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Friday, 22 September 2017

Call for Deputy First Minister to clarify proposed changes to Named Person policy

Written by The Press Association

MSPs have called for clarity on proposed changes to the controversial named person policy following criticism from lawyers and health workers.

Holyrood's Education Committee has written to Deputy First Minister John Swinney to seek more information on the impact fresh legislation will have on the workload of professionals.

Under the policy every child will have a single point of contact, such as a teacher or health visitor, appointed to look out for their welfare.

The committee has heard evidence that due to the complexity of the legislation named persons were likely to have their legal department ''on speed dial''.

Convener James Dornan has now written to Mr Swinney (pictured) urging him to set out what additional work teachers and health visitors would have to undertake.

"The requirements of the Bill appear potentially to add to the pressures on the workforce," the letter said.

The new Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill aims to address the Supreme Court's finding last year that parts of the original legislation were incompatible with the right to privacy and family life as set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

One of the main changes proposed is that a duty to share information which could support, promote or safeguard the well-being of a child would become a duty to consider whether to share that information, while professionals will be required to follow a code of practice.

MSPs have also heard concerns that the draft code of practice drawn up by the government does not sufficiently clarify how information should be shared.

Mr Dornan said a revised version of the code of practice was needed "at the earliest opportunity" to "enable the Committee to more effectively scrutinise" the legislation.

The letter was published as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon faced increased pressure to drop the scheme and come up with fresh plans.

She was urged by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to scrap the policy amid concerns that the revised version is ''deeply flawed''.

Ms Sturgeon said the government would press ahead with the plans but would consider the views raised during the committee's consideration of the Bill.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We have received the letter from the convenor of the Education Committee and the Deputy First Minister will respond in due course.

"We are confident that the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill fully addresses the issues raised by the UK Supreme Court.

"The Bill is currently being scrutinised by the Scottish Parliament and will be subject to its approval. We will continue to listen to views of stakeholders and the Parliament through this process."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.