued: “just one of the details that makes the named persons scheme such thoroughly bad law is how it ensnares every child in the country, not just those already known to be at risk or of which, in that weasel term, ‘social services are aware’.
“Indeed, a strong argument in itself against the plan is how it will dangerously overstretch public resources and officials: that truly vulnerable, seriously abused youngsters will be overlooked amid a tsunami of moans.”
MacLeod also referred to a similar programme to Named Person which was launched on the Isle of Man in 2010 where, “the world and his wife were invited to report even the slightest concern to children’s social care”.
He noted that: “It rapidly grew hard to retain or recruit staff as they buckled under a preposterous new workload. Families, meanwhile, resented needless intervention.
“A Tynwald committee in time pronounced that over-referral threatens the protection of children at significant risk of harm because of the difficulty of finding a needle in such a large haystack.”
The columnist also drew attention to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which “asserts that citizens have a right to a “private and family life… the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”.
He added: “By its very enacting, the new law undermines parental authority and the privacy of the home – to say nothing of clear EU law on data confidentiality and how freely sensitive information may be passed around the public sector.”
“The overwhelming majority of Scotland’s carers and parents do a perfectly good job of raising their children and the Scottish Government’s ongoing insistence that ‘the new scheme is very little different to what happens already’ immediately begs the question: why change it?”
MacLeod concluded that, “untold Scottish Government energy has been vested in this chilling new scheme – founded on the premise that you, as parents, may well be evil or at least grossly incompetent; that you must be monitored in time for the state to stop you.”
Sociologist and Scotsman columnist Tiffany Jenkin has called for the Named Person scheme to be scrapped.
Writing in a comment piece for the Scotsman over the weekend, she said: “The named person scheme is an unprecedented and damaging intervention into family life that will direct help away from those most in need. It should be scrapped.”
She said: “Lumping parental responsibilities on state agencies will mitigate against children’s interests being served”.
Remarking on the process of childrearing, she said: “Most parents raise their children the same way: according to their own beliefs, hopes and dreams, with all the idiosyncrasies that accompany them, under the pressured, day-to-day realities of their busy lives – but they all do it with love. The nature of domestic life is that it is messy, but even when people get things a little wrong, and that’s not hard, everyone is trying to do their best.”
Jenkins asserted: “What everyone needs is to be allowed to get on with it. To be trusted to do a reasonable job, and not blamed for problems that are nothing, or not much, to do with childrearing.”
But she says this, “it would seem, is impossible”
She explained that, “in the last few decades, the family and the early years of a child’s life have been identified, in political circles, as the breeding ground for social problems. The family is fingered as the place where everything goes wrong: poor educational attainment, obesity, joblessness, stress, addiction, criminality, if not intentionally so, then accidentally so, according to policymakers.”
Jenkins warned: “Policymakers pose early intervention into a child’s life as the solution to any problem that might arise later. It is a flawed approach that has negative consequences: social solutions to such problems are neglected – structural issues are ignored; and the family has become the focus of intervention, intervention that seems to know no end.”
She said the assumptions behind this kind of approach “will cause more harm than good”.
Commenting on the Named Person scheme, she warned: “So every single child will have a named person – someone who is not their mum or dad, a member of their extended family, or in their circle of friends – to watch over them, and watch over their parents.
Jenkins highlighted: “Up until this scheme, professionals involved in children’s lives had to have a reason to be there: education, health or serious concerns about abuse. Up until this law, state intervention required justification – no longer is this the case.”
Source: Tiffany Jenkins: Named person law is troubling, The Scotsman, 03 July 2015
Herald Scotland social affairs correspondent, Stephen Naysmith, has described the Named Person scheme as “a presentational fiasco”.
Naysmith highlights the Government’s failure to answer simple questions such as: “Will the scheme divert resources away from those who need them most? What happens if a named person thinks a child needs intervention but social workers think there is no need (or resources)? How will it help, teachers and health visitors already look out for children in their care?”
He stresses that “not being able to explain – clearly – why a universal named person scheme will be able to help families better or sooner than existing arrangements has been a disaster.”
Naysmith concluded: “Maybe the legislation is bad to the bone, or maybe it just needs to be better communicated. But ministers’ current favoured explanation – “you never know when someone’s going to need help” – just doesn’t cut it.”
He also commented on the recently revealed consultation responses to the Government’s guidance on how the Named Person scheme would work in practice.
Naysmith said: “The report on the Government’s guidelines was generous to a fault. For example it found 38% of organisations said examples in the guidance hadn’t been helpful, while 63% had. This is recorded as ‘in general, organisations found the examples… helpful’.
“Yet opaque jargon and a lack of detail have left the public suspicious. Even organisations repeatedly told researchers the guidance was complex, repetitive and left them none the wiser.”
Source: Named persons turning into a PR disaster for ministers, Herald Scotland, 06 July 2015
A Children’s Panel Member in Falkirk, which has been operating the ‘Getting It Right For Every Child’ (GIRFEC) approach for some time, has written to The Scotsman criticising the Named Person plans.
“My objections are as stated by many others, in the area of unnecessary state intervention into family life”, wrote David Donaldson.
He continued: “On a practical note, most government department’s administration is slow moving and woefully inefficient, with the obvious recent example of the police being unable to indicate numbers of stop and searches and blaming it on a “clunky’ computer.
“What chance, therefore, is there of an effective system of monitoring every child in Scotland up to the age of 18?
Donaldson raised concern that families in crisis, which “require a speedy, effective response from the relevant services”, will fall into the “black hole” of Government administration.
He said: “At present, Children’s Hearings receive reports from and attendance by Social Services, health visitors, and teachers, along with many other organisations such as Barnardo’s and Spark of Genius, as well as local ¬authority intensive crisis services.
“Many of these people who will be ‘Named Persons’ are already actively involved with families and doing excellent work. Families in crisis require a speedy, effective response from the relevant services but there is the real likelihood they will fall into the “black hole” that will be Government administration.
He asserted: “We do not need GIRFEC but what we do need is ‘Get It Right For Every Vulnerable Child’ and there are, unfortunately, still too many of them.
“If the Scottish Government has £40 million to invest it would be much better spent in bolstering the existing services which are often overstretched and swimming against the tide”.
Source: Scotsman Letters: Guard against ‘named person’ notion, The Scotsman, 06 July 2015
In a comment piece, the editor for the Scottish Daily Telegraph, Alan Cochrane, added his voice to criticism of the Named Person scheme.
Referring to the plans, Cochrane said that the Scottish Government is “making a rod for its own back”.
“That it deserves a caning there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever”, he added.
He continued: “This is, arguably, one of the most unpopular measures I can ever remember any government seeking to impose on its citizens – so much so that it is not too much of an exaggeration to suggest that it risks generating a massive level of civil disobedience in that many parents will simply refuse to comply with what’s about to be implemented.”
Cochrane went on to criticise supporters of the Named Person scheme who write off parental concerns as “pure scare-mongering”.
He said “that is unlikely to reassure many parents who object to the idea that some outside party, no matter their qualifications or good intentions, can have a say on the upbringing of their children”.
He described the wide reaching plans as an example of “wrong-headed universality when what’s needed is specific and targeted action to protect those children who are most at risk”.
Cochrane said that he suspects First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will soon have to “take a direct interest” in the plans.
He concluded: “If she’s wise, she’ll cut her losses consign it straight to the waste bin.”
Pressure has been mounting on the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme this week, with a succession of media stories reporting serious concerns about the plans.
Teachers worry about increased workload as named person for pupils
Herald Scotland, 03 July 2015
Minister falters over SNP “state snoopers” plan
Scottish Daily Mail, 03 July 2015
Child plan could make risk harder to spot, police warn
The Times, 03 July 2015
Scottish Government under pressure over ‘state guardian’ plan
Scottish Daily Telegraph, 02 July 2015
Ken Macintosh demands review of Named Person plans
The Scotsman, 02 July 2015
Police Scotland criticise SNP Named Person plans
The Scotsman, 02 July 2015
Outrage over £100k PR bill to promote ‘state snoopers’
Scottish Daily Mail, 01 July 2015
Confusion over plans to appoint ‘named person’ for every child in Scotland
Herald Scotland, 01 July 2015
Herald View — Getting it right for youngsters
Herald Scotland, 01 July 2015
Named person plans clarity sought
Press and Journal, 01 July 2015
Listen: Callers flood BBC with opposition to Named Person plans
No2NP, 03 July 2015
Callers have inundated the BBC with opposition to the Named Person scheme, as the Government is criticised for not knowing the reality of its own proposals.
