Joint petitioners to the Scottish Parliament are calling for a public inquiry into the human rights impact of the government’s getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) policy and allied named person scheme, which they say has unleashed an illegal data-sharing regime that has infringed family privacy and led to a breakdown in trust in public services.
Lesley Scott and Alison Preuss, on behalf of Tymes Trust and the Scottish home education forum, have submitted their petition to highlight the problems created by the premature roll-out of illegal data-mining and sharing practices set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which were later struck down by the UK’s highest court.
With assistance from concerned families, they have amassed a raft of evidence of professional misconduct and data misuse – mostly by councils and the NHS, but also the third sector – via freedom of information and statutory subject access requests.
Commenting on the petition, Lesley Scott, Tymes Trust Scottish Officer said:
“Essentially nothing has changed since the UK Supreme Court struck down the information-sharing aspects of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 back in July 2016. GIRFEC and the Named Person agenda has continued unabated. Families are still at the whim of hearsay and subjective opinion.
“The Scottish Government has failed to acknowledge or address the breach of human rights that their flagship GIRFEC Named Person policy continues to sanction. The people of Scotland deserve better and there must now be an independent public inquiry.
“We need to know how our rights can be so easily overridden despite our history as a nation that values freedom. Where were the checks and balances; why did nobody in authority resist; where is the accountability in government?”
Jane Colby, Tymes Trust Executive Director added:
“Who is ultimately to blame for this fiasco? Will anyone put their hands up and resign? Who will apologise to these families?”
Joint petitioner and co-ordinator of the Scottish home education forum, Alison Preuss, said:
“Home educators were among the first to raise concerns about the human rights violations of collecting and sharing children’s and adults’ personal data without their consent under the guise of GIRFEC and the ‘named person’ whose job description blatantly breached Article 8 of the ECHR.
Our representations during the passage of the 2014 children and young people bill were completely ignored, yet we accurately predicted the ultimate ruling of the Supreme Court which thwarted the Scottish government’s attempts to mandate information-sharing on the basis of vague and subjective ‘wellbeing’ concerns, rather than risk of harm to a child.
“Members of our community have been targeted by professionals acting outwith their areas of competence and illegally trawling health and other private records in a bid to prevent parents from home educating their children, often after the school system has failed them.
“The fact that national guidance has remained uncorrected and training for professionals continues to ‘get it wrong’ is nothing short of a national scandal, and victims of this destructive policy are clamouring to have their voices heard after being sidelined for years by state-sponsored vested interests.”
The petitioners embarked on an independent evidence-gathering exercise last year after they were blocked from providing oral evidence to the parliament’s Education and Skills committee on the information-sharing bill that the Scottish government hoped might satisfy the court ruling.
The bill has since been stalled by the committee until issues with the accompanying code of practice are resolved, and the the deputy first minister has also come under pressure over alleged government attempts to influence witnesses.
A spokesperson for NO2NP, which spearheaded the successful court challenge, said:
“The named person scheme – and the Scottish government‘s insistence on trying to drive it through despite massive public opposition and a damning Supreme Court judgement – has done a great deal of damage to public trust. No one has ever been held accountable for this. It’s long past time for an independent inquiry.”
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force on 25 May, will tighten up the use of personal data so that consent for the collection and sharing of information must be opt-in and unambiguous, rendering unlawful the pre-ticked boxes and presumed consent that are a feature of school surveys and child health programme participation.
Since the first minister herself has given public assurances that GIRFEC information-sharing is fully consent-based, every named person and service provider will be required to evidence their compliance and provide individuals with copies of data held on them within a much shorter statutory timescale.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. Petition link and wording:
“Calling on the Scottish Parliament to urge the Scottish Government to initiate an independent public inquiry into the impact on human rights of the routine gathering and sharing of citizens’ personal information on which its Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC) policy relies. ”
2. ‘Postcards from the Fringe’ were delivered to James Dornan MSP, convener of the education and skills committee following an independent evidence gathering exercise and event in November 2017. Details can be found here.
3. The petitioners’ briefing paper and response from the convener can be read here.
4. Tymes Trust is a national ME charity dedicated to children and young people with ME and their families.
5. The Scottish home education forum is a national network of families who educate their children outside schools. (N.B. They should not be referred to as ‘homeschoolers’!)