On March 7, 2017, Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, made a statement in Parliament regarding the Named Person Service and the legal challenges involved in information sharing. Named persons and other service providers will now have the power to share information where it promotes, supports or safeguards the wellbeing of a child or young person.
Minister Swinney stated:
“As I made clear in my statement to Parliament in September, the Scottish Government remains absolutely committed to the Named Person service as a way to support children and their families. It ensures early support is available for all families because it’s simply impossible to predict if or when they might need extra help.
Last year the Supreme Court ruled definitively that the intention of providing a Named Person for every child to promote and safeguard their wellbeing was ‘unquestionably legitimate and benign’.
However, their judgment required us to change the provisions relating to information sharing. This has presented us with the opportunity to improve the service and reassure parents and practitioners and the wider public that it will work with and for families.
Young people and families should have confidence that information will be shared only where this can be done in a manner which respects their rights under data protection law, human rights and the law of confidentiality.
The approach I have set out today seeks to bring consistency, clarity and coherence to the practice of sharing information about children and young people’s wellbeing across Scotland.”
The scheme will appoint a named person – usually a teacher or health visitor – to ensure the wellbeing of every child. The scheme is part of GIRFEC (Getting it right for every child) – Scotland’s national approach to improving outcomes and the wellbeing of our children and young people. In this framework, children’s services work together to offer the right help, at the right time, from the right people.
Speaking in Parliament, the Deputy First Minister made it clear that information sharing must also remain compatible with the laws on data protection, human rights and confidentiality.
Jennifer Davidson, Executive Director at CELCIS, comments: “We commend this initiative which puts the needs and rights of children at its centre. This announcement supports the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is an important next step towards a collective goal of making sure young people and families have access to the right kinds of services, at the right time.
“It is only in working together in Scotland that we can support children and young people well, particularly those who have experienced adversity. This collective commitment requires sensitive, considered, and careful communication between professionals about children’s wellbeing.
“Our experience of working with local services throughout Scotland is that children and families are not consistently getting the services they need. We are hopeful that the named person service will prevent people’s circumstances to not reach crisis point, before they can access services for help. The right services at the right time is an essential ingredient in ensuring children and young people grow up to reach their full potential.”