POLICE Scotland has criticised the SNP government’s controversial plans to have state-appointed guardians for every child, stating that “there is a lack of clarity” about the role of the force in overseeing the scheme.
The force warned that the recently merged single service may not have the capacity and resources to cope with policing the plan, to have one point of contact for all under-18s.
There is a lack of clarity as to roles and responsibilitiesPolice Scotland
There may not be “efficient or secure systems” in place to “manage wellbeing concerns” Police Scotland stated in a stark warning on the prospect of ensuring the safety of children assigned state guardians. Under the government’s plans, a single point of contact would be allocated, such as a teacher or health visitor, to look out for the welfare of all children.
Critics have said the plan “gives monitoring power to the state” and would severely damage the level of trust between parents, teachers and health workers.
Police Scotland warned that such a “significant change for all authorities including Police Scotland” could make it harder to identify at risk children.
The scathing criticism of the legislation was made by Police Scotland chief superintendent Alan Waddell, who is one of the most senior figures in the force, in a briefing paper entitled “Police Scotland Corporate Risk Register” for the Scottish Policy Authority on behalf of the service.
The authority is in charge of the entire policing budget for Scotland as well as being responsible for the force’s governance.
Mr Waddell, in his report to the body, said that the new law would have “cost implications”.
Police Scotland’s “confidence and reputation may be negatively impacted”, the chief superintendent said, due to the lack of clarity about what the force’s role would be in presiding over the named person scheme.
The warning from Police Scotland came after a consultation found many of the bodies that will be responsible for implementing the proposals, including councils, health boards and voluntary sector groups, are still unclear about the role of the named person.
Mr Waddell expressed concern about the lack of a “Named Person Service” to oversee the government’s legislation and work with those named as state guardians for children.
He said: “Police Scotland does not currently have a consistent process on how such risk and concerns are identified, triaged managed and shared.
“There is a lack of clarity as to the expectations, roles and responsibilities; therefore it is unknown at this time if current systems, models and process in PSoS [Police Scotland] can support this legislative change.”
“In the absence of a national functioning Named Person Service, there is a concern that partners do not have efficient or secure systems in place” to preside over safety issues.
Mr Waddell added that the change could “impact on our ability to accurately assess vulnerability”, which will come as a major blow to the SNP government.”
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said the intervention from Police Scotland showed the force was “very sceptical” about the named person plan as she attacked the policy as “sinister”.
She said: “It’s extremely concerning and telling that Police Scotland now have issues with the SNP’s named person policy.
“The very organisations who are supposed to make the policy work are now very sceptical that it can work in practice.
“It’s just another example of why the named person nonsense which is peddled by the Scottish Government flies in the face of common sense.
“It is very clear now that the SNP scheme lacks guidance and showcases just how sinister the policy is with the named person having too much power.”
Calling on the Scottish Government to scrap the policy, she added: “The more parents find out about this policy, the more they object to it because they believe it will threaten the important level of trust that there should be between parents and health and social care workers and, of course, between parents and teachers.”
A total of 149 organisations and 133 individuals contributed to the debate surrounding the scheme, with concerns also raised about the “unrealistic” demands the provision could place on busy professionals.
The measure is currently the subject of a legal challenge at Edinburgh’s Court of Session, with a judgment expected later this year.
The No To Named Persons (NO2NP) coalition has appealed an earlier decision by Lord Pentland to refuse a petition for a judicial review of the legislation. However, the Scottish Government insisted that ministers would press ahead with the named person legislation, which it said would improve support for parents.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We consulted widely on the draft statutory guidance to accompany the legislation on Getting it Right for Every Child (Girfec) that the parliament passed last year.
“We are now considering the independent analysis of the consultation responses. When in place, parents will be advised of the health visitor, teacher or other individual who is their child’s named person, available as a single point of contact for help, support or advice.
“There is no obligation on parents or children to approach their named person. But our hope is that people will feel increasingly confident about asking for support should they need it.”