Liberal Democrats originally supported Named Person but, in the light of recent events and a collapse in public confidence we believe a fresh look is needed.
We did support the Children and Young Person’s Act which includes the Named Person requirement when it was before Parliament in 2014.
Our initial view was that this seemed like a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Surely, we thought, when resources are tight, we should focus on the most vulnerable. Yet this proposal had been developed by professionals on the ground rather than as a knee jerk measure from a nationalist administration that has tended to seek control as an answer to most questions.
That is why it deserved further consideration. My colleague Liam McArthur examined the proposals in detail on the Education Committee. We were persuaded that as it was primarily about making it easier for families to access services and support and that it did not shift the balance between the responsibilities of the state and families it should receive our cautious support.
It had the support of a range of proudly independent childrens’ charities and leading, trusted professionals so we had confidence we had made the right call. My new colleague Alex Cole-Hamilton was one of them. He was a leading advocate of the proposals in his previous job and brought that experience into his new job.
When the matter was last debated in Parliament in June my colleague Tavish Scott, in an attempt to restore confidence in the plans, made a recommendation that the necessary resources for training be made available and families should have the right to change their Named Person. That recommendation was accepted.
I, myself, am a pretty stubborn individual. I do not make the habit of changing my mind. I do believe in the benefit of a single point of contact to make it easier for families to engage with public bodies to access services and support for children. I do believe in getting it right for every child. Despite the pressure in the recent election campaign I stuck with how we had voted in parliament.
Yet we now all think Named Person is broken. It needs to be fixed.
That people who have been so committed to Named Person have now concluded it is time to say halt reveals the extent of the problems that have beset the legislation.
We now all think Named Person is broken. It needs to be fixed.
It is now evident that the Named Person power has few supporters and an overwhelming number of critics.
It seems the Act is not being implemented as intended. I have received reports from reliable sources that the Named Person remit is being over-reached. The implementation of the Named Person provisions of the Act may now be over reaching the spirit of the legislation with those assigned as Named Persons, undertaking roles and sharing information to a degree which goes beyond what the Act intended and for which they have not received the appropriate training.
It seems the Act is not being implemented as intended. I have received reports from reliable sources that the Named Person remit is being over-reached.
Of course public sector workers such as teachers and health visitors have a responsibility to act where there is a concern but it seems the threshold for action has shifted. If they had a concern a quiet word with the mum, dad or guardian would be sufficient. Now the formalised requirement and duty is suffering from mission creep with those health visitors seeking reports from GPs and others just like social workers. By erring on the side of caution the role of the Named Person has, by little steps, expanded. The legislative duty of Named Person has given the impression to families that the threshold has changed.
The Supreme Court judgement on the data sharing provisions was the final blow. The judges may only have ruled on a narrow, technical issue around the data sharing provisions in the legislation but it has further damaged a piece of legislation that is at best struggling to be understood and at worst was a seen as a sinister attempt to interfere in family life.
It would be wrong to eradicate the one stop shop provision for child support from our public services especially as it has been in operation in parts of Scotland for years. It would significantly damage the work to Get It Right For Every Child that has been embedded.
Liberal Democrats now believe that the government needs to commission a review. The review would need to be independent and would consider the threshold for intervention, the power and duty of the Named Person, resources, training and the data sharing arrangements.
Without such a review I believe that the loss of public support and confidence will have wider consequences. We need families to work with public services to make the system work but if they have no confidence there will be damage to that relationship.
As supporters of the concept of Named Person, Liberal Democrats would make a plea to John Swinney to change before it is too late.