Scottish Government ‘absolutely committed’ to named person scheme

The Scottish Government has begun talks with public bodies and charities as it seeks to amend legislation surrounding its controversial named person scheme.

Ministers are pressing ahead with the policy designed to act as a safety net for families and children, despite a setback this week in the form of a Supreme Court ruling.

Judges at the UK’s highest court found that the legislation as it presently stands risks breaching European human rights laws.

The Deputy First Minister said work has begun on the necessary amendments so that it can be rolled out across Scotland “at the earliest possible date”.

John Swinney (pictured) said: “I have already spoken directly with senior figures from the public and third sectors including NHS, local authorities and Police Scotland to discuss our next steps.

“We will continue these discussions, including with professional bodies, to use the expertise of those working directly with children and families as we move forward with our plans.

“Through our widely-supported approach to early intervention and getting it right for every child, developed over the last decade, and through the named person service specifically, we aim to place the needs of children at the heart of public services.

“As I have made clear, the Government remains absolutely committed to the named person service so we can get it right for every child and ensure families get the right support when they need it.”

The named person scheme aims to appoint a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, to look out for the welfare of children under 18.

Opponents argue the policy breaches the human rights of parents and welcomed Thursday’s legal ruling that the proposed information-sharing provisions may result in disproportionate interference with the right to a family and private life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Swinney has since held discussions with bodies including the Care Inspectorate, Information Commissioner’s Office and the National Parent Forum Scotland.

He said: “Our aim has always been for the named person to provide timely support for children and families. We have always said that as part of that role, we expect that any sharing of personal information should be proportionate and relevant.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling makes clear that while the principle of providing a named person for each child does not breach human rights, we need to do further work to ensure those performing the role have greater clarity about sharing information, as required by the Court.”

Scottish Labour said the Government had made an “absolute mess” of the named person scheme.

Education spokesman Iain Gray said: “John Swinney can’t pretend there’s no real problem here. Fixing this will take more than just amending the legislation.

“He must completely re-examine the guidance and regulations. The SNP Government must also provide the resources necessary to make the named person scheme work and regain the trust of parents.

“Labour will always support the need to protect vulnerable children and ensure that families get the support they need and deserve. In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, however, the implementation of this scheme must be paused for as long as it takes to fix it properly.”

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “The Supreme Court has blown the named persons scheme out of the water and it’s time that the SNP realised that it’s time to stop pursuing it.

“Instead of arrogantly trying to push ahead, they should listen to the many voices who are saying that this policy is unworkable and unnecessary.

“Nicola Sturgeon needs to accept that she got this one wrong, and that it’s time to put the best interests of families in Scotland before her own narrow-minded political agenda.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.