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Information sharing provisions Ch and YP (Scotland) Act 2014- Named Person

The Deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP has announced in the Scottish Parliament on 07 March 2017 that he intends, before the summer recess,  to bring forward a Bill that will include new provisions on when and how information can be shared by and with the Named Person's Service. The Bill will ensure that the issues which lead to the Supreme Court's judgement of 28 July 2016 which suggested potential breaches of rights and privacy and a family life under the EU convention on Human Rights are addressed. 

The proposed changes make clear that information sharing will be compatible with data protection law, human rights and the law of confidentiality and will respect the rights of families fully. Only in exceptional circumstances, such as where the risk of harm is present, should consideration be given to departing from the core principles of consent, engagement and empowerment of families as the best way forward when considering sharing information.

The Scottish Government engaged in discussion with over 250 groups and organisations in approxiately 50 meetings including around 700 young people, parents and carers, practitioners, professionals and leaders from education, health, local authorities, police, faith communities, unions and charities. SASW staff and members met with civil servants on 28 November 2016 where we highlighted our commitment to keep children safe, which is at the core of our profession, but to do so by engaging constructively and from our ethical value base. We commented that this included having the very difficult conversations with parents, carers, and children and young people when there are concerns, but crucially also having the time to develop the relationship which will allow a foundation for those interactions.

The key message from members was that in many instances there might not be a need for the Named Person if social workers could do their job in the way intended. The perception was that there is a great emphasis on “assessing”, yet social workers are trained to be “working” with children, young people and their families in order to develop relationships of trust, which may prevent escalation to risk of harm. There are many children and young people who need state intervention, support and protection, but we must do no further harm in engaging with them. Of particular relevance therefore was the advice that there will be no absolute requirement to share information under the Act, but there will be scope for professional judgement and discretion with information being shared without consent only in exceptional circumstances. 

The requirement to share information by or with a Named Person service will be replaced with a duty on Named Person service providers and relevant authorities to consider if they have information that would promote, support or safeguard a child’s wellbeing if shared, and if they hold such information, a further duty to consider if they have the legal power to share this information compatibly with data protection law, human rights and the law of confidentiality.  If both of these are true then they will have a power to share the information but not a requirement to share the information. 

SASW welcomes today's announcement and the Scottish Government's explicit willingness and openness to listen to the many views of the people involved at all levels. We look forward to the development of the various stages of the revised legislation and guidance and are committed as the professional association to inform this process as best we can.