Sturgeon warns opponents over Liam Fee 'named person'

Liam Fee Image copyright Police Scotland
Image caption Liam Fee had a broken leg and arm when he died in March 2014

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has refused to clarify whether murdered toddler Liam Fee had a "named person".

Liam was murdered by his mother Rachael and her partner Nyomi Fee in Fife.

A pilot version of the named person scheme, due to be rolled out across Scotland from 31 August, has been running at Fife Council since 2009.

Political opponents have been highly critical of the scheme, but Ms Sturgeon warned against "trying to make political points" over the tragedy.

Fife Council said the system it had in place at the time of two-year-old Liam's death in March 2014 was not the same as the named persons legislation which will come into force Scotland-wide.

The scheme gives every child a point of contact - but critics claim it is unnecessary state interference in family life.

Liam suffered a catalogue of cruelty at the hands of his mother and her partner, who have been convicted of his murder.

'Political points'

Questioned by BBC Scotland on whether Liam Fee had a named person, Ms Sturgeon said she was "not going to get into the specifics" of the case "at the moment".

She added: "While there are debates to be had about the substance of our child protection legislation and about the named person policy, and I respect the different views that there are on these things, I really do think all politicians should be cautious about trying to make political points about the kind of tragedy we have seen in this case.

"So there will be lessons undoubtedly to be learned from the Liam Fee case, but it's right we learn them in the proper case of events."

Image caption Nyomi and Rachel Fee were convicted of murdering two-year-old Liam

Meanwhile, a senior social worker has raised concerns that other children could be suffering abuse similar to that endured by Liam Fee.

Trisha Hall, manager of the Scottish Association of Social Workers, was asked on BBC Radio Scotland if the same could be happening to other children.

"It could," she said. "But I certainly hope not."

Speaking to the Good Morning Scotland programme, said: "We can't be sure - we're not an exact science.

"At the end of the day we rely on the public, we rely on colleagues in the services we work very closely with, we also rely on their knowledge of identifying neglect which, in itself, is a particularly difficult area to focus on."

Ms Hall gave the named person scheme a very cautious welcome.

She said: "We were fairly critical at it at the very beginning because we are really concerned that it is yet another system that people have to adhere to and it's yet another person that the finger of blame can be pointed at.

"If it saves any child then, of course, it is helpful. We understand that in the pilot in Highland, it was successful.

"At the end of the day, we think we should be engaging with parents. I'm still not 100% convinced that the named person legislation is the answer but if it saves only one child - then fair enough.

Budget slashed

During the seven-week trial of Rachel and Nyomi Fee, the court heard that concerns were raised about the welfare of the toddler with the authorities on at least four separate occasions.

But it also heard from a Fife social worker who admitted that his case "fell off the radar".

A significant case review has been set up to review all the circumstances leading up to Liam's death.

Ms Hall said it was uncommon for children to slip through the net.

"I think it's fair to say that we hear of many examples of social work doing an excellent job," she said. "It is rare for children to fall off radars."

She said budgets had been cut and social workers were under increasing pressure, with some struggling to deal with more than 50 cases.

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