Call to cut older teens from named person scheme remit

Call to cut older teens from named person scheme remit 06 August 2016

The Scottish government has been urged to remove teenagers aged 16 to 18 from the scope of its named person scheme.

The government is to make changes to the legislation after parts of it were ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court.

Labour MSP Iain Gray said including teenagers who are old enough to vote and get married seemed “absurd” to many and had undermined confidence.

The government said all under 18 are considered children under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has said the policy will be rolled out once information sharing rules are clarified.

The education secretary has opened talks with public sector leaders and charities about amending the scheme, which would appoint a named person, generally a teacher or health visitor, to every child in Scotland.

Opponents called for a complete rethink of the plans after the Supreme Court found that parts of the existing legislation breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

The panel of five judges said the aim of the system was “unquestionably legitimate and benign”, but said the data-sharing practices currently legislated for could see confidential information about a child circulated around public authorities without the child or their parents being aware.

John Swinney
John Swinney has held talks with senior figures from councils, police and the NHS following the ruling

The government has moved to halt the roll-out of the system, which has been scheduled for 31 August.

Work will now be done to amend the Children and Young Peoples Act (Scotland), passed in 2014, but Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray said it was not enough to simply focus on information-sharing.

‘Enforced pause’

In a letter to Mr Swinney, he said it was not enough to “simply tweak the act to avoid the ECHR breach and pretend that everything else with the law is fine”.

He said: “This enforced pause is an opportunity to completely re-examine guidance and training materials, some of which have provoked misleading stories about how named person will operate.

“You should use the opportunity to remove 16-18 year olds from the scheme. The extension of the law to young people already considered adult enough to leave school, work, vote and marry seems disproportionate and, to many, absurd.

“It has simply provided ammunition for those who have sought to misrepresent the whole policy in order to undermine it.”

Iain GrayMr Gray said the “enforced pause” to the policy could provide time to re-examine guidance

However, the Scottish government said including everyone up to the age of 18 was in line with UN rules.

A spokeswoman said: “Clearly we are considering our detailed response to the court ruling.

“However, the named person service is intended to provide a central point of contact for parents and children from birth up to 18, which is in line with United Nations legislation which classifies children as young people under the age of 18.

“While some families may not wish to use the service, the legislation passed by parliament would provide a legal guarantee of access to a named person to ensure the child and their parents or carers can receive appropriate support if and when they need it.”

The Scottish Conservatives have also called for wholesale changes, with leader Ruth Davidson saying the government should “go right back to the starting block”, having “lost the support of the majority of parents across Scotland”.

Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith said the policy was “unworkable and unnecessary” and should be abandoned.

This was echoed by campaigners from the No to Named Persons group which took the case to the Supreme Court, arguing that the scheme would cause unnecessary intrusion into family life. BBCNEWS