NO2NP spokesman Simon Calvert and Lesley Scott of ME children’s charity TYMES Trust – a supporter of NO2NP – also spoke out on BBC Radio Scotland on Thursday.
One caller told Kaye Adams that the scheme would undermine the family and “smacks of Big Brother”.
In the words of another concerned caller, if finding vulnerable children is like looking for a needle in a haystack, the Named Person plans are like making the haystack bigger.
The fact that parents will have no choice as to whether their children have a Named Person was highlighted by yet another caller.
The Daily Mail criticised Fiona McLeod’s appearance on the show, saying she “failed to answer simple questions” about the plans.
Speaking after the programme, a spokesman for NO2NP said: “It was striking that the scheme the Minister was defending is not the same as the scheme her Government has actually legislated for.
“She thinks the Named Person is just someone parents and kids can ask for help.
“But the Named Person is legally empowered to monitor parents and children, to share their confidential data, and to put services in place, all without parental consent and even in defiance of parental wishes.
“The Government actually put out a leaflet for parents saying the Named Person is there to monitor children’s happiness.
“It said this means the Named Person will check ‘Your child gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV’, ‘You trust your child to do the right thing’. This is an outrageous invasion of private family life.
“If you give a government official the duties of a parent, they will act like a parent. They will escalate issues that should be left to parents.
“Social workers desks are going to be overflowing with reports from Named Persons of all kinds of tittle tattle that should be beneath their notice.
“That means children who are neglected or abused are going to be even more likely to be overlooked because social services are going to be overwhelmed with Named Person reports about kids who weren’t allowed to watch their favourite TV programme.”
Ken Macintosh MSP, who is a father of six, says the Named Person scheme will put the most vulnerable children at further risk.
Adding his voice to mounting criticism of the legislation Macintosh said the scheme will make it “harder” to help children who are most vulnerable.
“My biggest worry is that this measure will take the focus of social workers and other practitioners away from at-risk children, which will ultimately make it harder to monitor and support those who really do need this kind of involvement”, said Macintosh, who is a Scottish Labour Leadership candidate.
“I am certainly not going to lay claim to being a perfect parent, but is this really the best use of taxpayers’ money and teachers’ time?
He added: “The national news is filled too often by stories of neglect and abuse, and the all too horrific consequences with children dying at the hands of their own parents.
“At the same time, it is difficult to see how appointing a Named Person to look after for example each of my six children will do anything to improve child protection or to prevent such deaths occurring again.
“At the very least we need to clarify what this additional duty as a Named Person will mean.”
Source: Ken Macintosh demands review of Named Person plans, 02 July 2015
Scotland’s national police force has warned about a “lack of clarity” in the Named Person plans and highlighted complications surrounding the sharing of sensitive information.
Police Scotland said the new law would also have “cost implications” and raised fears about the forces capacity to cope with the demands of overseeing the scheme.
Chief Superintendent Alan Waddell, one of the forces most senior police officers, raised the concerns in a formal submission to the Scottish Police Authority’s corporate risk register.
Waddell said there may not be “efficient or secure systems” in place to “manage wellbeing concerns” and also warned that such “significant change for all authorities including Police Scotland” could make it harder to identify at risk children.
He added that Police Scotland’s “confidence and reputation may be negatively impacted” due to the lack of clarity about what the force’s role would be in presiding over the scheme.
Waddell said: “There is a lack of clarity as to the expectations, roles and responsibilities; therefore it is unknown at this time if current systems, models and process in PSoS [Police Scotland] can support this legislative change.”
Commenting on the issue of sharing of sensitive information he said: “Police Scotland does not currently have a consistent process on how such risk and concerns are identified, triaged managed and shared.
“In the absence of a national functioning Named Person Service, there is a concern that partners do not have efficient or secure systems in place to receive and manage such notifications.”
Waddell also highlighted the inconsistency that youngsters will have Named Persons until they are 18, but then many will be dealt with by adult courts as opposed to the children’s hearing system.
Waddell said: “This is a significant change for all authorities, including PS and requires a review of all interdependent policies and processes which impact/refer to children and young people to ensure cognisance of legislative change.”
The officer leading on public protection issues, Detective Chief Superintendent Lesley Boal, stressed that the force did not oppose the legislation and that they were looking at ways of overcoming complications detailed in the risk register.
NO2NP supporter, Liz Smith MSP, said the intervention from Police Scotland showed the force was “very sceptical” about the Named Person scheme.
She said it was extremely concerning and telling that “the very organisations who are supposed to make the policy work are now very sceptical that it can work in practice”.
“It’s just another example of why the Named Person nonsense which is peddled by the Scottish Government flies in the face of common sense.
“It is very clear now that the SNP scheme lacks guidance and showcases just how sinister the policy is with the named person having too much power.”
Police highlight ‘concerns’ over how to implement SNPs controversial Named Persons scheme, 02 July 2015
Police Scotland criticise SNP Named Person plans, 02 July 2015
An editorial in a newspaper that supports the Named Person scheme has expressed concerns about the plans and called on the Scottish Government to revisit the threshold for the Named Person.
In a leader comment accompanying a front page article, Herald Scotland concluded: “Above all the change in the threshold for intervention from the more appropriate “risk of serious harm” to the vague “concern over welfare” should be reconsidered.
The paper said it had consistently supported the Named Person scheme “but as always with well-intended laws the devil lies in the detail or, more usually, the legislative guidelines”.
In the editorial it said “we report with concern today the findings which show that the consultation over the guidelines issued on the legislation shows that even among the organisations directly involved only 55% describe these as clear”.
It stated: “Among health boards, royal colleges, local authorities and third sector bodies, almost half do not believe the guidelines are adequate. The issues are not minor – clarity over the named person (NP) role, around when parents can be excluded from decisions, what happens when the relationship between the NP and family breaks down, these are all big questions.
The paper also said there had been a “failure to clarify the terms of intervention”, pointed out “pragmatic concerns” such as the extra workload on “already hard-pressed health visitors and head teachers”, and raised questions about human rights concerns for parents.
NO2NP spokesman said the consultation responses indicated the growing strength of public opinion against the proposals and added:
“The fact is, when the public get a chance to have their say about the Named Person, it becomes very clear they don’t like it. Parents hijacked the recent government PR event at Hampden and hammered civil servants with awkward questions about the Named Person. Now it looks like parents have hijacked this consultation to start a fight back against the Named Person scheme. On some questions, these individuals are almost unanimous in their disagreement with the Government. The Government analysis tries to sweep these figures under the rug but there is not getting away from it: the public do not like the Named Person.
“What is clear from the consultation is that people are afraid. Afraid of unnecessary and unwarranted breaches of their family privacy. Afraid the Named Person will be unaccountable. The Government analysis countenances “clarifying the circumstances” in which the Named Person can “exclude” parents from decision making. We are not talking about ‘at risk’ children where, of course, social services can make decisions over the heads of abusive or neglectful parents. No. The job of the Named Person is to monitor and enforce children’s happiness according to a Government checklist. The official information leaflet for parents says the Named Person can intervene in decisions about decorating a child’s bedroom or what they watch on TV. Is that the kind of decision from which parents might be “excluded”?
“And how can the Government still talk as if there is any scope for an “opt out” when their own lawyer told the Court of Session that allowing families to opt out would “defeat the purpose of the scheme”. There is no opt out in the legislation so how can there be one in the guidance?
“The Government document repeatedly highlights ‘organisational’ responses and ignores members of the public in order to scrape together 55% support for their Named Person guidance. But 98% of responses from individuals opposed it. Governments are infamous for trying to spin statistics but this is shocking.
Herald View — Getting it right for youngsters
The Scottish Daily Mail has revealed that the Scottish Government spent more than £100,000 on PR for the Named Person plans in recent weeks.
Taxpayers have paid the price for a series of events designed to promote the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) scheme.
Around 600 people attended three regional events in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth, and the GETLive event at Hampden, where parents received £25 gift vouchers, as well as travel costs and catering.
A NO2NP spokesman described the move as a “fortune at a time of grim austerity”.
