The Scottish police service has criticised the controversial Named Person Scheme and warned that it could make it harder to identify children who are at risk of abuse.
Chief Superintendent Alan Waddell, of Police Scotland, said that asking the police to play a role in the scheme could affect its “ability to accurately assess vulnerability”.
He was responding to a consultation on draft guidance for the plans which has revealed serious and widespread concerns from charities, health boards, councils and individuals.
Lack of clarity
Mr Waddell said: “There is a lack of clarity as to the expectations, roles and responsibilities” in the scheme.
Because of this, he stressed that it is “unknown at this time if current systems, models and process” can “support this legislative change”.
Under the Named Person scheme, every child in Scotland will be assigned a state-employed guardian to monitor their welfare.
His criticism was applauded by Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservative spokesperson on young people and member of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee.
She said: “It’s extremely concerning and telling that Police Scotland now have issues with the SNP’s named person policy.
“The very organisations who are supposed to make the policy work are now very sceptical that it can work in practice.
“It’s just another example of why the named person nonsense which is peddled by the Scottish Government flies in the face of common sense.
“It is very clear now that the SNP scheme lacks guidance and showcases just how sinister the policy is with the named person having too much power.”
Morass’ of concerns
The Herald newspaper – a consistent supporter of the proposals – also highlighted a number of serious concerns.
The Herald’s editorial on Wednesday reported that even among the groups directly involved, only 55 per cent describe the guidance as clear.
Crucially, the editorial also identified a “morass of human rights concerns” relating to, among other things, data protection.
It concluded: “Above all, the change in the threshold for intervention from the more appropriate ‘risk of serious harm’ to the vague ‘concern over welfare’ should be reconsidered.”
In a letter to the Scotsman today, an Assistant Chief Constable for Police Scotland, Malcolm Graham, sought to emphasise that it is “supportive of the concept of the named person”.