Concerns raised over named person for Scots children plan

Holding hands
Image caption The plans would see a named person responsible for monitoring a young person's well-being

Plans to appoint a so-called guardian for every Scottish child have been opposed by another religious body, following Church of Scotland criticism.

The proposals are among those outlined in the Scottish government's Children and Young People Bill.

The Evangelical Alliance Scotland said the move raised concerns about the role of the state in modern society.

Scotland's Children's Minister Aileen Campbell has urged MSPs to support the measures.

The bill is due to be debated by Holyrood at its final stage on Wednesday.

Director of the Evangelical Alliance Scotland, Fred Drummond, has called for a meeting with Ms Campbell to attempt to reach "consensus".

He said: "While we do not doubt the government's sincere intentions behind this bill, these proposals raise serious concerns about the role of the state in modern Scotland, have massive implications for the role of parents and appear to be begging for a fight in the law courts as some parents may wish to challenge it because it is not immediately apparent whether it is lawful under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)."

'Safety net'

The proposal to appoint specific named persons from the NHS and councils to monitor every young person's well-being from birth to 18 is considered one of the most controversial aspects of the bill.

Ms Campbell has insisted that appointing a named person for every child will help "provide a safety net for those who need one".

The Church of Scotland has already claimed that the change risks diminishing the role of parents "with no obvious benefit for the most vulnerable in society".

It has been criticised by the six former moderators of the Free Church of Scotland and the current moderator.

The Evangelical Alliance, which represents more than 750 organisations in 3,500 churches across the UK, said the plan also runs counter to the UN convention on the rights of the child.

Mr Drummond added: "As a parent I am horrified, and I am sure that parents across Scotland will be horrified to learn that the state can override their wishes, particularly as there is no provision in the bill for consent from or withdrawal by either parent or child.

"At the Evangelical Alliance we fundamentally believe in the positive role of families, which is why we are so concerned by the named person provision of this bill."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said: "We are confident that the bill is compliant with the European Convention on Human Rights.

"Families are not required to accept advice or offers of help from the named person. Any actions or advice from the named person must be fair, proportionate and respect rights with the aim of safeguarding the well-being of the child."

Routine contact

Ahead of the debate at Holyrood later this week, Ms Campbell has written to MSPs urging them to support measures contained in the legislation, including the named person policy.

She said "misrepresentations and misunderstandings about the named person provisions are misinforming views".

"The proposals are not about treating every child with the same procedures with which we treat vulnerable children, recommending a social worker is appointed for every child, or giving named persons the authority to enter every house."

She wrote: "The named person's responsibilities are at the lower end of the scale of concern.

"Their function will almost always be discharged through routine contact with the child either in health or in education. Not social work."

She added: Those parents who do not want to engage with the named person are under no obligation to do so."

This story was originally published on 16/2/2014 but was overwritten in error.

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