Campaigners against the Scottish Government’s controversial named person scheme claim families are considering legal action after discovering their private information has been passed between public bodies.
The claim comes as the Information Commissioner has told the Scottish Government to remove guidance on sharing information about children from its website in light of the court ruling on the policy. The Scottish Government was due to roll out the named person scheme in August but was forced to delay it after a legal challenge by campaigners led to the UK Supreme Court ruling some elements are ”incompatible” with the right to privacy and family life, as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The flagship policy would appoint a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, to look out for the welfare of all children up to the age of 18 but opponents claim it erodes privacy. Now, the head of the Information Commissioner’s Office for Scotland Ken Macdonald has taken the “unusual step” of telling the Scottish Government to remove out-of-date guidance after being contacted by NO2NP campaigners against the scheme.
The guidance was originally published in 2013 when pilot schemes of the named persons act were being trialled and states: “If there is any doubt about the wellbeing of the child and the decision to share, the Data Protection Act should not be viewed as a barrier to proportionate sharing.”
The updated guidance issued following the court ruling stressed that sharing personal data of children and young people without their consent should only take place in line with the Data Protection Act and otherwise could be illegal.
In a letter to campaigners, Mr Macdonald said that on issuing updated guidance the commissioner does not usually instruct organisations to remove previous versions from websites but has in this case.
He wrote: “However, as the Scottish Government had distributed the original letter and subsequently made it available on its site, we took the unusual step of requesting that it be removed from the Scottish Government site.”
Simon Calvert, NO2NP spokesman, said: “This was clearly legally inaccurate advice given the outcome of the court case. It further demonstrates how the public sector is having to rein in its policies and practices in light of the Supreme Court victory. The difference in content and tone could not be clearer. A key plank to the named person scheme was the scattergun approach to sharing data on families. Who knows how many mums and dads and children have already been subject to the implementation of the inaccurate advice previously given out? We ourselves have been contacted by numerous families who have uncovered intimate personal information about them being passed between agencies through making subject access requests for information which is held on them by public bodies. They are rightly furious and some are considering their legal remedies.”
The Scottish Government is carrying out a three-month consultation on how to make the scheme comply with the law.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It was the ICO’s decisions to remove the commissioner’s letter of 2013 and replace it with new guidance following the judgment. This was not a Scottish Government decision and we remain compliant of the guidance as set out by the ICO.”
The Information Commissioner’s Office disputed claims the 2013 advice was legally inaccurate.
Mr Macdonald said: “In light of the Supreme Court judgment we published clarification on how the judgment impacts on current information sharing practices in the child welfare sector in Scotland. This added more detail to our previous advice.” SOURCE
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