Scotland’s named person scheme has sparked widespread outrage after it emerged that parents will be reported to the state for trivial family incidents, including forgetting their children’s hospital appointments.
Holyrood passed a Bill earlier this year that contained the controversial scheme despite warnings from family groups and a leading human rights lawyer who said the state employee’s powers would “cut across” parental rights.
Critics have dubbed the named person scheme a “Big Brother” invasion of private family life.
Although the scheme is not set to be fully implemented until August 2016, the Scottish Government guidance is now being used by the NHS to justify sharing data on children with head teachers.
Some parents received a letter from a paediatrician in NHS Forth Valley that said, “we are now required to inform the Named Person for your child if your child fails to attend an appointment”.
“In addition, we may also send them copies of future relevant reports”, it continued.
Other parents have received similar letters telling them that: “All children now have a Named Person. If your child is pre-school it is the health visitor and if your child is at school it is the head teacher.”
One family that received the letter told the Scottish Daily Mail: “We were absolutely shocked. The health board seems to be acting in advance of the law being implemented.
“They are certainly jumping the gun given the Government has said the scheme is not to come into force for another two years. But it shows the extent to which the law will impact on families and their private lives.”
Under the scheme, every child in Scotland will be assigned a state employee – either a health worker or teacher – who will monitor the child until they turn 18.
Aidan O’Neill QC said the plans appear to be “predicated on the idea that the proper primary relationship that children will have for their well-being and development, nurturing and education is with the State rather than within their families and with their parents”.
Campaigners, who criticised the blanket measures, have already raised £30,000 to fund a legal challenge.
Director of The Christian Institute Colin Hart said: “This is the kind of situation we have been warning about since MSPs decided to meddle with the rights of families to have a private life.
“The state seems intent on usurping the role of parents and reducing them to helpless spectators in the lives of their children.
“Mums and dads should be very afraid of this kind of Big Brother invasion into their lives and their homes.”
The outrage in Scotland comes amidst concerns over new legislation that seeks to criminalise emotional neglect in England and Wales.
In her speech yesterday, the Queen said parents who cause psychological harm to children through neglect would be a committing a criminal offence under the Serious Crime Bill.
Critics worry the plans could target innocent parents and miss cases of real welfare concern.
President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Alan Wood, said: “The government suggests that one in 10 children suffers from some sort of neglect, but where do you draw the line between neglect that happens because of a lack of parental skill and that which is a criminal offence?”
While the Coalition’s proposal to criminalise emotional neglect is different to the named person scheme in Scotland, there is a concern that it could be a gateway to similar Big Brother legislation that may criminalise innocent parents and invade the privacy of family life in England and Wales.
There are also fears that a Labour Government in 2015 could result in England and Wales being subjected to a named person scheme, since the Scottish Labour Party pioneered the concept and backed the universal scheme introduced by the Scottish Government.