News In Focus
Revised named person scheme brought to the Parliament
Scotland's named person scheme for children is to go ahead, but with restrictions to meet the legal difficulties that halted the original scheme last year, Education Secretary John Swinney has confirmed.
Mr Swinney put before the Holyrood Parliament the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill, which is designed to remove the elements of the scheme judged by the UK Supreme Court to conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights. The court held that the provisions for sharing information between public authorities might result in a disporportionate interference with the rigfhts of children and their parents under article 8 of the Convention, through the sharing of private information.
The bill would amend the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which contained the initial scheme, to provide that public bodies and other organisations must consider whether sharing information they acquire would be "in compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998, any directly applicable EU instrument relating to data protection, any other enactment and any rule of law". Ministers had previously wanted information to be shared across agencies without parents' knowledge.
Ministers must also issue a code of practice in relation to provision of information, which "must in particular provide for safeguards applicable to the provision of information".
The Government has also clarified that accepting advice from a named person is voluntary, and a refusal by parents to accept advice will not in itself be taken as evidence that a child is at risk.
Mr Swinney commented: “The new provisions require named person service providers and other responsible authorities to consider whether sharing information is likely to promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing of the child or young person. They must also then consider whether sharing that information would be compatible with data protection law, human rights law and the law of confidentiality. Only if information can be shared consistent with these legal constraints will there be a power to share it."
The Conservatives, who opposed the introduction of the scheme, described the changes as a "major U-turn".
Click here to access the bill and related papers.