The Scottish police service has revealed that vulnerable children have been left exposed to ongoing abuse due to ‘wellbeing’ checks linked to the controversial Named Person legislation.
Responding to the Government’s consultation on the scheme, Police Scotland said that wellbeing assessments are already causing serious delays in actual abuse being reported.
Campaigners have demanded ministers make a public statement about all cases where such delays have occurred.
The Named Person scheme, part of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, is set to be rolled out nationwide next year despite mounting opposition.
Wellbeing assessments will then become the responsibility of a child’s Named Person, along with a series of new legal powers to intervene in family life.
Under the plans, every child in Scotland will be assigned a state employee to oversee wellbeing, using a series of indicators such as whether the child is ‘respected’, ‘nurtured’ and ‘safe’.
Police Scotland’s consultation response said: “A potential risk has been identified that ‘wellbeing concern’ assessments are being carried out by a range of practitioners from organisations when there is actual information that a child has or is the victim of abuse and or neglect deemed as criminal acts.
“This has resulted in a time delay, at times significant, during which time the children (or other children) are exposed to the potential of further criminal acts and the potential for evidential opportunities to be lost or compromised.”
It also said there needs to be clarity about when a ‘wellbeing’ concern transitions to a ‘child protection’ concern.
It said “specific examples” of delays in child abuse being reported could be provided to the Scottish Government if they are required.
Campaign group No to Named Persons (NO2NP) said that the public must be told “immediately if the Government has asked for that evidence and if not, why not”.
The spokesman added: “Named Persons, unlike social workers, are not experts in handling child abuse cases.
“It is unfair on teachers and health visitors to burden them with this responsibility.”
“The incompetent Named Person policy will not protect abused and neglected children – it will expose them to even more danger.
“The time has come for the Government to admit it has made a huge mistake and scrap the whole scheme.”
Conservative MSP Liz Smith pointed out that Police Scotland’s concerns about the scheme are “deeply concerning, but not surprising”.
“We warned the Scottish Government from the outset that the Named Person policy would divert resources from our most vulnerable children, but these concerns fell on deaf ears”, she added.
“Thousands of parents in Scotland are doing a good job. The focus should be on those children that need help, not bloating bureaucracy”, she said.
A Scottish Government spokesman repeated previous assertions that “the introduction of the Named Person planned for August 2016 will mean that relevant professionals can be brought together quicker in the interests of the child”.
The Christian Institute, CARE, Tymes (The Young ME Sufferers) Trust, Family Education Trust and concerned parents launched legal action against the Named Person scheme in July last year.
Judges are currently considering an appeal, after the campaigners’ initial judicial review of the scheme was dismissed in January.