The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 received Royal Assent on 27 March 2014 and will be rolled out across the country in 2016.
The Act includes a provision to assign a “Named Person” (probably a teacher or health visitor) to every child / young person in Scotland under the age of 18. The Named Person will have a duty to:
- Advise, inform or support the child / young person and the parents of the child / young person
- Help the child / young person or parents of the child / young person to access a service or support system
- Raise a matter about a child / young person with a service provider or relevant authority.
This controversial Act is now subject to legal challenge by a campaign group, No to Named Persons (No2NP), which includes several hundred parents, academics and professionals concerned about the proposed imposition of a Named Person.
Of course, parents do not need to accept help or advice from the Named Person but the Named Person can act independently of parents in raising concerns they might have about a child / young person to outside agencies if they believe the child / young person to be at risk.
No2NP believe the role of parents will be diminished by the policy and that it constitutes unjustified interference with an individual’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 8 of the ECHR states that:
- Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
- There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health and morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The position of the Scottish Government is that the legislation will stop vulnerable children from slipping through the net and will provide families in need with assistance that they might find difficult to obtain in other circumstances.
We will have to wait for the outcome of the review requested by No2NP , whether it will be successful remains to be seen, but certainly this legislation and challenge will have implications for the vast majority of families in Scotland.