Named Persons to receive just a day of training

Scotland's Named Persons are to be given just one day of training to prepare for making decisions about the future of other people's children, an official document has revealed.

Rear view of father and daughter holding hands in the garden

The Scottish Government has set aside £1.2 million to give a day’s training to the teachers, health visitors and nurses who are expected to take on the Named Person’s role.

The training day will focus on sharing information about children – one of the most contentious aspects of the controversial Scottish Government scheme.

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Details of the training came to light in a paper compiled by SPICe, the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre.

The SPICe document will be presented to MSPs on Holyrood’s Education Committee when the parliament comes back after the summer recess this week.

The committee will also receive a host of other papers, which are deeply critical of the scheme and the Scottish Government’s attempts to improve it after their legislative plans came to grief in the highest court in the land.

Councils, academics, social work experts and charities were among those to contact the committee to tell MSPs of problems with Education Secretary John Swinney’s Children and Young People (Information-sharing) (Scotland) Bill.

Those raising concerns even include children’s organisations who have been supportive of the scheme in principle.

The Children and Young People Bill will be part of this week’s Programme for Government and was introduced in order to overcome problems with the original legislation.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 had to be delayed when the Supreme Court ruled that the information-sharing provisions would breach human rights laws.

Submissions made to the Education Committee by several organisations claimed that the new legislation would still face similar problems because it would still undermine a family’s right to privacy. Of the 28 submissions to the committee which mentioned the new bill, 11 said the new legislation did not meet the Supreme Court’s concerns.

The cost of a day’s training was outlined in the extract of the SPICe document which referred to the Scottish Government’s financial memorandum setting out the costs of the scheme.

The document said: “The financial memorandum estimates the cost of the measures in the bill at £1.2million. These relate entirely to providing training. One day’s training will be provided for those who will be in the Named Person’s role.”

Last night the No to Named Persons (NO2NP) campaign group said the idea that teachers and health visitors would get just one day of training “beggars belief”.

Simon Calvert of NO2NP said it was “preposterous” to suggest the training bill would be “a mere £1.2 million” when £60 million had already been spent on the policy. “They state that just one day’s training will be provided for those who will be in the Named Person’s role. How can they try to say one day is sufficient time in which to do this? How is this token gesture of one day’s training meant to build confidence for all the families and practitioners who are so anxious about the Named Person scheme?”

According to the SPICe document, a range of children’s organisations made a joint submission. They remained “supportive of the principle of the Named Person,” but had concerns about the need for clear communication with 
families and professionals about the Named Person and how to share information lawfully.

The 46 submissions made to the committee reflected a “general concern” about the complexity of the decisions Named Persons were being asked to make.

The complexity of the language and jargon used in the Named Person’s code of practice was commented on by several critics of the scheme. Given that it is supposed to safeguard a child’s “well-being”, many organisations expressed concerns about the difficulty of defining such a vague term and using it to determine when to take action. “The Bill fails to address fundamental concerns that were expressed during 2015- 2016 regarding arbitrary interference by the State in private and family life,” said Dr Gary Clapton and Professor Viv Cree of Edinburgh University Social Work. .

“Any definition of well-being (and importantly who is to be held responsible for the lack of well-being) is likely to be disputed by the public, academics and professionals because of the subjective nature of the various social, cultural, national, and religious dimensions and standards (to name a few) that may be argued, when positive, constitute well-being.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are confident that the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill fully addresses the issues raised by the UK Supreme Court.

“It will bring consistency, clarity and coherence to the sharing of information about children’s and young people’s wellbeing across Scotland. The bill will be subject to scrutiny and approval by the Scottish Parliament and we will continue to listen to views of stakeholders and the Parliament through this process.”