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Thursday, 17 August 2017

Named person policy changes 'may not address Supreme Court findings'

Written by The Press Association

Measures aimed at clarifying how information should be shared as part of the controversial ''named person'' scheme do not go far enough, lawyers have said.

The Faculty of Advocates said it is concerned steps taken by the Scottish Government will not satisfactorily address issues raised in a legal ruling on the policy, which would see a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, appointed to look out for the welfare of all children.

The Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill was drafted after campaigners against the scheme brought a successful challenge to the UK Supreme Court.

Judges ruled last year that elements of the policy were ''incompatible'' with the right to privacy and family life as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

In a submission to Holyrood's Education Committee, which is examining the new Bill, the faculty said the two principal issues with the original legislation were a "serious" lack of clarity for those implementing it and a lack of safeguards for those affected.

"Neither of these issues is easy to resolve and some of the criticisms of the Supreme Court will continue to apply if the Bill as drafted is passed and the accompanying code of practice is approved," it said.

The faculty said "clear and accessible" rules are needed for teachers, health visitors and social workers who would be required to assess whether sharing information is proportionate.

" We remain concerned that this is an exceptionally difficult requirement to impose on professionals in respect of every child in Scotland," the faculty said.

"Its imposition risks making their job considerably more difficult and undermining the trust of families and the willingness to share information with the professionals concerned."

The submission said a code of practice accompanying the legislation should be phrased in more accessible language and professionals should have access to an advice service or helpline.

Concerns was also raised that the issue of informing a child, young person or parent that information will be shared, and obtaining that person's consent, is not on the face of the Bill.

"In our view, these issues are sufficiently fundamental to be referred to within the legislation itself, rather than simply being dealt with in the code of practice," the faculty said.

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