Named Person Code Of Practice Should be Revisited

Scottish Parliament

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A scrutinising committee of the Scottish Parliament has recommended that the guidance for those implementing the Named Person scheme should be put to a final vote by all MSPs.

Graham Simpson MSP convener of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee said that the Code of Practice had ‘a central role in the operation of the sharing of information about children and young people’.

He continued:

“…it places obligations upon professional people such as social workers, teachers and health care employees.”

“Given its significance we welcome the opportunity provided in the Bill to comment on the draft code, but we recommend that the Government revisits its approach to the Code of Practice.”

“Specifically, we want it to consider including the Code in subordinate legislation and, more importantly, giving the Parliament a vote on the final version.”

A judgement by the United Kingdom Supreme Court said “that the information sharing provisions of Part 4 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”) in relation to ‘named persons’ are incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under Article 8 of the ECHR (right to respect for private and family life). This was on the specific ground that those provisions are not “in accordance with the law”, as Article 8 requires, and 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 Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (SCOTLAND) Bill  is a response to the judgement to address the legality of sharing information as part of the Named Person scheme. The Delegated Reforms and Law Reform Committee having examined the bill and listened to evidence from the Deputy First Minister, John Swinney,  takes the view  that “the Code could be considered to be more than simply an explanatory document”.

They have also recommended that The Education and Skills Committee of the Scottish Parliament which will also be considering the Bill examines the issue of consent with regards to the sharing of information.

John Swinney stated to the committee that there would be public consultation on the Code of Practice but that it would not be going forward as  a piece of subordinate legislation (i.e. to a vote in the Scottish Parliament).

John Swinney said that ‘‘The Code of Practice will be obligatory and binding on any individual who exercises the responsibilities’.

The committee felt that due to that statement and various other obligations placed on those using the Named Person Scheme that the Code of Practice did need to be put forward as subordinate legislation.

Versions of the Named Persons Scheme have been in use in some local authorities in Scotland with relative success for some time but the initial legislation put forward by the Scottish Government to roll it out across  Scotland met with considerable resistance from many organisations and individuals. The Judgement by the United Kingdom Supreme Court has resulted in  the Bill being introduced and further consultations taking place.

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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