He added: “It’s an absolute outrage a government which is pleading poverty… can find this eye-watering amount of public funds to spend on PR for their own unpopular policy of state guardians.”
Around ninety parents, children and young people gathered at Hampden Park in Glasgow last Saturday to hear the Scottish government explain what their ‘named person’ scheme is all about.
The wheels appear to have fallen off the PR wagon though, as parent after parent took Phil Raines, Head of the Scottish Government’s Child Protection Policy Team, by surprise with their ‘off-message’ feedback.
• Why had the Government ploughed ahead with this scheme given the opposition?
• Why there had been no consultations with parents before now?
• Why was Highland Council‘s Bill Alexander’s word accepted on the success of the Pathfinder, when it had clearly not worked for many?
To his credit, Mr Raines accepted they had got it wrong and there was a lot more they need to think about. But if he thought his attempt to dress up GIRFEC as being about support, not intervention (although the concept of “early intervention” is referred to frequently in the Government’s draft guidance), would put parent’s minds at rest, he was mistaken – the questions kept coming.
• How are the professionals involved going to be trained?
• How will they be taught to work together across agencies using a common language, particularly when they are currently so bad at it?
They raised the issue of too many people being involved in sharing information and pointed out that this would only get worse when the legislation comes into force next year. (No comment from Phil Raines at this point, but he was seen taking copious notes.)
Further questions were asked about the funding of the scheme and managing complaints.
• How will it be maintained?
• Where is the money coming from now? Where will it come from in the future?
But there was no action plan for the future in terms of funding – not even a plan for a plan!
• How will a Named Person and any complaints against them be reviewed and monitored and who will do the monitoring?
• Who will train the monitors?
• Where do families fit in when there is a breakdown between the monitor and the Named Person?
Lots of good questions, but no answers except: “we have to re-think; we have realised it’s a larger issue than we had thought”.
But these determined parents weren’t finished yet.
They insisted that no local authority should launch or roll-out any aspect of the scheme on their own timetable. There must be only one launch date, the programmes already being rolled out by authorities such as Perth & Kinross and Forth Valley, must be pushed back. Everyone must stop the roll out until parental agreement has been reached – it can’t be launched before that.
By this time the ‘ideas’ board at the front had so many post-it notes on it, they were falling off! No wonder it will be three months or more before they write all this up for the participants.
Next it was the turn of the GIRFEC Guide, distributed to delegates before the event, to get short shrift. You may recall from a previous NO2NP blog that this is the information pack which stated that the named person would ensure that children have “what they need to have a good life”, including a say in how their bedroom is decorated and what they watch on TV.
Several parents were extremely angry as they pointed out that the illustration for a ‘safe place’ in the guide of a modern, semi-detached two-storey home did not reflect the reality for many. Was the Government saying that those parents who brought up their children on the 14th floor of a tower block were not providing a safe place for their children?
How, they asked, could such a broad statement about what a ‘safe’ place was go out to parents? How will a named person be expected to judge a family as being in a ‘safe’ place? How realistic is it to define ‘safe’ or ‘happy’ or ‘feel good’ anyway. Answer? ‘We’ll go back and look at the imaging being used’. In other words – we’ll do some window dressing rather than sort out the real problem.
And that was the recurring theme. At the end of the day parents were left with the clear impression that when it comes to GIRFEC there are plenty of questions but precious little in the way of answers.
The Arran Suite at the Holiday Inn, East Kilbride, was filled to capacity for the latest NO2NP Roadshow event before the summer break.
Community paediatrician Dr Jenny Cunningham told those gathered that concerns about the scheme were far more than questioning a different health model or budgeting constraints: it is about scrutinising families and undermining parental autonomy, which is the basis for a democratic society, she said.
She went on to explain that the role of the community paediatrician has been redefined by this legislation. While previously 80% of her work was about various disabilities in children, and only 20% about vulnerable children, now 70-80% of her work has to do with assessing vulnerability through the SHANARRI ‘wellbeing’ indicators.
SHANARRI stands for; safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.
She finished by saying that she and many of her colleagues were very concerned about the new obligation to share confidential information.
Next up was Lesley Scott of TYMES Trust, who said she had watched a video on South Lanarkshire Council’s website about young children and the importance of good attachment. Yet nothing was said about parents and children or families.
Lesley went on to explain – and display – the 13 pages of “outcome signifiers” to wellbeing that the University of Edinburgh had drawn up. South Lanarkshire Council had also produced 398 pages of guidance for named persons and Lesley queried whether everyone would interpret it the same way. The guidance estimates that 20-30% of children and young people will require additional input from state agencies.
Lesley expressed her concern that there is no facility for parents or children to disagree with the Named Person’s professional assessment of what is “needed” and parents will have no control over the ever-changing standard of parenting to which they will be held.
There was a very lively and extended Q&A, where several people questioned whether Named Persons knew anything about the real world of parenting, especially when some of them may have no children of their own.
The NO2NP Roadshow will be taking a break for a few weeks over the summer, but do watch out for further events we have planned for later in the year!
In the meantime, a big thank you to everyone who has come to these Roadshows – please continue to tell your friends about the campaign and encourage them to sign the petition.
Parents will be told at a training day today that their children will be monitored by state officials who will “check every child has what they need to have a good life”.
Organisers behind the ‘GetLive GIRFEC Event For Parents’ were accused of bribing parents into supporting the Named Person scheme when it was revealed they were offering £25 vouchers and free travel and refreshments, along with free childcare, to attend the event.
In a leaflet, ‘An Easy Read Guide To… Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC)’, sent to delegates ahead of today’s event, the state benchmark of a “good life” is set out for parents in detail.
GIRFEC is the policy behind the Named Person scheme.
Explaining its SHANARRI “wellbeing” indicators, the booklet tells parents there are “8 things every child needs to have a good life”.
SHANARRI stands for; safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.
The leaflet instructs parents about what they should and should not do in order to fulfil these Government parenting standards. It makes clear that the job of the Named Person – and other officials like social workers and doctors – is to check parents are complying with these standards.
It states: “People who work with your child will check…”
– “Your child gets praise when they do well”
– “Your child does activities they like to do”
– “Your child gets a say in things like how their room is decorated and what to watch on TV”
– “You trust your child to do the right thing”
– “Your child can be part of a group like Scouts, Brownies or a football group if they want to”
The leaflet also says state officials will check which people are around your child, where your child lives and what is going on in your child’s life. They will even “think about what is good about your child’s environment”, and “think about what could be better”.
A spokesman for NO2NP said: “We have warned all along that the Named Person scheme would undermine parents’ responsibility for their own children and allow state officials unprecedented powers to interfere with family life.
“This leaflet confirms that the Named Person is intended to take a highly intrusive role in ordinary family life. It’s effectively an admission that critics of the scheme have been right all along. “
“The list of things the Named Person – and doctors, nurses, teachers social workers – ‘will check’ is outrageous. It is exactly the kind of invasive behaviour we’ve been warning about.
“For example, if a child doesn’t like the colour scheme or wants to watch films containing horrendous violence or sex scenes, the child can complain to the Named Person who then adjudicates on the family’s decisions about décor and who holds the TV remote control. It is absolutely outrageous.
“In the past the Scottish Government and their officials have attempted to dismiss opponents of this scheme for exaggerating its impact.
“Clearly, we were right all along and they have been trying to keep us all in the dark about what they really intend.
“Unless parents wake up quickly to what the Named Person is really about and make their voices heard, many of them will face a level of state monitoring of the minutiae of parenting that is unprecedented in our history.
“This is not about protecting vulnerable children. It is not about helping families who want help. It is about policing parenting according to a state ‘happiness’ index. Families cannot thrive under that kind of ‘big brother’ scrutiny.”
The latest NO2NP Roadshow event was held on a beautiful, sunny evening in Galashiels last night.
Gordon Macdonald, who is CARE for Scotland’s Parliamentary Officer, spoke first. He said that the family is the fundamental unit in society and, as such, deserves respect. This respect for the family is “integral” to key human rights documents, but we have seen a reinterpretation of them in recent years which marginalises parents. The Named Person legislation is a really significant shift away from child welfare to a wellbeing model that is very vague and broad. We are seeing a fundamental shift in the ideology of how the state relates to all children, he explained.
