Named Person is a benign and legitimate way to improve child wellbeing

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Colin Young explains why the upcoming Named Person law is not a "state guardian" or a threat to family freedom

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16th May 2017 by TFN Guest 2 Comments

Following the Supreme Court judgement there has been some suggestion that the principle aims of the Named Person Service interfere with rights under Article 8 (the right to respect for one’s private and family life) of the ECHR. However, I would challenge this appraisal. As the judgement stated; “the functions [of the Named Person Service] of providing advice, information and support and helping the parent, child or young person to access a service or support would not normally constitute an interference with the article 8 rights of either the child or his or her parents.” Rather, the judgement specifically focussed upon the data sharing implications included under Part 4 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 and concluded that there were potential breaches to the right to privacy.

The Supreme Court judgement unequivocally stated that “Focusing on the proportionality of the legislation itself, Part 4 undoubtedly pursues legitimate policy aims and is clearly rationally connected to those aims” and that these aims are "benign£.

Colin Young

Colin Young

It has been made clear that parents, children and young people do not need to accept any information, advice or support offered under the Named Person law

However, in a recent article in TFN for example, the term “state guardian” was used to refer to the Named Person Service. Yet this term is not present anywhere in the Supreme Court’s judgement. It is a phrase that has been appropriated in an attempt to infer that the policy intentions are a threat to families’ rights. However, the definition given, that state guardians refer to someone appointed by the state to safeguard the wellbeing of children seems to be of benign intent.

The Named Person Service is a safety net or a go to person for children and young people or their parents where they need some extra help to promote, support or safeguard the child’s or young person’s wellbeing. Named Persons, I hasten to add, who families already know and trust – their child’s head-teacher, health visitor, or guidance teacher – it is merely formalising existing frameworks. And it has been made clear that parents, children and young people do not need to accept any information, advice or support offered under the Named Person law. Accepting this help is a matter of choice for people, not a matter of enforcement.

People may have differing opinions on the factors considered under the term wellbeing, but this is based on the safe, healthy, active, nurtured, achieving, respected, responsible and included (SHANARRI) framework that has been used since 2004. This offers a common language for children, young people and their parents to use in discussion with professionals who may provide support. The description of wellbeing in the 2014 Act provides a rounded view of factors which affect a child’s wellbeing, but there is no set level that all children should reach.

The Scottish Government has said that it accepts in full the Supreme Court findings and it is now planning to put a bill before the Scottish Parliament to ensure the information sharing aspects the Supreme Court was concerned about are brought into line with the ECHR and data protection law. It is hoped that the Scottish Government’s revised proposal on the Named Person service will ease the tensions and instead focus on improving the opportunities and outcomes of all children in Scotland.

Colin Young is a senior policy and outcomes officer at the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland

Comments

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17th May 2017 by Marion MacNeil

At last, a voice of reason and common sense about this legislation. So much hysteria has been whipped up about this, which is based on fear and prejudice against state interference. Yet, when things go wrong and children fall prey to harm, neglect, abuse, who do we blame for not noticing something was wrong? As the article says, this is merely 'formalising existing frameworks' and trying to ensure that no children or young people fall through the safety net.

19th May 2017 by Rose Burn

To take the other side of the argument, family organisations are still mightily concerned that the introduction of a State Guardian will take away the responsibilities of parents for their children.