Swinney defends Named Person scheme in wake of Supreme Court ruling

Stuart Rodger

Children’s charities and Scottish Greens back Scottish Government’s defence of Named Person scheme

THE SNP and the Scottish Greens have defended the Named Person scheme in the wake of a ruling by the Supreme Court which will delay its roll out.

The ruling from the Supreme Court branded some parts of the scheme inconsistent with UK and EU law with regard to data and human rights, meaning it now cannot fully come into force on 31 August as originally intended.

The Scottish Government, however, claimed that the nature of the ruling – published on the Supreme Court’s website – had been misunderstood because, while the Supreme Court had ruled that particular provisions must be removed or changed before the legislation can come into force, it didn’t rule against the scheme in principle.

“The Named Person will also coordinate action when signs emerge that a child or family might be in particular difficulty.”Aberlour, children’s charity

The ruling found that the Named Person could violate Article 8 in the European Convention of Human Rights, which deals with the right to a private family life. However, it dismissed criticisms that the Named Person could violate UK data protection laws.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, seeking to defend the scheme, said: “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.”

Swinney added: “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 Scottish Government will now have 42 days in which to rectify the regulations.

The scheme, which was set to come into force at the end of August, would have appointed public figures – usually a teacher or health visitor – to safeguard the wellbeing of every child in Scotland. The appointed figure would be legally required to flag up concerns to the child’s parents or other authorities, such as the police or a social work department. The provisions were enacted in the Children and Young People Act (2014)

Critics, however, such as those from the No 2 Named Person (No2NP) campaign, said it gave authorities “unlimited access to pry into the privacy of families in their homes”, and argued that it would add to the burden of over-worked social workers and teachers, saying it could direct resources away from where they are needed. The No2NP campaign is a coalition of libertarian and Christian groups concerned about the legislation.

Citing the ruling, Scottish Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said: “The SNP Government’s handling of the Named Person legislation has been a shambles from the very beginning, and this ruling confirms that. 

“Simply pressing on after minor amendments to the legislation will not be good enough.”

In an anticipation of the ruling today, a coalition of children’s charities including Barnardo’s and Children 1st issued a statement defending the legislation: “The introduction of the Named Person was a direct policy response to requests from parents for a simplified approach to accessing support when they need it. It represents a single point of contact for any family looking for help or access to public services. The Named Person will also coordinate action when signs emerge that a child or family might be in particular difficulty.”

Scottish Green Party spokesperson on education, Ross Greer, said the party would continue to support the Scottish Government: “Greens continue to support the Named Person scheme and it is positive that the UK Supreme Court has ruled this essential child protection scheme ‘unquestionably legitimate’.”

Picture courtesy of: Flickr / Scottish Government

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.