Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Solicitors ‘better geared’ to guide children than Scottish Government says Law Society in criticism of Children & Young People (Scotland) Bill

The Law Society of Scotland has today, 31 July, raised concerns that Scottish Government proposals to assign a 'named person' to every child in Scotland could interfere with Scottish families' right to respect for private and family life and amount to disproportionate state interference. The concerns come after concerns were expressed by the the Law Society that solicitors are ‘better geared’ to be involved with families than health workers or teachers.

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill proposes that every child born in Scotland is assigned a 'named person', such as a health worker or head teacher, from birth up until the age of 18. The role of this 'named person' would be to connect the family and child more effectively to a range of services and professionals. The 'named person' could also raise a matter about the child with a service provider or relevant authority.

In its written evidence to the Education and Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament, the Law Society argues that the provisions could conflict with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

The Society also raises a series of practical concerns about how the system would work in practice with further work pressure on notoriously under resourced staff and the risk that services end up being diverted away from where they are most needed.  MSPs also raised a series of issues when the Children's Minister gave oral evidence to the Education and Culture committee last April.

Morag Driscoll, Convener of the Law Society of Scotland's Family Law Committee said: "The policy aims behind this legislation are admirable and we recognise the genuine effort to improve the lives of children and young people in Scotland. However, we are not convinced that this legislation achieves those aims.

"The proposals could interfere with Article 8 of ECHR, the right to respect for private and family life, as there is scope for interference between the role of the 'named person' and the exercise of a parent's rights and responsibilities. It could be interpreted as disproportionate state interference.

"We are also unclear about how this legislation will work in practice and in particular, the resources required to administer the 'named person' scheme.

"We all want law that is clear, proportionate and enforceable. It is still early in the parliamentary process for this legislation so we hope the Scottish Government and MSPs will be able to reflect on these points."

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