Next up was Lesley Scott of TYMES Trust, who as usual highlighted what the local authority for the area was doing about the scheme. Borders Council has devised a “Cootie Catcher” so that children can learn how to assess their wellbeing. The Council has also created a snakes and ladders type game called “On the trail of the Wellbeing Snail”, where cards are selected when a player lands on a square that determines whether they make progress or go backwards.
The notorious SHANARRI wellbeing indicators of safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included are key to this game and are intended to show children when a “wellbeing outcome” has been achieved. Examples included whether a parent had washed their child’s gym kit the night before and whether a parent had listened to their child if they were upset.
Lesley went on to explain the Wellbeing Wheel, the My World triangle, the Resilience Matrix and Genogram, all part of the Scottish Government’s “toolkit” for assessing, analysing and addressing every child’s perceived “wellbeing” needs.
After Nigel Kenny from The Christian Institute brought everyone up to date about the judicial review appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session last week, there was the usual lively Q&A, when those who had come raised a wide range of concerns about the scheme.
The NO2NP Roadshow will be calling at the Gracefield Arts Centre, Edinburgh Road, Dumfries next Wednesday, 17th June at 7.30pm – we look forward to seeing some of you there!
During last week’s appeal hearing against the Named Person law, the Scottish Government’s QC told the court that if a young girl was in hospital and discovered to be pregnant then the Named Person would definitely be contacted…but didn’t seem to know whether the parents would be informed.
Alistair Clark QC, representing the Scottish Government, was meant to be defending the scheme but instead managed to present a convincing case as to why the Named Person would be damaging for families.
Clark’s comments regarding teenage pregnancy reveal one of the major flaws with the Named Person scheme – it would bypass parents.
As we reported earlier in the week Clark also told judges during the hearing that the scheme was needed because every child in Scotland was deemed to be “potentially vulnerable”.
This greatly undermines ordinary Scottish families and is chilling stuff from the Scottish Government’s QC.
Any Government scheme which puts parents in second place after the state in relation to their own children is flawed from the outset.
Aidan O’Neill QC, representing those bringing the legal challenge, said the Named Person would be “a state functionary who has the power to interfere in the lives of every child in Scotland and in family life…the power to come between the child and their parents”.
He added that the Named Person’s powers to obtain and share confidential data on families without consent or veto constituted further interference.
The judges are currently considering their verdict, which is expected to take several weeks.
The Named Person provisions are contained in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which was passed by the Scottish Parliament last year. The scheme is due to be rolled out across Scotland in 2016. Some areas of Scotland already have a non-statutory Named Person pilot scheme in operation but they do not have the full range of legal powers contained in the Act.
During a BBC Radio Scotland debate last week Lesley Scott of ME children’s charity TYMES Trust, a supporter of NO2NP, warned that the Scottish Government’s plan was about “empowering the Named Person to police the happiness of Scottish children”.
Scott was debating Alex Cole-Hamilton, Head of Policy at children’s charity Aberlour and a proponent of the Named Person scheme. Cole-Hamilton failed to give a single example of how the Named Person scheme had made a positive impact when pressed by BBC presenter Kaye Adams.
Adams asked Cole-Hamilton: “What was happening that made anyone feel that this was necessary? Where was the gap? Where was the lack?”
Referring to the Highlands pilot he responded saying there had been “some really good examples of this drawing the threads together”.
Adams however said drawing the threads together was an “airy fairy expression” and asked for further clarification.
She pressed Cole-Hamilton again, saying: “Give me a positive example of where this has made a child or a family’s life better?
Cole-Hamilton again failed to provide a single example, but instead admitted it was about “prevention”.
He said: “I don’t have specific case examples to give you because this is all about prevention.”
Listen to the full exchange from 7 minutes 10 seconds
TYMES Trust’s Lesley Scott refuted Cole-Hamilton’s claims about the Named Person creating a single point of contact. She said parents already know who they need to go to if there is a problem, they already know who their child’s teacher, GP or health visitor is. These are all people who are already in place, she added.
Scott explained that the Named Person can access and share confidential medical data and school records. She continued: “They can question a child and give them advice, and supply services to them without the parents’ consent, and on the basis of what they think is most likely to make them happy”.
Scott also pointed out that the scheme was not about identifying significant risk or harm but about wellbeing, which is “a lower, broader undefined threshold”.
Scott also questioned how the scheme will work in practice. She raised concerns about the “enormous bureaucratic burden of the Named person” scheme on teachers and health visitors, who would be expected to administer the scheme, professions which she says are already at breaking point.
She said looking for children at risk is like looking for a needle in a haystack but all the Named Person scheme is doing is making the haystack bigger.
Last week’s appeal hearing rehearsed many concerning reasons why the Named Person scheme is not compatible with a free and democratic society, but perhaps the most revealing and worrying comment came from the Scottish Government’s QC.
Pressed by Lord Malcolm on why every child needed to have a Named Person, when not all of them were at risk, Alistair Clark QC, representing the Scottish Government, stated that every child was deemed to be “potentially vulnerable”.
Mr Clark’s words expose the thinking behind these intrusive plans.
A NO2NP spokesman said: “The assumption that all Scottish children are potentially vulnerable is patronising to all ordinary parents trying to do their best to bring up their children.
“The Scottish Government is saying to normal mums and dads that they all need the state to be a co-parent to stop them leaving their child potentially vulnerable.
“This unwarranted intrusion into family life is undermining and unnecessary.”
During the appeal hearing last week Aidan O’Neill QC, representing those bringing the legal challenge against the Named Person, addressed conflict between respect for the family and responsibility for the protection of children from harm.
He said there was no pressing social need requiring interference in the lives of every family and said: “The overwhelming majority of children are not neglected and the Named Person scheme subverts family life and supplants parents.”
He said: “We accept there is a legitimate state interest in the protection of the vulnerable, but this is not just dealing with the vulnerable, it’s dealing with all children.
“Most families do not need the state to get involved. Some parents – a tiny minority – do cause harm to their children but that does not justify appointing a named person to every child.”
Mr O’Neill pointed out that the Named Person scheme had been drawn up to promote children’s ‘wellbeing’ – a concept which, according to the Government, can include everything from mental health to a “wider vision of happiness”. He responded, “That’s what parents do and have done through the ages. It’s not the state’s job.
Mr O’Neill raised the concern that the central assumption behind the scheme is that “the state knows best”.
Yesterday, Aidan O’Neill QC, representing campaigners challenging the Named Person scheme, told Scotland’s highest court that the plan to give every child in Scotland a state guardian was “incompatible with the fundamental rights of a democratic society”.
O’Neill, a leading human rights expert, said the scheme created a situation “worse than a nanny state because the nanny is at least responsible to the family”.
He was speaking at the start of the appeal hearing by opponents of the Named Person legislation, after Lord Pentland rejected their initial bid last year.
During the appeal, in Edinburgh’s Court of Session, Mr O’Neill said the state should support the family in the upbringing of children as the family is the fundamental group unit of the state and entitled to state protection.
He said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was written to counter Nazi and Fascist totalitarian states which placed value on “uniformity and conformity” and to point out that “the child is not the mere creature of the state”.
He told the court the scheme didn’t require families to give consent and offered no chance to opt in or out and said: “The presumption is every child needs a named person. That is wrong. The vast majority of parents bring up their children perfectly well. For the state to assume a responsibility for every child regardless of need or threat of harm is to go beyond what we properly expect from a democratic society that respects families and respects diversity.”
Based on the guidance issued by the Scottish Government he also drew attention to the fact that: “Not only can you not opt out of the scheme you have to positively co-operate with the named person otherwise you could be characterised as ‘hostile’ or ‘non-engaging’ which leads to further state involvement. ”
He said the compulsory nature of the law and the need to collate data on every child would result in “white noise” meaning “those who do need help get lost”.
Mr O’Neill recognised that there are conflicting issues between respect for the family and responsibility for the protection of children from harm. But he said there was no pressing social need requiring interference in the lives of every family and continued: “The overwhelming majority of children are not neglected and the Named Person scheme subverts family life and supplants parents.”
He said the scheme was drawn up to promote ‘wellbeing’ (which can include everything from mental health to a “wider vision of happiness”) among children but said: “That’s what parents do and have done through the ages. It’s not the state’s job.
“We accept there is a legitimate state interest in the protection of the vulnerable, but this is not just dealing with the vulnerable, it’s dealing with all children.
