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Lawyers slam 'insidious' plans to give every child a named person

Faculty of Advocates said SNP proposals could see 'possible interference in the lives of all children'.

Inquiry over childrens' nursery escape

A new law being put forward by the Scottish Government has "potentially insidious aspects" which could undermine families, senior lawyers have warned.

The Faculty of Advocates said the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill contained an "indiscriminate provision for possible interference in the lives of all children".

The Faculty raised its concerns over part of the legislation which proposes to provide a named person for every child in Scotland, claiming this could potentially breach the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Scottish Government has already said it is confident its legislation complies with European law. But the Faculty has echoed fears from the Law Society of Scotland, who warned in July that the Bill could interfere with respect for family and private life, and conflict with human rights.

The Bill proposes that a named person, who could be a social worker or teacher, would be responsible for safeguarding a child's welfare and liaising with their family.

But the Faculty claimed such a move could amount to an "assumption by the state of functions that have historically in Scotland been the responsibility of parents".

In a submission to MSPs, it said it had "reservations about the efficacy of the proposed legislation to advance the interests of children and young people".

The Faculty's submission said: "While the intentions of the Bill are clearly benign, it does have some potentially insidious aspects. It proposes an assumption by the state of functions that have historically in Scotland been the responsibility of parents."

It added that under the ECHR such "state intervention" should be limited to "cases where this is necessary in a democratic society".

But the Faculty said the Scottish Government risked breaching this, arguing: "By making indiscriminate provision for possible interference in the lives of all children, rather than providing for focused intervention when the need arises, the Bill risks enshrining a structure that has the potential to be used to undermine families. It is primarily the responsibility of a parent to seek assistance if required by their child. The Bill dilutes the legal role of parents, whether or not there is any difficulty in the way that parents are fulfilling their statutory responsibilities.

"It undermines family autonomy. It provides a potential platform for interference with private and family life in a way that could violate article 8 of the ECHR."

While the Faculty said there "may be cases where a named person will be of assistance", it added: "The difficulty with this Bill is that the provision is not focused on the children for whom the measure would be helpful, and it does not cohere with other similar measures for such children."

A named person will most often be someone who already knows the child, such as a health visitor, and will act as an advocate for them and will help them and their families access the different support services that are available.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The protection and promotion of the wellbeing of Scotland's children and our aim of making our nation the best place for children to grow up are at heart of the Children and Young People Bill. Our focus is on the safety and protection of children. The named person - who is likely to be a health visitor, head or deputy head teacher and will usually already know the child - will be a first point of contact if help is needed.

"This is formalising what should already happen and there is evidence it is working well in many areas. We are confident the proposed legislation is compliant with European law."

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