Those who think named person legislation is dead should think again says Lesley Scott
Following the Scottish Government’s introduction of the revised named person legislation in the guise of the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill on Monday 19th June there were claims that the named person policy was now “dead in the water”.
Such celebrations may be premature. The day after the new named person bill was presented to Parliament, the report on the Serious Case Review into the murder of Fife toddler Liam Fee in 2014 was published. John Swinney, Deputy First Minister and Minister for Education stated that policy interventions “such as the named person provisions which are about assuring child wellbeing and child support…will lie at the heart of the response the government takes to this report.”
The Serious Case Review on the murder of Liam Fee said of the named person that it “may have contributed to confusion as to who was co-ordinating care for the family.”
Mark MacDonald, Minister for Early Years and Childcare, insists that the new legislation addresses the concerns of parents and the ruling from the UK Supreme Court by introducing a duty on “those professionals who are engaging with the named person … to actively consider whether there is a need to share information in relation to the wellbeing of the child and the information will then be shared.”
This is exactly the same duty that the previous unlawful legislation placed upon practitioners when it required information to be shared with named persons “which affects or may affect the wellbeing of the child or young person.”
The reality we now face is even more confused, chaotic and nonsensical than before the UK Supreme Court ruling. Under this new named person bill information on children and their families will still be gathered, stored and assessed. It fails again to offer any clear legal definition of ‘wellbeing’ but expects practitioners to share information on that lower, undefined, unlawful threshold, but within a legislative context of the higher threshold of ‘welfare’.
The reality we now face is even more confused, chaotic and nonsensical than before
It makes the provision of a named person for every child obligatory but tells parents they do not have to engage with the named person or accept help and advice. Yet, as families can attest to up and down the country, it is often the exercising of their right not to engage or accept help and advice that galvanises child protection services in the first place.
The Getting it Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) and the Named Person approach remain a clear and present danger for families across Scotland. The reality is that even with the ruling from the UK Supreme Court that deemed the legislation unlawful, practice on the ground, and therefore the experience of families, has not really changed.
GIRFEC and the Named Person have created a culture where any potential risk in a child’s life is viewed only within the context of parents and family, while intervention by the state can only ever be a good thing.
The tweaking did not work Mr Swinney – this remains an authoritarian assault on families that must be opposed.
Lesley Scott represents the Tymes Trust - a charity providing support services for families with children suffering from ME