“Most families do not need the state to get involved. Some parents – a tiny minority – do cause harm to their children but that does not justify appointing a named person to every child.”
He said the central assumption behind the scheme is that “the state knows best” whereas families “are the breeding ground of diversity and individuality”.
The legal action is being brought by The Christian Institute, CARE, TYMES Trust and the Family Education Trust, with the support of academics and individual parents, all of which support the NO2NP campaign.
The appeal before Lord Carloway, Lord Malcolm and Lord Bracadale continues today with the Scottish Government’s response.
The Named Person scheme is part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act and is expected to be implemented nationwide in 2016.
The Scottish Government is offering parents a £25 gift voucher, transport costs and free refreshments if they attend an event to find out how the Named Person scheme will work.
Parents will even be offered free childcare during the event.
The Scottish Government has been criticised for trying to buy public approval of the controversial scheme.
Organisers have hired Hampden for the planned event on 20th June.
A NO2NP spokesman commented: “Having lost the argument over their Big Brother plans in the court of public opinion we now find ourselves confronted with a Scottish Government attempting to buy approval for their discredited state guardian scheme.”
He added: “They can dress it up any way they like by calling it an information exercise or an advice session providing guidance for families.
“But the bottom line is that they are now using public funds in an effort to secure approval with this rather cynical attempt to bribe people into supporting the GIRFEC principles which underpin the Named Person proposals.
“Surely the money would be far better spent on funding social workers who are actually working with vulnerable children and needy families.
“No Government should be using taxpayers money in this way to try to buy support for their policies. Especially not one as unpopular and intrusive as the Named Person scheme.”
Graham Grant, Home Affairs Editor for the Scottish Daily Mail has written a stark warning against the Named Person scheme, branding it a “Stalinist blueprint for a happy childhood”.
Commenting on recent remarks by Bob Fraser, the civil servant driving forward the Named Person scheme, he said: “It may have sounded at first like a calm explanation of a sensible policy. But, in reality, what was presented was a chilling manifesto for effectively outsourcing parenting to the state and to its legion of officials”.
He continued: “In essence, government officials have been quietly drawing up guidelines for a happy childhood – a kind of Stalinist, state-endorsed blueprint for a healthy and contented upbringing, which must be adhered to at all costs.
“This idea of compulsory compliance with a set of government-imposed ideals is, of course, a facet of totalitarian states, which rely on the micromanagement and strict regulation of private and family life.
“The ‘enforcers’ are the named persons themselves – mainly health visitors and head teachers – who will log perceived deficiencies in the child, perhaps demanding confidential medical records to back up their concerns”.
Fraser, the Getting it Right for Every Child health adviser in the Scottish Government’s Better Life Chances unit, suggested parents could be judged on how much they show their child ‘love, hope and spirituality’.
Grant commented on this point stating: “By setting arbitrary yardsticks based on ‘love, hope and spirituality’ – which, in any event, may seem more appropriate for a New Age commune – the named persons hope to uncover ‘problems’ that previously did not exist.
“Parents may soon be asked imponderable questions such as: ‘Have you thought about imbuing your child with more hope?’ Or: ‘Did you realise your child was falling short on the “spirituality” index?’
“Hope is a subjective concept and once the state is in charge of its definition, the scope for its abuse becomes clear. Ultimately, why should the state have a clearer idea of what hope and happiness mean than parents, or anyone else?”
Grant also commented on the “scale of intrusion” the Named Person scheme poses warning that it is “far greater than most people realise”.
He writes: “Pivotal to the smooth operation of the system is the free flow of personal information between public bodies. The named person can demand sensitive personal information, for example, from the NHS, if they believe the circumstances demand it.
“In fact, the named person will be assigned to children while they are still in the womb. Yet how many prospective parents are aware of this horrifying detail – an act of antenatal appropriation by state officials?”
Source: The Scottish Daily Mail, 02 June 2015
A senior Roman Catholic Archbishop in Scotland has warned that the Named Person scheme will lead to “unwarranted interference in family life”.
Archbishop Leo Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, said: “The common good of society depends on the stability of family life. We share the widely expressed reservations of many who fear some provisions of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act could permit unwarranted interference in family life due to the broad nature of the powers of the ‘named persons service’’ and the low threshold set for triggering the sharing of information about children among state agencies.
“While recognising the good intentions behind such efforts, we hope the Government will act in a proportionate and focused way, with due respect to the autonomy and privacy of the family.”
Source: Scottish Daily Mail, 1 Jun 2015
Media coverage of the NO2NP petition launch and Action Day
‘Named person’ opponents step up campaign
The Scotsman, 31 May 2015
‘Named person’ opponents campaign
The Courier, 31 May 2015
‘Named person’ opponents campaign
Press and Journal, 31 May 2015
‘Named person’ critics step up campaign
BBC News, 31 May 2015
Fresh campaign to fight ‘state guardian’ scheme
The Sunday Times (£), 31 May 2015
Campaign against ‘named person’ plan steps up ahead of court ruling
STV, 31 May 2015
Protesters gathering names against named persons law in Dundee
The Courier, 30 May 2015
The top civil servant behind the Named Person scheme has suggested parents could be reported to state officials if judged to be showing their child inadequate levels of ‘love, hope and spirituality’.
Bob Fraser, the Getting it Right for Every Child health adviser in the Scottish Government’s Better Life Chances unit, explained his latest thinking at a conference of childcare workers.
He argued it was about all children and not just “the usual suspects” who are already known to social services.
He said: “Every child deserves to have positive well-being. We have had suggestions of different indicators, of love, hope and spirituality. I am not wedded. The Act is there at the moment. But in a few years, if people feel it is right, they should change that.”
A spokesman for NO2NP said: “This is a dark, deeply worrying and insidious development. Apparently the named person will police family life according to some ever-shifting ‘happiness index’. It’s an impossible standard for parents to measure up to.”
Liz Smith MSP, a vocal opponent of the plans, said: “This is exactly the sort of nonsense which critics of the named person scheme feared would happen.
“Parents will be horrified at the suggestion of being targeted because a state guardian doesn’t regard their home as sufficiently spiritual.”
Scottish Daily Express, 01 June 2015
Scottish Daily Mail, 31 May 2015
On Saturday NO2NP officially launched its online petition to oppose the Scottish Government’s Named Person scheme. Volunteers took to the streets of Dundee to help raise awareness of the campaign by giving out leaflets to the public and gathering signatures for the petition.
A team of volunteers were also out in Kirkintilloch, the constituency of the Minister for Children and Young People.
The petition doubled in size over the launch weekend, and now has more than 4,500 signatures. Sign and share the petition here.
The Action Day and petition launch comes ahead of the appeal hearing by campaigners opposing the Named Person scheme, due to be heard in the Court of Session this Wednesday and Thursday.
A spokesman for NO2NP said: “We remain deeply concerned about the threats to the human rights of families to their privacy in their own homes as well as the breaches of data protection laws as the state passes confidential family information to and from different public bodies.
“The state thinks the named person – a health visitor, a teacher or other professional – can fulfil the role better than mums and dads which is ridiculous.
“It’s vitally important that the higher courts consider this issue, because it’s driving a coach and horses through parents’ rights and private family life.”
NO2NP Action Day: Dundee and Kirkintilloch, Saturday 30th May.
Dr Stuart Waiton, a prominent opponent of the Named Person scheme, has voiced his concerns in an article in TES Scotland published on 22 May. With Dr Waiton’s permission, we have reproduced the article in full below.
“A RECENT blog could be a sign of things to come as the Scottish government’s ‘named person’ legislation kicks in.
The posting, written by an irate mother of a 13-year-old in Aberdeen, complains about a nurse- not the usual school nurse- having a ‘little chat’ her daughter.
The questions the girl was asked included, ‘Have you started your menstrual period?’, ‘Do you feel loved and cared for?’ and ‘Do you feel safe and secure in your home?’
The questions continued, probing about the pupil’s relationship with her mother. The child began to feel uncomfortable. When the mother found out, she was ‘absolutely RAGING’.
The interview was part of the named person project, a system whereby every child in Scotland will be given a named guardian to oversee their safety and wellbeing – an initiative that could transform the relationships between schools and parents.
A key problem with the named person set-up is that teachers will now be responsible – and trained to be responsible – for the ‘wellbeing’ of every child.
