Named Person Scheme Pronounced Dead (But its Spectre Lives On)

What’s been said?

On 19 September 2019 John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister for Scotland, announced that “the mandatory Named Person Scheme for every child, underpinned by law, will now not happen.” Mr Swinney added the Scottish government would “withdraw our Bill and repeal the relevant legislation.”

This announcement was widely reported across the media, including the National, the BBC and the TES.

BBC News described how “the Scheme would have seen a named person – usually a teacher or health visitor – act as a clear point of contact for every child from birth until the age of 18.”

However, following a legal challenge and appeal, the UK Supreme Court ruled that “the proposals around information sharing breached the right to privacy and a family life under the European Convention on Human Rights” with the proposals meaning 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’.”

Why does it matter?

The BBC also reported that whilst “the law was due to come into force across the country on 31 August 2016 … the policy had already been rolled out in parts of Scotland, including Highland, Edinburgh, Fife, Angus and South Ayrshire.” We have already reported on the hostile environment faced by home educators in Scotland and the policy of routine data-sharing.

Speaking for parents’ organisation Connect, executive director Eileen Prior said “we are relieved and pleased” by the announcement (that the Named Person Scheme will now not happen). However, she also struck a note of caution, adding that “we know some local authorities have gone ahead with partial implementation. What will happen to these Schemes and how will everyone be updated on the fact that the Named Person role is no more?”

One wonders whether those schemes will actually now be scrapped or continue running ‘in the background’. Indeed, Swinney himself stated that “existing voluntary Schemes that provide a point of contact for support will continue under current legal powers, where councils and health boards wish to provide them and parents wish to use them.”

We are now seeing a concerted push for data sharing and state oversight of education in the Welsh Assembly Consultation, as well as from the English, Northern Irish and Manx governments, all of which join the Scottish Named Person Scheme in seriously undermining the role of parents and intruding into family life.

It is vital that home educators oppose these attempts.

We recently published a Guest article which gives a flavour of what is happening to home educators elsewhere in Europe.

In the words of the Supreme Court ruling,

“The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get at the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world. Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.”

What can I do?

If you live in Scotland, be alert and challenge your authority if it acts beyond its remit. Contact Schoolhouse and the Scottish Home Education Forum and work with them to raise MSP awareness of local authority over-reach.

Respond to the Welsh Consultation – you don’t have to live in Wales to do so. We have a page dedicated to it here – there is just a week left. Also consider contributing to the GoFundMe Welsh legal opinion campaign – if the Welsh proposals become law, it is very likely that the same powers will be adopted across the UK.

Be aware of the probability that there will be further attempts to introduce similar schemes.

The Named Person Scheme may have been officially withdrawn, but the mission creep of state intrusion into family life and home-based education persists.