1am 10th October 2016
Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute
WHAT do you do if the ministers just won’t listen? Lots of charities contribute to government reviews and consultations.
Their views are lumped in with those of others such as businesses, members of the public. And then, like all of us when given good advice, sometimes ministers listen and sometimes they don’t.
But what do you do if they are really getting it wrong? Perhaps you should take them to court.
That is the advice from Clan Childlaw, the legal charity for young people, after its experience with the named person’s policy.
A key part of Children and Young Person’s Act relating to how named persons share information was never in fact subject to consultation. But Clan raised concerns at the bill’s second parliamentary stage, and lodged their objections with civil servants. It tried to introduce third stage amendments, with the help of a supportive MSP. But all to no avail.
“It seemed we were stuck with the information provisions, despite our grave misgivings about their impact on the rights of children,” says Alison Reid, Clan Childlaw’s chief executive.
So, as ever with named persons, it was easy to miss the real issue when the Supreme Court ruled against ministers in a case brought by the Christian Institute and other religious groups.
The key issue which led to the legal reverse was raised not by those groups, but by Clan Childlaw, which had “intervened” in the case to raise concerns about the way it was determined when confidential information about a young person could be shared.
When the Supreme Court agreed this breached the human rights of children and parents, ministers contacted Clan – not the Christian Institute – to help discuss a solution.
Later this month Clan is holding an event, Using the Law and Human Rights to Advance Policy, to encourage others to consider the tactic.
But Clan was lucky that it was able to piggyback on an action taken by other groups.