Clarity in a toxic debate: The Information Sharing (Scotland) Bill and SASW contibution
SASW was today, Sept 27, quoted in some quarters as calling the Named Person scheme “toxic” and were, apparently, planning to urge it to be repealed.
As a professional association for social workers, we have had some social workers in the recent past label the scheme exactly in these terms. Representing our members, SASW rightly expressed its concerns at the time about the previous manifestation of the information sharing proposals, in relation to the Named Person debate and the role of social work within the concept.
Since then, Government was forced to rethink the scheme’s information sharing proposals, especially after the UK Supreme Court found they breached rights to privacy and a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights. Our suggestion at the time was that Government met with the people who had expressed concerns to hear what they had to say, and we were pleased that Government indeed engaged in such debate on a wide scale with stakeholders, SASW was included in this.
It is evident now that the Bill will proceed, and SASW has taken a position to work closely with the Scottish Government to clear up the specific elements of the scheme, particularly the illustrative draft Code of Practice.
The Scottish Parliament’s Education and Skills Committee put out a call to give written evidence on the Children and Young People (Information Sharing (Scotland) Bill, which SASW responded to. We were not, as we note is erroneously reported, asked to provide oral evidence on Sept 27 regarding the submission.
“We do not believe this Code in its current manifestation is clear, and we fear it may leave our members confused and even worried about the action they should take,” says SASW Country Manager, Trisha Hall.
“We wish to stress that social workers generally seek to work with consent in all but the most limited circumstances, and do so because it is simply much more likely to be effective, as well as because of a respect for human rights.”
SASW believes the “duty to consider” sharing information with the test of “wellbeing” is far more complex than “at significant harm”.
Thus, SASW are concerned that the guidance (“using your own discretion”) feels heavier than before, the “voluntary nature” of cooperation is not addressed and the description of “lack of buy in” to services offered to parents/ carers appears very subjective.
The evidence provided recently by SASW to the Education and Skills Committee on the Children and Young People (Information Sharing (Scotland) Bill states:
“Where there are significant child protection concerns we have clear legislation, policy and procedures. The complexity arises when we consider “necessary” intervention as opposed to “desirable”, as who decides and how?
“The relevant test for seeking consent is not whether the individual has real choice over the matter but whether seeking consent would result in “increased risk of suffering significant harm”. Even if a child is considered at risk of significant harm, consent should be sought unless the process of doing so would result in additional harm.”
Thus, SASW believes the legal push should be proportionate, and not an added burden on social workers who are reacting in an investigative manner on information shared with or to the Named Person.
We absolutely support the principles of the GIRFEC approach, which include the need to share information in a lawful manner.
SASW recently met with members of the Scottish Government’s GIRFEC team in a most constructive meeting where we explored our reservations, but more importantly also committed to working with Government to ensure that we play our part on behalf of our profession and our membership in enabling and facilitating a positive way forward.