Watered-down Named Person scheme still lacks clarity and safeguards, lawyers warn

A “serious lack of clarity” and absence of safeguards highlighted by senior judges have still not been addressed by the Scottish Government’s Named Person plans, lawyers have warned.

Following a legal challenge led by The Christian Institute that culminated at the UK Supreme Court, ministers drastically watered down their proposals in a new Bill.

But the Faculty of Advocates has said that the revised plans do not go far enough.

More difficult for teachers

It warned that teachers and social workers’ jobs could be made “considerably more difficult” by the new proposals.

The group also cautioned that families’ trust risked being ‘undermined’ by the “imposition” of the Scottish Government’s proposals.

Some of the Supreme Court’s criticisms “will continue to apply if the Bill as drafted is passed and the accompanying Code of Practice is approved”, the Faculty said.

Other criticisms

Urging “clear and accessible” rules, it noted that teachers, social workers and health visitors must be able to understand what is required of them – rather than having to interpret legal jargon.

The lawyers also pointed out that issues around information sharing and consent were “sufficiently fundamental” to be covered by legislation, rather than simply the Code of Practice.

Edinburgh Council and NHS Highland have also raised questions over the new proposals.

‘Scrap the scheme’

Campaigners welcomed the comments, with the No to Named Persons group saying the Scottish Government needed to “scrap the scheme altogether”.

Conservative MSP Liz Smith said the new Bill does not “fully address” the Supreme Court’s concerns, while Labour’s Iain Gray commented: “The Faculty is telling ministers that their attempt to correct the legislation is heading for the buffers”.

The Government maintained that its new legislation “fully addresses the issues raised” by judges.

Under the original plans, every child in Scotland was set to have a state official tasked with looking after their ‘wellbeing’, defined as “happiness”.

But in July 2016, five UK Supreme Court judges unanimously struck down the central provisions of the scheme – prompting the Government’s action.

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