Despite opposition from the public, church leaders, legal experts, MSPs and civil liberties groups, the Children and Young People Act was passed in Scotland. This new piece of legislation now means from birth until the age of 18, every child in Scotland will have a specific state-appointed ‘guardian’ to safeguard their interests and oversee their safety. Initially, this person is likely to be a health visitor or midwife, with the role latterly being taken over by a school teacher who will have a “duty” and responsibility to act as the child’s guardian. Not only that, but to allow these ‘guardians’ will have legal authority to access information from the police, council, NHS, amongst others.
Resources should be focused on those families in genuine need and on those children in real danger. As soon as you create an army of guardians they are going to have to justify their positions and that will mean more paperwork, more intrusion and more families being treated as suspects when they have done nothing wrong.
Before the Scottish Parliament voted on the Bill, the Scottish Express highlighted a staggering number of children under observation in the Highlands. In 2010, Highland Council became the first to introduce the pilot scheme and has since designated 8,000 children (1,116 led by a health visitor, 6,811 led by a Head Teacher) to a “child’s plan”. These figures clearly suggest that thousands of families are having their privacy interfered with on a daily basis and highlights how dangerous this piece of legislation is.
The Church of Scotland has been one of the more vocal opponents to the legislation. The Reverenced Sally Foster-Fulton warned that: “The concept of a named person diminishes the role of parents, with no obvious benefit for the most vulnerable in society, a point we have consistently made in our responses to the Scottish Government and to the Parliament’s Education Committee. MSPs must ask themselves: will this proposal do anything other than reduce the time professionals, such as nurses and school staff, have to support children who really need help, without providing a useful service to anyone else?”
Now the legislation has been passed, I am sure that all those that spoke so vocally against the Bill will be paying close attention to ensure that the SNP do not allow these powers to spiral out of control.