Named person children’s plan faces legal challenge

A legal challenge to block controversial plans for every child in Scotland to have a named guardian will be lodged next month, as opposition grows among angry parents.

Every child will have a named person responsible for them under the proposals. Picture: TSPL

The initiative aims to create a new layer of protection to detect youngsters suffering in abusive families, following a string of child deaths in recent years.

It was passed by MSPs last month and means that health visitors, midwives or teachers will now take on the role of a “named person”, to support every youngster up to the age of 18 across Scotland.

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The move has been supported by the charity Children 1st but the Christian Institute warns every parent in Scotland should be afraid of the proposed law.

The religious group accuses MSPs of interfering with families’ right to a private and family life, and suggests the plans could contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.

Lawyers for the group have written a letter informing the government that they are seeking a judicial review of section four of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill.

Director Colin Hart said: “In principle we’re ready to go [to court] at any time, but I think it’s likely to be in April. We’re building support and we’ve got the money to go ahead.

“There’s no legal reason why we couldn’t do it next week, but there is a good reason to get as many parents’ stories involved as possible and we’ve already got a number of parents who want to be part of the legal action.”

They have appealed to the government to delay enacting the legislation until after the case is heard. The Christian Institute said it has raised £30,000 for the legal action following an appeal for public donations.

Mr Hart added: “It is an invasion of the most grotesque nature which undermines the rights and responsibilities of ordinary mums and dads trying their best to raise their children in the best way they see fit.

“In the circumstances, we are seeking an undertaking that the Scottish Government will not bring the Act into force pending the outcome of this legal action which will commence shortly.”

Donations have come from more than 70 different sources including the Christian charity Care (Christian Action Research and Education), Scotland for Marriage and the Family Education Trust, the Christian Institute said.

The letter to the Scottish Government’s legal department reads: “Given the institute’s grave concerns about part 4 of the Bill, our client considers it is apt for a determination by the court as to its lawfulness. On this basis, we are instructed to issue proceedings to challenge part 4 of the Bill. Our client expects other concerned groups and individuals to be party to its application for judicial review. Please would you provide an undertaking that your client will not bring the Act into force pending the outcome of this legal action.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are confident that the legislation is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Families are not required to accept advice or offers of help from the named person. Any actions or advice from the named person must be fair, proportionate and respect rights with the aim of safeguarding the well-being of the child.”

Nursing leaders have already warned that the legislation will leave Scotland needing at least 450 additional health visitors to oversee the work involved.