Lesley Scott argues that named person should not just be paused - it must be scrapped entirely
John Swinney, deputy first minister, is apparently ready to push the pause button on the highly controversial named person legislation.
Mr Swinney wrote to MSPs on the education committee, that “it would not be prudent or responsible for government to commence legislation while a decision from the [UK Supreme] court is still pending.”
He says that parts 4 & 5 of the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 “will not be implemented until a definitive judgement is received.”
However, even without a statutory footing, this move by the state to usurp parents is already impacting the lives of families.
Named person operates in a moral vacuum divesting families of their autonomy and plundering rights and freedomsLesley Scott, Tymes Trust
One parent recounts how they called the GP surgery for test results on their son but were informed that as he is over 12 years he must call himself.
They were told that while they did not have a right to this information, the named person did. Another parent reported how, after their 15 year old son cancelled a dental appointment due to illness, they were warned that the boy’s named person would be informed if the rescheduled appointment was missed and were asked if they had any issues that “might need resolved”.
Worryingly therefore, a ‘pause’ may not have any real impact on the non-statutory named persons scheme already implemented across Scotland which is operating in a moral vacuum divesting all families of their autonomy and plundering the rights and freedoms of law-abiding Scottish citizens.
Supporters continually insist that the act simply “formalises” what is already happening through the GIRFEC (getting it right for every child) approach.
GIRFEC “threads through all existing policy, practice, strategy and legislation affecting children, young people and families” including adult services. In practical terms therefore, how can it be ‘paused’?
For example, Parts 4 & 5 of the act that John Swinney refers to include functions around information sharing.
During a ‘pause’ would the threshold on the sharing of information remain at the new lower level of ‘wellbeing’ introduced through the act, or will it be raised back up to that of ‘risk of significant harm’? And what of all the information on families that has already been gathered through the new lower threshold – does it get deleted or ‘paused’ as well?
A recent freedom of information response from one of the oft cited trial areas for named person included guidance to practitioners on issues of consent and information sharing.
It advises that children 12 years and over “are presumed to have a sufficient level of understanding of the nature of consent and its consequences.”
Indeed even younger children may make decisions around consent “if deemed to have capacity on their level of understanding and levels of maturity.”
But the young persons’ guide to information sharing from the same FOI response shows that any implied right of consent is illusory.
It states that “Where there is a concern about your wellbeing including your safety, people do not have to seek your consent before sharing information.”
If a young person refuses consent then practitioners “will ask your parent or your named person”. Refusal of consent to share information comes with the added ‘advice’ that this could result in an indefinite delay in accessing support services.
Forget the pause button; John Swinney needs to push stop and rewind.
Lesley Scott is Young ME Sufferers (Tymes) Trust Scottish officer.