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Named person scheme abandoned as ministers change tack

20 September 2019

The controversial "named person" scheme has been abandoned by the Scottish Government after ministers conceded defeat on trying to make it workable under human rights law.

The scheme, enacted in Part 4 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, involved every child under 18 being allocated a person such as a teacher or health visitor as a point of contact to help safeguard their welfare as they grew up. However it involved sharing information about children across different agencies, which was ultimately held by the UK Supreme Court to breach the rights to privacy and family life in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Ministers then introduced an amending bill and appointed an expert panel to develop a code of practice on information sharing that would conform to the law. But the panel reported earlier this year that it was not possible to devise workable rules that achieved all the Government's objectives.

In a statement to the Parliament, Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney confirmed that part 4 of the 2014 Act would be repealed, along with part 5 which introduced the requirement for a child’s plan when a child’s wellbeing required the support of a targeted intervention.

He stated: "The reality however, is that many community planning partnerships already operate elements of a named person service and child’s plan.

"These services are provided within their existing statutory functions, under existing legislation, and have evolved over the last 10 years to provide early help, high quality planning and coordination of services."

Mr Swinney said the panel had reviewed the data protection legislation that came into force during 2018 and concluded "that the world has moved on significantly since the [amending] bill was drafted", including through the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The panel had concluded "that we can rely on the law as it currently stands, founded on the Data Protection Act and GDPR", and information sharing would only take place in line with the law as it currently stands.

"Instead of the code, the panel recommends we provide practical help, guidance and support to help professionals, practitioners, children and families understand their rights under the existing law. We are today accepting their recommendations in full."

The Government would now develop practical guidance and support to give professionals confidence to share wellbeing concerns in a compliant way, and to help families understand their rights under existing law.

Opposition members described the climbdown as a "humiliation" and criticised the years of wasted time and money on the scheme. The No to Named Persons group, which led the legal challenge, called for an apology to parents.

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