Education professionals welcome ruling on Scotland’s Named Person law

Education professionals welcome ruling on Scotland's Named Person law

Prospect’s education professionals have welcomed the additional privacy and confidentiality safeguards that the Supreme Court has said should be incorporated in the Scottish government’s redrafted Named Person legislation.

school children using microscope in science lesson

The legislation would give all children and young people from birth to 18 years access to a named person.

A group of concerned parents, charitable organisations and other pressure groups pursued an appeal in the Supreme Court after the Court of Session in Scotland upheld the Scottish Government’s plans to proceed with its Named Person legislation in 2015.

The Supreme Court ruled in late July 2016 that the principle of providing a named person for every child does not breach human rights and is compatible with EU law.

However, Lord Hodge, on behalf of the Supreme Court, announced that, while upholding the principle of the purpose behind the legislation, it had agreed to grant the appeal on one of the three grounds raised by the appellants.

This was that the proposed legislation breached Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, with the potential for depriving those affected of appropriate safeguards.

The Scottish Government accepted the verdict and stated its commitment to undertake the amendments required.

It said that the court’s demand was for “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. We will start work on this immediately so we can make the necessary legislative amendments”.

A spokesperson for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities said: “...the aims and intentions of the named person scheme are laudable in their intent and COSLA remains committed to working in partnership with the Scottish Government to deliver on these intentions for the children and young people who will benefit.”

Prospect’s education and children’s services group agrees with COSLA’s position and welcomed the additional safeguards to privacy and confidentiality that the Supreme Court’s judgement will require to be incorporated in the redrafted legislation.

Philippa Childs, Prospect national secretary, stressed the need for councils to ensure those duties are allocated fairly. She said: “In taking the amended policy forward, local authorities, where Prospect members are largely employed, should be careful not to overburden key education and children's services officers by requiring them to provide cover for named persons who are on annual or sick leave.”

Bill Alexander, Director of Care and Learning in Highland, which established the scheme and regards it as a vital child-protection measure, said: “We've seen it works. We've seen it improve services. We’ve seen that it reduces risk.

“I’m really pleased that we’ve got a positive endorsement of that today. I hope we can now all move forward together to implement it for the benefit of children, young people and families.”

John Swinney (Deputy First Minister and Minister for Education and Young People) accepted the court’s ruling that the flaw in the proposed legislation related to the need to improve and clarify data-sharing proposals within the legislation.

He said: “The court has recognised the legitimate aim of the policy. It has suggested areas required to improve the legislation and that is what the government will now do.”