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SASW: Partnership approach need to safeguard human rights following Named Persons appeal

As the Supreme Court in London allows an appeal brought by opponents of the Scottish Government’s controversial ‘Named Persons’ scheme, the Scottish Association of Social Work (SASW) has said a partnership approach is needed to safeguard the rights of children and families.

Described by opponents as a ‘Snoopers Charter’ and ‘Big Brother’, the scheme proposes to appoint a ‘named person’, typically a teacher or health visitor, to monitor the welfare of every child in Scotland. Supporters say the scheme will better safeguard children against abuse. Part of the Government’s Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) strategy, the proposal would give all children and young people from birth to the age of 18 access to a named person under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

Already passed by the Scottish Parliament and already being trialled in a number of places across Scotland, the scheme was due to be implemented across the country on 31 August 2016 but the Supreme Court judgement means this will be delayed. Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary John Swinney said the Scottish Government remains "absolutely committed" to the policy. Mr Swinney said the judgement "requires us to provide greater clarity about the basis on which health visitors, teachers and other professionals supporting families will share and receive information in their named person role”.

Commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision to allow an appeal, SASW Manager Trisha Hall said: “While absolutely committed to the protection of children in our society, we must make sure we work with families wherever possible in order to facilitate lasting change with and for them. There has been strong unrest and opposition to the Named Person provision, and we hope the Scottish Government will meet with those opposed to the legislation to listen to their concerns.

“A partnership approach is needed to find a way forward that ensures the rights of children and families are protected, without compromising current legislation under GIRFEC, a strategy which we should be justifiably proud of in Scotland. SASW has previously expressed concern about the potential for the Named Person scheme to lead to an increase in referrals to children’s services. This would be likely as the emphasis in the scheme moves from a child deemed to be ‘at risk’ to ‘concern about wellbeing’, while the resources to prevent escalation are being withdrawn within a context of cuts to services.

“SASW welcomes the opportunity for further exploration and development of the information-sharing provisions in the legislation, and for the Government to make explicit how they will be operated in a way compliant with data protection and human rights law. Sharing information according to good practice principles is essential, and we need both the guidance and the resources on the ground to make this happen.”