This may sound fair enough, but the breadth of meaning the term well-being can encompass suggests that the roles of parent and teacher will be confused. So, for example, everything from how respected a child is by their carers to how much responsibility they are given by them could become a matter of concern and intervention.
Given the emphasis placed on being aware of ‘risks’ and the potential anxiety about not flagging up a problem early enough, the likely trend is for more and more children to be investigated and put on a children’s plan.
When defending the named person legislation, first minister Nicola Sturgeon and others argue that this is about protecting the most vulnerable children, but this is disingenuous. This is a universal service that is trying to prevent problems occurring in the future, and doing so by massively increasing the basis upon which teachers’ concerns and suspicions trigger action. Consequently, all sorts of emotional or personal issues that would previously have been seen as aspects of growing up, or as issues for the family, will become a legally enforced matter for the named person – for teachers.
Teaching unions have said little about this subject so far – a surprising state of affairs given the seriousness of this development and the pressures that will be placed on senior staff in particular to take on this new role.
Worryingly, as parents find out about the named person system, it is likely that some will begin to treat teachers with suspicion and fear, nervous about sharing personal information with them or discussing difficulties their children are having at home.”
Dr Stuart Waiton is a senior lecturer in sociology and criminology at Abertay University.
A mother has been warned by medical staff that she could have been referred to a Named Person for giving her son what was deemed a safe dose of cough medicine.
In a letter to The Scotsman she said even though paediatric nurses told her that her son was fine, and the dose was well within limit, she was warned, “never, ever do this again. We would have had to refer you for investigation under the new Named Person laws”.
She wrote to the newspaper to express her concern about the scheme.
She explained: “When I was ill as child my mother halved aspirins and mashed them with honey, and doled out quarter-spoons of adult cough syrup. She took pains with medicine. We all survived.
“Some weeks back, I did the same. At 2am, I’d given my toddler a quarter-measure of adult cough syrup (I’d run out of baby syrup). Immediately, I regretted it, panicked and drove my son to A&E at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose, fearing a paracetamol overdose.
“’He’s fine’, the paediatric nurses told me. ‘The dose was well within limit.’ But, they said, never, ever do this again. ‘We would have had to refer you for investigation under the new Named Person laws,’ they warned me, carefully”.
She said: “The idea I might now ‘face investigation’ or scrutiny over a safe dose of cough syrup? It horrifies me. Parents must be made aware of what the Named Person policy means. It means state surveillance of us as parents.
“Parents, not the state, are best placed to bring up their children”, she concluded.
Letter to The Scotsman submitted by: C Sharwood-Smith, Kirk Yetholm
The campaign saw strong support in Elgin last night as concerned parents and individuals, with some traveling quite a distance, turned out for the latest NO2NP Roadshow.
Nigel Kenny of The Christian Institute explained that the campaign was made up of a broad coalition of organisations and individuals from academia, charities, education, medicine, politics and social work. He said all those involved have a shared concern for the importance and autonomy of the family in raising the next generation.
Videos were shown, the first explaining the background to the campaign, and the second from First Minister’s Questions last week, when NO2NP supporter Liz Smith MSP challenged Nicola Sturgeon over Clan (Community Law Advice Network) Childlaw’s concerns about data sharing.
Lesley Scott from Tymes Trust then spoke about the blueprint for every child’s life that has been planned under the GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) model, including the Wellbeing Wheel, the My World Triangle and the Resilience Matrix. She pointed out that Edinburgh University had identified no fewer than 304 outcomes that could arise from the SHANARRI “wellbeing” indicators.
Nigel finished off the talks with an update on the judicial review appeal (due to be heard in Edinburgh on 3rd and 4th June) and some tips on how people can get involved with the campaign.
There was a lively and extended Q&A at the end, where people expressed their deep concerns about the negative impact that the scheme will have on families, schools and society at large.
The NO2NP Roadshow will be stopping off at Falkirk next on Wednesday 27th May, when we’ll be at the Best Western Park Hotel in Camelon Road at 7.30pm. Hope to see you there if you live in and around the area!
The latest NO2NP Roadshow event was held in the Aberdeen Arts Centre on Monday (11th May), where one local woman’s run in with an emanation of the Named Person scheme at her daughter’s school was raised during Q&A as a matter of concern. Even more concern was expressed when it was revealed that a GP would be obliged to share confidential patient details about, for example, a mother’s struggle with depression with her child’s Named Person.
After a video was shown about the judicial review in the Court of Session, Abertay University sociology lecturer Dr Stuart Waiton spoke about the disjuncture between the people and the powerful and how, over the past century, children were no longer being seen in the context of their families and government was increasingly seeing its role as one of “risk management”.
Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust then made reference to the quote in a recent newspaper article by Acting Minister for Children and Young People that the Named Person legislation “is about making sure that we are doing everything in our power to protect vulnerable children.” Lesley then pointed out that the word ‘vulnerable’ does not appear anywhere in the legislation or in the draft statutory guidance. Instead, she said “this legislation is about measuring the wellbeing of each and every child.”
Some practical points on how people can be involved in helping the NO2NP campaign were then shared by Nigel Kenny of The Christian Institute, before a lively Q&A, always one of the high points of these Roadshows.
Our next event is in Elgin this coming Monday (18th May) at the Laighmoray Hotel, Maisondieu Road, Elgin, IV30 1QR at 7.30pm – please do come along and find out more about the campaign.
On 23rd April the NO2NP Roadshow hosted a well-attended meeting in Portobello on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Dr Stuart Waiton chaired the event and spoke of the decline in the view of the family as an intrinsically good institution, instead it is now seen as the source of most children’s problems.
The first speaker was social work consultant Maggie Mellon, who said that it was “absurd” to assume that every child in a family “is potentially at risk and that information must be shared equally about all of them just in case”.
Then Lesley Scott of Tymes Trust, representing families of young ME sufferers, spoke about the shift in the Named Person legislation to focus on wellbeing meaning that “the threshold for intervention in a child’s life has been drastically lowered from ‘at risk of significant harm’ to that of a worry over something as intangible as wellbeing. This means that significant decisions are open to personal interpretation and bias on the part of the named person.”
Finally, Nigel Kenny of The Christian Institute gave some practical points, as well as an update on the judicial review appeal, which has now been fast-tracked to be heard by the Inner House on 3rd and 4th June.
Thanks to everyone who joined us in Glasgow for the NO2NP Roadshow. Representatives from the campaign shared about the many concerns surrounding the Named Person scheme.
Dr Stuart Waiton, a Sociology lecturer at Abertay University, expressed his unease about society’s increasing obsession with child safety and warned that “the autonomous family doesn’t exist any more”.
Lesley Scott of TYMES (The Young ME Suffers) Trust talked about how the Named Person scheme had its origins in the Scottish Government’s GIRFEC (Getting It Right For Every Child) principle. She also explained about the Government’s “Wellbeing Wheel” and “SHANARRI” indicators and revealed that in the Highland pilot nearly 8000 children (1 in 5) were put on a “child’s plan”.
Quoting Jane Colby, Executive Director of TYMES Trust, Lesley said “families appear to be facing an arbitrary, punitive, threatening and destructive state juggernaut” in this legislation. She concluded by warning: “This is state-mandated parenting, which obligates a state employee to carry out statutory duties, which are primarily the responsibility of parents”.
Anne Cannon, a mother of five, said she first heard about the issue through a radio phone-in and presented her two major concerns as a parent. Firstly she warned about the negative impact she believes it will have upon the relationship between parents or carers with health visitors and teachers, and secondly she said she fears that children who do actually need help may be missed.
Michael Veitch of The Christian Institute, one of the groups backing the NO2NP campaign, shared practical pointers on how people can help oppose the Named Person scheme. He also announced a new NO2NP petition which can be accessed at no2np.org. Speaking about the Scottish government’s draft guidance on the scheme, he said that it “completely fails to make reference to fathers”.
Graham Grant: “Children will be subject to Orwellian official audits of their happiness and well-being”Posted 6 years ago
The following is an extract from an article by Graham Grant published in the Scottish Daily Mail on 26 February 2015 under the heading:‘Is anything more chilling than the state laying claim to children before they are born?’
“As the upcoming inquiry into institutional child abuse in Scotland makes all too clear, the state is frequently the poorest of parents. Social workers perform a vital role – often struggling under enormous workloads – in rescuing children from neglectful carers. But too often they have failed – and when they do, the results are catastrophic: inquiries are held, vast reports drawn up and promises made of lessons learned.
