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‘Named Person’ to be assigned to every child in Scotland by August 2016

The controversial ‘Named Person’ provision of the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act will soon apply to every child under the age of 18, and beyond, if still in school in Scotland by the end of August 2016.

In 2003 the Scottish Government introduced the policy of Getting It Right For Every Child.  Its aim was to improve all government services and protective measures provided to children, making sure that every child receives the best possible start in life regardless of their background.  This policy was then enshrined in the law by the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, to ensure that no child suffers or is exposed to harm by intervening at an earl stage in their life.

 

The ‘Named Person’ provision, therefore, has been introduced to fulfil the state’s obligation to maintain every child’s legal right to welfare. The provision involves the local authority assigning a person, usually a head teacher or health visitor, to every child.  This assigned person will then be the single point of contact for that child and their family or guardians.

The intention is that the ‘Named Person’ will provide a more preventative approach to Child Protection; so that no child will fall beneath the radar of the relevant authorities. Instead, if a child is in need of further assistance, the ‘Named Person’ will ensure that this help is provided.  They then have the role of coordinating the relevant government bodies to provide this support.

While the focus of the ‘Named Person’ is to maintain the human rights of the child, by doing so the rights of the child’s parents may be compromised. This matter led to the recent case of Christian Institute v Lord Advocate [2015] CSOH 7, in which three individuals and four registered charities requested a judicial review of part four of the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act which refers to the ‘Named Person’.  The parties’ challenge was made on the grounds that both the rights of the child and parent have been infringed under the Article 8 of the ECHR, which places a positive obligation on the local authority. Due to the nature of the ‘Named Person’ a guardian is assigned to every child in Scotland regardless of whether the child or its parents’ has granted consent.  However, Lord Pentland felt strongly that it was not possible to pre-empt the infringement of ECHR rights, instead this could only be properly assessed once the legislation was fully in force.

Therefore, although many children have already been assigned a ‘Named Person,’ by August 2016 this will apply to every child in Scotland. Only time will tell if this provision will achieve all that the Scottish Government intends.  If it is to come under scrutiny again, the decision to intervene by the ‘Named Person’ and state will be justified if proven that the act was necessary in protecting the rights of the child.

Author: Gabrielle Reilly, LLB Hons, currently studying for the Diploma in Legal Practice

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm.

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