Scottish Conservative Councillor Struan Mackie has urged Highland Council to carry out a full-scale review of its version of the SNP’s hated - and now scrapped - “Named Person” scheme.
The SNP government’s proposal was to appoint people, generally Head Teachers, health visitors or midwives, to monitor the wellbeing of every child in Scotland – but it intended to do so without the prior consent of parents or any real consideration for the workload of teachers or other professionals who would have been forced to take on the extra work arising as a “Named Person”.
The SNP’s flagship scheme, branded a "snooper's charter" by many parents, was to be introduced three years ago, but the UK Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that part of the scheme breached Human Rights laws. In a devastating Judgement, the court noted that:
........"Different upbringings produce different people. The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers' view of the world."........... (https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2015-0216-judgment.pdf, para 73, page 32)
That left the Scottish Government with little choice but to scrap the national rollout, which it finally did last month - but only after years of SNP indecision and many millions of pounds of wasted resources trying to find a way to save a flagship SNP policy that, like so many other SNP policies, was deeply flawed from the outset.
Even though the national rollout was scrapped by the SNP government in September, Local Authorities were given the option by John Swinney to continue with their own “voluntary” schemes – despite little evidence that these were effective - and amid continuing concerns about the legality and appropriateness of some of the information-sharing taking place under these schemes.
Thurso and North-west Caithness Councillor Struan Mackie said a "clearer understanding" was needed of how the Highland Council’s “Named Person” scheme actually benefits children.
Cllr Mackie said:
"I believe its time Local Authorities such as Highland Council review the voluntary schemes that have been in place, and have a look at whether or not they are going to be fit for purpose, given that originally they would have been supported by an overarching national piece of legislation, as was anticipated over the last number of years."
Cllr Mackie urged for a comprehensive and fully transparent review of the Highland Council “Named Person” scheme to be undertaken, to examine what was good about the scheme, what did not work so well, and what the Council was actually asking of its staff. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-50208321
Some Highland parents had already taken the advice of campaign groups like NO2NP and told Highland Council that nobody was allowed to act as a “Named Person” for their child. For some parents this became necessary when an obvious conflict of interest arose, for example when a head teacher was expected to act as “Named Person” for both a child being bullied in school and the children doing the bullying.
The Highlands, Edinburgh, Fife and Angus are among areas that set up voluntary schemes, but criticism of how some of these schemes have been working has been widespread.
Alison Preuss, co-ordinator of the Scottish Home Education Forum, has expressed concerns about how the voluntary “named person” schemes shared information on families. Parents exercising their legal rights, for example to educate autistic children at home, had apparently come under suspicion from local authorities, and in some instances children had been removed from their homes for days at a time when they were not at "significant risk of harm".