“Against this background, it is scarcely believable that the state is about to embark on a scheme that will see its role as ‘corporate parent’ dramatically increased, through the so-called ‘named person’ scheme.
“The argument appears to be that, despite the state’s many failures as a ‘parent’ to children in care, yet more representatives of that failing state should be foisted on families, whether or not they are in need of assistance. The implication is that parents must simply trust these officials will act along-side them – and not attempt to take over from them.
“Children will be subject to Orwellian official audits of their happiness and well-being, and if deficiencies are found, ‘child plans’ will be drawn up – state-endorsed blueprints for their ongoing development, overseen by the named person.
“[T]he clear presumption is that there is a set of objective parenting truths which the state must enforce – and if these are not respected by the parents, official intervention is required. Of course, as much as any parent might want it to exist, there is no Holy Grail – parenting is an inexact business, based on instinct, trial and error, hoping for the best and working hard to attain it. It is driven by love and compassion – and often much anxiety. But parents are also being made to feel their judgment is eternally under question – and that it is always secondary to that of the state.
“According to the Scottish Government: ‘If concerns about a pupil are raised with their named person, they will respect the young person’s wishes for confidentiality if possible, while encouraging them to seek whatever support is appropriate, including from their families.’ This is the point at which the true nature of this scheme – as ambitious as it is chilling – is fully revealed. There is an appalling contempt for mothers and fathers at the heart of the SNP’s Kafka-esque strategy – but there is a greater injustice.
“The universality of the scheme – the fact it applies to all children from all backgrounds, regardless of whether any outside support is needed – means there is a far greater chance of those who genuinely need help losing out. And that would be simply unforgivable.”
The Scottish Daily Mail (26 February) has published a scathing editorial on the Named Person following revelations that the word ‘father’ is totally absent from the Scottish Government’s draft guidance accompanying the scheme.
The paper writes: “The trouble is that no matter the high-minded principles underpinning the idea, there comes a point where detailed plans must be drawn up – and it is there that the politically correct, with all their agendas, take over. So it is that the 110-page document setting out details of how the controversial proposal will work fails to mention the word ‘fathers’ once.
“So no matter what the SNP sets out to achieve, its plans have become anti-family and genuinely risk the nanny state being able to force its way into family homes where no intervention is necessary.
“That risks precious resources being targeted at totally the wrong people, leaving those most in need of protection the least likely to receive it. That would kick away the main plank of the SNP’s argument for the scheme and – tragically – defeat its main purpose: saving the vulnerable.”
Commenting on the story, NO2NP said: “The guidance mentions mothers only once. Fathers have been left out altogether. The state is airbrushing dads out of the picture. How can we encourage more young dads to take their responsibilities seriously when the Government doesn’t even acknowledge their existence?
“Most kids think mum and dad are the most important people in their lives. But our politicians seem to think they are irrelevant. We’d all be better off if politicians stuck to politics and left parenting to parents.
“In the not too distant future children might grow up asking these questions to their all-powerful named person: ‘What was a mum? What was a dad?’.”
The Scottish Government has been accused of living in “cloud cuckoo land” after publishing a bizarre series of graphics in an attempt to show how the Named Person scheme will work.
Official guidance on the scheme includes oddly-named diagrams such as the ‘Wellbeing Wheel’, the ‘My World Triangle’ and the ‘Resilience Matrix’, designed to be used by state officials to assess children up to the age of 18.
The diagrams form part of a so-called ‘National Practice Model’, which is supposed to help teachers and health workers understand how to implement the scheme, but critics say it is littered with jargon.
A NO2NP spokesman said: “Most ordinary mums and dads will only need to take the briefest of glances at these diagrams to realise that the people behind this scheme are living in cloud cuckoo land and remote from the reality of what is actually involved in looking after, bringing up and nurturing children. It confirms our fears that we are not far from being dictated to by a government not too distant from the type portrayed by George Orwell in the nightmare vision of his ‘Big Brother’ world.”
Central to the scheme is the ‘Wellbeing Wheel’ which is to be used to examine eight key aspects of every child’s life known as the “SHANARRI” indicators – Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, Included.
Changes to ‘improve’ the child or young person’s wellbeing are then decided based on the results of the wheel. Once the data has been recorded then officials can bring other diagrams and graphics into play.
The My World Triangle is a graphic containing a series of clouds filled with key phrases and words designed to help gather further information about the needs of the child.
This may include information about health or learning, offending behaviour or information about issues affecting parenting.
The next diagram contains the peculiar Resilience Matrix graphic which is used to collect even more data about a young person and is supposed to help practitioners organise and analyse information. But in its own guidelines, the Scottish Government admits problems with the Resilience Matrix and states “its use within the National Practice Model has been the most difficult to understand”.
The NO2NP spokesman said: “The official guidance on the scheme runs to 109 pages and fully illustrates the extent of interference the state will have on family life. We have had experts examine the fine detail and remain confused and bemused as to how it will work in practice. Imagine how a hard-working health worker or teacher with massive conflicting demands on their time is going to struggle to cope with such crucially important matters impacting on children and their parents.”
Judge Lord Pentland, who presided over the Judicial Review, today rejected the deep-rooted concerns raised by various groups opposed to the Named Person scheme.
In a written judgment, following a four-day hearing at the Court of Session last year, he dismissed claims that the Named Person proposal breaches human rights and data protection law.
NO2NP will continue to fight against the Government’s controversial plans. All options for appeal will be considered.
“Our case is strong, as is our resolve”, said a NO2NP spokesman.
“We have the opinion of one judge on this matter but it is often the case that when such important and fundamental issues are being considered the matter goes before a bench of three or more.
“We were well aware when we embarked on this campaign that it could be a long and tortuous process involving more than one court case. We are prepared for that and are in this for the long haul.”
He added: “the judge places enormous trust in public bodies and in Government training and guidance to resolve the serious problems we are concerned with. While respecting his view, we don’t share that confidence.
“The legislation has not yet been implemented and there is no formal guidance on how it will be implemented. The judge says the impact of the Named Person provisions will very much rest on the guidance and so we will be scrutinising it in the most forensic detail when it is finally revealed.
“In effect, we are being asked to wait and see what happens in practice. That means when things do go wrong for families we will take up their individual cases to the courts and ask our judges to pick up the pieces.”
He stated: “The issue is not going away. The potential problems are not going away and No To Named Persons will not be going away.”
We will carry on our information campaign, taking our case to public meetings the length and breadth of the country against this law, which threatens every family in the land and diminishes the rights and responsibilities of mums and dads to look after their children as they see fit.
The much anticipated legal challenge against the Scottish Government’s controversial Named Person provisions got underway this week in Edinburgh’s Court of Session. Aidan O’Neill QC is representing the campaigners opposing the scheme and warns that plans for a Named Person for every child in Scotland is a “dangerous route to go down”.
See the latest news roundup on the court case:
Lawyer slams SNP’s state guardian project
Scottish Daily Express
Legal challenge to child guardian plan begins
Legal challenge to ‘named person’ bill starts
The Herald (£)
Named person legal challenge starts
Named guardian legal bid to start
Named persons legal bid to start
Press and Journal
Named persons legal bid to start
Challenge to child guardians law begins
The Times (£)
Named person legal challenge starts
Glasgow Evening Times
Following the successful launch of the NO2NP campaign at a packed meeting in Edinburgh in June, we are delighted to announce a series of regional road show events over the coming weeks. The dates are:
GLASGOW – Thursday 21 August
DUNDEE – Wednesday 27 August
STIRLING – Friday 29 August
INVERNESS – Wednesday 1 October
Events will feature contributions from a range of experts such as Dr Stuart Waiton (Abertay University), Maggie Mellon (social work consultant/writer), Liz Smith MSP and Dr Jenny Cunningham (Community paediatrician). All events will include a time of discussion where attendees can put their questions to the speakers.
Entry is free and the events are open to all. Please come along to one or more of the dates and spread the word.
Full details of times and venues are available here.
The Named Person plans could be “corrosive” to relationships between parents and children, warns sociologist and columnist Tiffany Jenkins.
Writing in The Scotsman, she said: “It is a scheme that communicates to children that their mums and dads are not to be trusted, that a different adult – one with a professional qualification – is better equipped to look out for them than their own family members.
