UK Supreme Court Nixes Scottish ‘Named Person’ Law

September 9, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

It’s a blow on the side of sanity (BBC 7/28/16). The British Supreme Court has overturned a law that would vastly expand governmental intrusion into family life. Sadly, its effects will probably only be temporary.

Recall that two years ago I posted this piece on a just-passed Scottish statute called the Children and Young People Act. Its aim was to establish a “named person” for every single child in Scotland under the age of 18. What would these “named persons” be empowered to do? Well, pretty much anything, but, in a nutshell, they would exist to provide information to children and parents, but also intervene in familial decision-making. They were to have access to a wide range of information about the children for whom they were named persons, including medical, educational, psychological and other information. They could use that information at their discretion and, most importantly, could intervene in parental decision-making about virtually anything to do with the child.

Proponents of the scheme describe it in distinctly anodyne terms.

According to the Scottish government, the named person would be available to "listen, advise and help a child or young person and their family".

They would also provide direct support and help the child and their family access other services, for example speech and language therapists or bereavement counselling services.

The named person would also be responsible for helping families to address any concerns as early as possible in order to prevent them becoming more serious.

But the government has stressed that the named person would only offer advice or support in response to a request from a child or parent, or when "wellbeing needs are identified".

That sounds all very nice and non-threatening until we ask what is meant by “wellbeing needs.” I asked that in my piece two years ago. Here’s the definition in the law:

A child has a wellbeing need if the child’s wellbeing is being, or is at risk of being, adversely affected by any matter.

That’s not a definition, it’s an invitation. It’s an invitation the Scottish government issued to itself to intervene at any time in any child’s life for any reason or no reason. Proponents want us to believe that the law would never be abused, that each and every named person would scrupulously regard the rights of children and parents alike. That of course is pure nonsense. With a “definition” like the one above, the camel’s nose is well inside the tent, just waiting for the rest of the beast to follow.

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron called the legislation “absurd,” and that’s understating the matter. Opponents rightly point out that it’s an outrageous usurpation of parental rights and family privacy.

The No To Named Persons campaign group has described named person as "the most calamitous scheme the Scottish government has ever dreamed up".

The group is comprised of organisations such as the Christian Institute, Family Education Trust, The Young ME Sufferers ("Tymes") Trust and Care (Christian Action Research and Education).

It lists ten concerns on its website, including:

Named person undermines parents and permits the state unlimited access to pry into the privacy of families in their homes.

It will stretch resources for protecting vulnerable children even further by creating a scheme that applies to all children regardless of need.

Named persons will have power to access confidential data on the family, and to talk to a child without their parents agreeing with what they say.

Because of the pressures on them, named persons will be forced to act defensively, reporting "trivial or irrelevant family issues to social services", which will create more work for social services.

Responsibility for monitoring a child’s wellbeing should be the role of the parent, not the state.

The group has claimed the legislation breaches European Human Rights laws, and appealed to the Supreme Court in London after having its case thrown out by the Court of Session in Edinburgh last year.

All true, and that last objection has found favor with the British Supreme Court that ruled that the law violates the European Convention on Human Rights.

Judges at the UK’s highest court have ruled against the Scottish government’s Named Person scheme.

Opponents of the scheme appealed to the Supreme Court in London after their case was dismissed by the Court of Session in Edinburgh last year.

The system would appoint a named person – usually a teacher or health visitor – to ensure the wellbeing of every child.

Judges say some proposals breach rights to privacy and a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court said the aim of the Act, which is intended to promote and safeguard the rights and wellbeing of children and young people, was "unquestionably legitimate and benign".

However, judges said specific proposals about information-sharing "are not within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament".

And they said the legislation made it "perfectly possible" that confidential information about a young person could be disclosed to a "wide range of public authorities without either the child or young person or her parents being aware".

That looks like both the good news and the bad. The good is that the law could not go into effect as originally intended on August 31. The Scottish Parliament will have to amend it to comply with the Supreme Court’s concerns. The bad news is that that will probably only take until the end of the year. The further bad news is that the Supreme Court actually believes that the law is “unquestionably legitimate and benign.” Those are words that could only have been written by a person with no understanding of the tendency of governments to overreach into family life (or one who thinks overreaching is “legitimate and benign). Whoever believes those words has no understanding of the value of parents to children or the need children have for stability in their lives.

The defects in this law are too many to mention. My 2014 piece did a pretty good job of outlining many of them. The law is the worst piece of anti-family legislation I think I’ve ever seen. Its potential for misuse is unimaginable and, as we well know from existing laws, the abuse of power it practically begs for will begin to be seen shortly after it goes into effect.

Scots should vote out of office every MP who votes for this travesty.




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