JOHN Swinney has said the Scottish Government remains “absolutely committed” to introducing a named person for every child as MSPs prepare to debate the policy.
The Deputy First Minister and Education Secretary said he would take action to address “concerns and misunderstandings” about the scheme, which will assign a single point of contact such as a teacher or health visitor to look out for the welfare of children under 18.
Mr Swinney was speaking before a Scottish Conservative debate at Holyrood calling for a pause in the planned roll-out of the policy across Scotland in August.
Ten organisations that work with parents and children have written to party leaders urging them not to halt the implementation of a scheme which they said is in “the best interests of children, young people and families”.
During the debate, Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith is expected to highlight concerns raised by professionals about the practical difficulties of its national roll-out and say many parents remain confused about how it will work.
The named person will be someone already known to a family - usually a health visitor or teacher - and will be a central point of contact if children, young people or their parents want information or adviceJohn Swinney
She said: “The Scottish Conservatives have been opposed to named-person plans from the start and that is still very much the case. But this particular debate is about pausing the scheme before its full implementation in August.
“It’s clear there is widespread concern among professionals, teachers and parents about the workability of this scheme.
“Other opposition parties, and even some SNP members, have expressed doubt about this policy. The Scottish Government has to listen to these concerns and act.”
Mr Swinney said: “This government is absolutely committed to the named-person service to ensure no-one is left without support when they need it.”
He added: “The named person will be someone already known to a family - usually a health visitor or teacher - and will be a central point of contact if children, young people or their parents want information or advice.
“I recognise there are concerns and misunderstandings about the policy.
“We need to get the guidance for professionals and information for the public right and that is why we will refresh these materials.
“We will continue to work with and consult stakeholders and parent groups through this process.”
The letter to party leaders in support of the policy described it as “the formalisation of practice that already exists across much of Scotland”.
The letter has been signed by Aberlour, Action for Children Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, Children in Scotland, Children 1st, the National Parent Forum of Scotland, NSPCC Scotland, One Parent Families Scotland and Parenting Across Scotland.
The legislation containing the named-person policy was passed in the Scottish Parliament in February 2014 by 103 votes to 0 after the Tories abstained.
Debate over the policy was renewed during the Holyrood election campaign and reignited last week following the convictions of Rachel Trelfa and her partner Nyomi Fee for the murder of two-year-old Liam Fee.
The toddler was killed at the family’s home in Fife, one of the areas in Scotland which is piloting the initiative.
Mr Swinney has said Liam’s death ‘has absolutely nothing to do with named person’ and described attempts to establish a link as ‘atrocious’.