Panel gives up on Named Person scheme code of practice

An expert panel established to write a workable code of practice to enable the controversial Named Person legislation to be implemented, has failed to produce one, prompting campaigners to claim the whole scheme should “be consigned to the dustbin”.

John Swinney set up the panel in 2017. Picture: Michael Gillen

The code was demanded by MSPs, who wanted assurance the problems with the original legislation would be resolved and give confidence to those implementing it.

However the independent panel, established by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, has concluded that a statutory code is “not the right thing to do at this time”, and that it “would not be desirable as the complexity of this would mean it would not be easy to understand or apply in practice.”

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Those opposed to the Named Person scheme have claimed this latest setback should sink the legislation.

The government had wanted to appoint a Named Person to monitor the welfare of every child in Scotland under its Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) policy, with the scheme due to have been rolled-out across Scotland in August 2021. The new role would have been given to midwives, health visitors and headteachers. However it was delayed after the Supreme Court ruled that some of the proposals around information sharing breached the right to privacy and a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

New proposals were drawn up, but Holyrood’s education and skills committee wrote to Swinney saying they could not support the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill, which was designed to address the Supreme Court’s reservations. The Committee demanded a code of practice showing how private information on families would be shared by Named Persons before it would consider progressing the bill.

As a result, Swinney set up the independent panel in November 2017. It was unable to meet its original September 2018 deadline. Then in January, the group said it was finding it “challenging” to make the guidance “simple, concise and accessible”.

Now, after nearly two years of engaging with stakeholders, such as the NHS, Education Scotland, the National Parent Forum, Police Scotland, Social Work Scotland and others, the panel has admitted defeat.

While its final report has not been published, minutes from its last meeting state that members of the panel “welcomed the recognition that a statutory Code of Practice that must be applied in all situations is not the right thing to do at this time, which is brave, but noted that there will be disappointment from a number of agencies…”

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary, said: “A huge amount of taxpayers’ money has been wasted on the SNP’s foolish pursuit of this policy. Meanwhile standards in Scottish education have been declining and teacher numbers have been falling.

“The SNP must now finally admit defeat and consign this policy to the dustbin.”

And Simon Calvert of the No To Named Persons campaign (NO2NP), whose members took the original legislation to court said: “This might just be the knock-out blow to the Scottish Government’s state snooper scheme.”

A government spokesperson said: “Ministers are currently considering the advice and recommendations of the expert panel.”