“This greatly undermines the role and place of the parents in a child’s life. What could be more corrosive to relations than that?”
Jenkins believes: “Child protection has gone too far and is changing all our lives for the worse”.
“When it comes to children, we no longer weigh up the likelihood of a negative outcome and act accordingly, we organise every aspect of our lives around the expectation that the worst will happen. Our nightmares dictate how we live”, she asserted.
She commented that children are “innocent, ignorant, and vulnerable, though not as much as child protection zealots would have us think: children can be strong, robust and agents of their own lives in a small but important way”.
“Children need to be able to spread their wings and have the space to try life out”, she added. “And they need adults – and especially their parents – to hold the authority to take care of them, check they are doing okay, and guide them as they grow.
“At the moment, too many laws, policies and child protection agencies stand in the way of this. It is time for the child protection industry to butt out of our lives.”
The legal challenge to stop the Scottish Government appointing a ‘state guardian’ for every child in the country up to the age of 18 was launched today.
Legal papers formally challenging Holyrood’s controversial Named Person plans were lodged at Edinburgh’s Court of Session this morning.
There was widespread interest as national news networks such as the BBC, STV, The Scotsman and The Herald, plus a host of other local networks, gathered outside the court to watch the crowd of concerned parents and other groups hand in the documents.
NO2NP is backing the legal action which asserts that the Scottish Government is acting illegally and exceeding its powers by setting up the Named Person scheme.
The campaign has a wide range of supporters, including academics, medical experts, social services professionals and many concerned parents.
Critics of the scheme, which is contained within the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, say it contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, which is one of the petitioners in the case, said: “This marks the beginning of a landmark case which has implications for every family in Scotland. We are making a stand for all mums and dads who are doing their best for the children they love.
“We are not prepared to stand by and watch as the roles of parents and their rights to a family life are diminished and trampled over by an authoritarian big brother government intent on making its presence felt in every living room in the land.”
NO2NP will be staging a series of public meetings across Scotland as support for the campaign spreads. Events will take place in Glasgow, Dundee, Stirling and Inverness, with more expected.
The court case is being funded by more than 70 different sources. The court papers were lodged by The Christian Institute, the Christian charity CARE (Christian Action Research and Education), The Young ME Sufferers (Tymes) Trust, and the Family Education Trust.
By Paula Murray
THE Scottish Government has earmarked £40million to hire an extra 500 health visitors over the next four years. They will be there, according to ministers, to offer support and advice to families with young children.
It all sounds rather sweet. But when you consider this is all to do with the scheme to appoint “state guardians” to the country’s youngsters, the development begins to appear a little sinister.
Of course, there are people who are simply no good at bringing up their children, and it is for this reason that these measures are being taken.
But the vast majority of parents are responsible mothers and fathers who want nothing but the best for their children. The idea that the state should appoint an additional pair of eyes to monitor a child’s wellbeing has echoes of China, the Soviet Union and East Germany where everybody snooped on everyone else to ensure the communist values imposed on the nation were duly appreciated and followed.
Although I am childless, I feel uneasy about the idea that an outsider – whether a teacher, health visitor or someone else – is appointed as a child’s “extra parent”.
What if there is a fall-out between the state guardian and the child’s family? What if there is a disagreement as to what is best for the youngster? Who gets the final word? The state?
Would it not be the easiest thing for the appointed individual to make the parents’ lives hell should they so choose to do so?
Social workers and health professionals are equipped – or at least they should be – to deal with any problem cases and step in if necessary.
I don’t for a moment believe that these Big Brother plans will actually benefit anyone. If anything, they will end up interfering with the rights of both parents and children.
There is no way to opt out from the “named person” scheme, or to ask for somebody else to be appointed for your child – they will simply be there every step of the way until the child reaches the age of 18.
So in other words, a teenager can get married, leave school, get a job and start paying taxes, drive a car, join the armed forces or even have children their own, and their state guardian will still be peering over their shoulder.
I simply cannot fathom what good it will do. It is legalised spying on family life and I don’t like the sound of it. Various charities and organisations agree echoes the with me.
Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) believes the state guardians will “undermine parental freedom and responsibility”.
The Law Society in Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates have warned the measures could breach European Human Rights law on privacy and family life.
But despite these concerns our ministers have ploughed ahead with the plans, with Holyrood approving the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill back in February.
Liz Smith of the Scottish Conservatives says the legislation effectively removes the parents’ primary obligation of looking after their children and gives it to the state. She is right.
And here is the big question – if the state snooping starts at birth, where does it end? Because it is not going to be on your 18th birthday.
‘It has echoes of China, the Soviet Union and East Germany’
Sunday 22 June 2014
500 new health visitors will be recruited to deliver the Scottish Government’s controversial ‘Named Person’ plans, Health Secretary Alex Neil has announced.
The recruitment will be implemented over the next four years costing the taxpayer more than £40 million.
“The creation of jobs is usually to be welcomed but this is nothing more than an investment in state-sponsored social engineering” said a NO2NP spokesman.
The Named Person plans were passed earlier this year and it is expected that head teachers and health visitors will take on the role of the new state-appointed guardians when the scheme is implemented in 2016.
The NO2NP spokesman said: “The Royal College of Nursing warned earlier this year they needed at least 450 more health visitors to come close to making this scheme work for those children under five years old.
“But this law requires every child under 18 in the country – and there are more than 1 million – to have an individual named person.
“How many extra teachers are they going to have to provide as state guardians to act as government snoopers for children of school age and at what cost to the public purse?”
A Judicial Review will be launched shortly to fight the plans, alleging that MSPs exceeded their powers by setting up the scheme because it breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Named Person plans have been widely criticised by politicians, parents, academics, journalists, faith groups and those working in education. Here is a media round up showing the strong opposition to this proposal.
Scottish children don’t need these government spies
Guardian angels … or Big Brother?
Warning over spiralling cost of state guardian scheme
Scottish Daily Express
State spies already snoop on thousands of families
Scottish Sunday Express
Guardian bill set to face legal hurdles
The Press and Journal
Fresh opposition to child guardians plan
Conservatives warn over child state guardian plans
‘Named person’ is not needed
‘Named person’ plan faces legal challenge – Tories
Euan McColm: Stop meddling with parents’ children
Scottish ministers threatened with legal action over ‘state guardian’ plans
The Daily Telegraph
SNP bill to spy on parents is criticised by families
Scottish Daily Express
Challenge to child protection bill
The Press and Journal
Parties launch final bid to stop SNP imposing a snooper on every family
Scottish Daily Mail
MSPs have approved the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act.
They believe it will make children safer.
But the legislation means that EVERY child in Scotland – more than ONE MILLION – will each have a named professional appointed as a ‘guardian’ by the state – without the approval of their parents.
This person will oversee their interests and can intervene without the knowledge or consent of their parents. But many oppose the plan and the growing campaign against state guardians includes:
*parents concerned about their rights and privacy
*Christians who fear that their faith and beliefs will act as a trigger for state intervention
*MSPs and academics who believe that the safety of at risk children will be jeapordised by stretching resources so far.
The blanket nature of this law degrades the integrity of the family and diminishes the work of the vast majority of parents. It encourages suspicion among professionals about the dangers parents represent to their children.
Until now, families could be investigated if a child was at ‘significant risk of harm’.
Now that has changed – the definition for intervention has been dramatically lowered from ‘welfare’ to ‘wellbeing’.
It now embraces concerns about happiness, mental health, quality of life, economic status, health, educational achievement, levels of respect for the child and others.
These catch-all terms pose potential dangers allowing many more children facing minor difficulties to come on to the radar of state guardians – like health workers, nursery workers and teachers.
This threatens family life and the right of families to privacy by allowing the state unbridled access to every living room in the land.
The law also poses a threat to relationships between parents and professionals, and leads to unnecessary and destructive interventions.
And the few children at genuine risk of harm?
They may find themselves ignored along the way.
This legislation undermines parents and parental authority. It implies parents are a potential threat to their children. Further, there are major concerns about the ability of state guardians being allowed access to data from many sources, without the consent of parents.
The vast majority of parents want nothing more than what is best for their children.
They are the best defenders of their own children and do not need state appointed guardians or monitors.
They want nothing to do with the new system.
That’s why so many are saying “NO2NP”.