John Swinney blasts Named Person critics over Liam Fee comments

John Swinney has hit out at critics of the Named Persons scheme. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

John Swinney has hit out at critics of the Named Persons scheme. Picture: Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

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IT IS atrocious for critics of the controversial named person scheme to use the “utterly tragic” murder of Liam Fee to attack the Scottish Government’s policy, the Deputy First Minister has said.

John Swinney, who has taken on the role of Education Secretary, insisted the death of the two-year-old at the hands of his mother and her civil partner “has absolutely nothing to do with named person”.

Liam was killed at the family’s home in Fife, one of the areas in Scotland which is piloting the initiative, which is due to be rolled out to every child in the country at the end of August.

After Liam’s mother Rachel Trelfa, or Fee, and her partner Nyomi Fee were convicted of murder, the No to Named Persons (NO2NP) campaign group questioned if “this universal scheme got in the way of the kind of targeted intervention we all wish had been used to save his life”.

Fife Council has announced a significant case review into the circumstances of Liam’s death.

Mr Swinney said: “I think it is atrocious to try to establish any link between the named person proposition and the Liam Fee case because Liam Fee was very much on the radar of social-work services, there was a very strong amount of involvement of social-work personnel.

• READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon backs inquiry into Liam Fee murder

“There was an extensive amount of involvement by public authorities, the question the serious case review has got to examine is why did that not result in greater intervention to protect the wellbeing of Liam Fee.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with named person.”

He added: “The government is absolutely committed to speedy and timely action to strengthen the child protection regime in Scotland.”

He used a child protection summit in Perth to announce that Catherine Dyer, a former chief executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, will chair a review into child protection.

Both the review and the National Strategic Leadership Summit on Child Protection were planned in advance of the outcome of the Liam Fee murder trial.

Mr Swinney told the event: “Liam Fee’s death is an awful reminder of the journey we have to undertake to ensure that our child protection arrangements are all that they should be to deliver the world-class support and the world-class environment in which young people should grow up within our country today.”

The Scottish Government had previously announced a child protection improvement programme, with Mr Swinney stating the review would build on existing strengths as well as “honestly and candidly confronting the issues that are weak in the child protection system”.

• READ MORE: Joyce McMillan: Education reform a thankless task

It will look at child protection committees, initial case reviews, significant case reviews and the child protection register, with the work to be done by the end of this year.

Mr Swinney told the summit: “I am pleased to announce today that this review will be independently chaired by Catherine Dyer, who brings a wealth of experience from her time as chief executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

“She will bring the expertise, experience and independence this sensitive task needs.”

He said he is “concerned” Liam Fee and two other boys who were abused by the couple had had “such an awful experience and for Liam such an utterly tragic end” despite being known to authorities.

The Education Secretary added: “They were known to social-work staff but there was no greater intervention taken to resolve these issues. We need to understand why that was the case.

“I don’t say that to point the finger of blame at anybody, we need to understand that so we can try to ensure it doesn’t happen again, because there will be countless other cases across the country where children are being neglected and not being treated properly in the home where social workers will have intervened and will have taken action, and those children have been protected from the awful outcome that affected Liam Fee.”

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