Named Person 'approach' will continue reveals John Swinney

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has revealed he will still press ahead with a "Named Person approach".
Deputy First Minister John Swinney has revealed he will still press ahead with a "Named Person approach".
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John Swinney has said that he intends to carry on implementing the "named person approach", despite having to withdraw the controversial policy from law.

The Deputy First Minister has also revealed he is still searching for ways to have "proportionate and appropriate" information sharing between organisations who would be tasked with implementing the Named Person scheme.

Mr Swinney was forced to announce he would repeal sections of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act dealing with Named Person earlier this year, after an expert panel, established to write a workable code of practice to enable the legislation to be implemented, failed to produce one.

READ MORE: Scottish Government to scrap Named Person scheme, John Swinney confirms
The scheme had also previously received a major blow when the Supreme Court ruled that the information sharing required breached the right to privacy and a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

READ MORE: Why Scottish Government’s named-person approach will continue – John Swinney

However writing in The Scotsman today, Mr Swinney said that while he accepted that the government's work of Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) had not been "able to reach its full potential due to uncertainties arising out of the Supreme Court judgement on the named person issue", he was not prepared to abandon the idea.

He said: "The named person approach will continue as an approach which is now well embedded and can be delivered within existing legislation in partnership with parents. This Government’s commitment to Getting it right for every child is therefore undiminished."

And despite the worries over information sharing he added: "I have tasked officials to work with stakeholders to develop materials to support and promote proportionate and appropriate, information sharing practice."

Named Person scheme

The Scottish Government had wanted to appoint a Named Person to monitor the welfare of every child in Scotland 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.

After it was delayed by the Supreme Court ruling, new proposals were drawn up, but Holyrood’s education and skills committee said it still could not support the legislation and demanded a code of practice showing how private information on families would be shared by Named Persons before it would consider progressing the Act.

An expert panel, established by the government, eventually concluded it could not draw up a code of practice, and Mr Swinney was forced to abandon the Named Person sections of the legislation.

READ MORE: Panel gives up on Named Person scheme code of practice
The Scotsman understands the government intends to develop a suite of materials to support good information sharing practice for those implementing GIRFEC, reinforcing the existing laws and guidance, and providing "assurance" to those working with children that they can share necessary concerns about a child's wellbeing "provided it is lawful and proportionate to the individual circumstances".

‘Getting it right’

A spokesman for the campaign group No To Named Person, said: "Families will have access to a non-statutory Named Person or single point of contact if they want it, and if their local authority chooses to provide it. But that was never an issue. Mr Swinney must now ensure that data sharing in non-statutory named person schemes is lawful and proportionate. The public will not accept the kind of sinister data sharing free-for-all we’ve seen previously.”

In The Scotsman Mr Swinney writes: "Community Planning Partnerships across Scotland already deliver GIRFEC and a named person service and child’s plan. These services are provided within their existing statutory functions, and have evolved over the last 10 years to provide early help, high quality planning and the coordination of services. I want all of that to continue and to further develop.

"I want this to be something that more families can benefit from, along with the child’s plan and other aspects of our GIRFEC approach. Having addressed the information sharing controversy, we must now move on, to sustain and fully embed Getting it right for every child across the country."

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said the Named Person scheme had been "one of the worst failures of the SNP Scottish Government" and it was "disingenuous" for Mr Swinney to pretend that the scheme had not been "ditched".

"It failed because it was so deeply unpopular among parents and because the people on the ground who were supposed to implement the scheme were left completely in the dark about where their responsibilities lay.

“As a result, John Swinney was forced to withdraw the proposed new legislation at the same time as announcing that the existing relevant legislation would be repealed.

“Nothing could be clearer than that: the named person scheme has been ditched so it is disingenuous for John Swinney to pretend otherwise.”