Scottish Government should revisit its approach to the Code of Practice for Named Persons information sharing proposals, says Holyrood committee

27.10.2017

The Scottish Government should revisit its approach to the code of practice for ‘named persons’ information sharing, and consider providing the Parliament with a vote on the final version of the code, says Holyrood’s Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee.

The Committee’s recommendation, if implemented, would guarantee the Scottish Parliament an opportunity to scrutinise the code of practice and vote on it before it becomes law.

Commenting on the report published today by the DPLR Committee, Convener Graham Simpson MSP said:

“We explored the Code of Practice with the Deputy First Minister who viewed it as an explanatory document. Our Committee considers the Code to be more significant than that.

“It has a central role in the operation of the sharing of information about children and young people, and it places obligations upon professional people such as social workers, teachers and health care employees.

“Given its significance we welcome the opportunity provided in the Bill to comment on the draft code, but we recommend that the Government revisits its approach to the Code of Practice. Specifically, we want it to consider including the Code in subordinate legislation and, more importantly, giving the Parliament a vote on the final version.”

Background

  1. This Government Bill was introduced by the Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney MSP, on 19th June 2017.
  2. This Bill is the Scottish Government’s response to the judgment of the UK Supreme Court (“UKSC”) in the case of Christian Institute and others v the Lord Advocate, which was issued in July 2016.
  3. In that judgment, the UKSC held that the information sharing provisions of Part 4 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (“the 2014 Act”) in relation to ‘named persons’ are incompatible with the rights of children, young persons and parents under Article 8 of the ECHR (right to respect for private and family life). This was on the specific ground that those provisions are not “in accordance with the law”, as Article 8 requires, and may in practice result in a disproportionate interference with the Article 8 rights of many children, young persons and their parents, through the sharing of private information.
  4. This Bill introduces amendments to the information sharing provisions of Part 4 of the 2014 Act (in relation to named persons). The Bill also introduces amendments to the information sharing provisions of Part 5 of the 2014 Act (in relation to the ‘child’s plan’).