Continuing the timeline of significant events from our original magnum opus GIRFEC and the Cult of SHANARRI – a chronology of significant events on the road to hellbeing (1991-2017) and Chronicles of SHANARRI (2018 edition)– as the Great Unravel of state surveillance and social engineering projects gathers momentum thanks to a belated public awakening. Mainly UK, with special focus on Lab Rat Nation Scotland, but (dis)honourable mentions for other wannabe (and actual) totalitarian regimes.
17 January 2019
18 January 2019
The SNP’s controversial plan to assign every child a ‘state guardian’ has descended into chaos again after John Swinney was told a code of conduct for those filling the role would be too “complex and confusing.”
An expert panel charged by Education Minister with drawing up the Named Person code warned it would be so complicated and legalistic that it would “not be user friendly and could inhibit good professional practice.”
23 January 2019
To get justice in Scotland you must be rich or popular (Scottish Review)
Maggie Mellon uses one case study (among many) to illustrate the lack of accountability of public services in Scotland.
My faith in any process that is supposed to ensure accountability has been destroyed. People and organisations who publicly declare their commitment to children, to rights and to justice, to corporate parenting, to listening to children and families, have refused to acknowledge their part in causing or allowing huge harm and distress to the children and to their parents and wider family. These are people and organisations whose very existence is to protect children. Protecting children is what they were set up to do, what they are paid and funded to do, and it is what the general public expect them to do.
This story is by no means unique. I have heard similar stories from many parents across Scotland – some even worse. So, to return to my original point. If you want to get a fair hearing about a wrong done to you by one or more public bodies in Scotland, you need to be very rich or very popular, or both. Without money, the only defence parents can have is publicity.
There is a petition calling for a review of the child protection system being considered by the Scottish Parliament. We need to make sure that it is not dismissed in the same way that complaints are dismissed – with glib assurances that all is well and that the powers-that-be can be trusted. All is not well.
24 January 2019
On Thursday, the European court of human rights ruled in favour of John Catt, noting he “had never been convicted of any offence and his risk of violent criminality was remote”.
The activist had argued police were not justified in retaining 66 records of his activities at peace and human rights protests. They contained descriptions of his appearance and clothes at the protests and how he liked to draw sketches of the demonstration
The eight European judges decided police had violated his human rights as they had no pressing need to retain the records on a database of “domestic extremists”. They added that the database did not have effective safeguards to protect the rights of protesters.
Catt’s lawyer, Shamik Dutta, said he had been vindicated. “This ruling sets an important precedent that it is unlawful for governments across Europe to label citizens engaged in peaceful protest domestic extremists and put them on a searchable database for a potentially indefinite period,” he added.
“A system that must rely on whistleblowers, litigation and press disclosure to ensure proper conduct is not adequate in terms of protections against abuse or arbitrariness.”
25 January 2019
Reading beyond the Scotspeak spin, this opinion piece is finally a grudging admission of defeat by Ian Welsh, chair of John Swinney’s ‘independent’ panel, who is unable to bring himself to mention consent or the (non)definition of wellbeing in an attempt to save face. The information sharing bill has no hope of being passed since the ‘wee tweaks’ that were promised to rectify delinquent legislation have proved impossible to square with human rights and data protection laws. A truly embarrassing, but entirely predictable outcome, and an announcement from the deputy first minister (in raging bull mode as his sandcastle has been kicked in) is now anticipated.
Across health, education, social care services and youth work, Scotland has a huge range of practitioners able to help parents who want to support their children and help them reach their potential.
It is vital that we – as practitioners – are responsive to what families need, and recognise that young people and families should be involved as partners in decision making. Undoubtedly, when we listen to what is happening in a child’s life, we are better placed to work with them, their family and, sometimes, help meet their needs by making contact between services.
All of the above are central to the leading-edge Girfec (Getting it Right for Every Child) Programme, sustained by wide cross-party support over the last decade.
But if information is shared between practitioners, what about that family’s right to privacy?
When a serious risk to a child’s health and safety is identiﬁed, there is a clearly a responsibility to share proportionate information about that risk with the relevant people in a legally compliant manner. However, what about when teachers, health workers or youth workers have a small worry about a child’s wellbeing which is not yet having a signiﬁcant impact on their development? What can they do to provide good service to the child and their family which prevents a bigger problem? That’s the question I’ve been looking at over the last year as chair of a Panel of experts from across education, health, the third sector, legal professions and a body which represents parents.
The issue arose in relation to the ‘named person’ proposals, part of Girfec, when the Supreme Court ruled on the proposals about information-sharing in relation to ministerial plans.
Panel members are tasked with producing a statutory Code of Practice to bring some clarity to when and how information can be shared. We wanted to produce something clear and concise that was accessible to children, families and those who work with them and which was authoritative.
We started by looking at bringing the diﬀerent pieces of legislation together. Our legal sub-group found was that although it could be done, any new code may be perceived as very technical and complicated. That was at odds with producing something that was clear – and has been described in some quarters as a ‘setback’ for the named person policy. But we came to believe there could be a better way to support good information-sharing practice, while protecting family privacy.
Recent changes to the legal landscape, such as the introduction of new and updated data protection law, combined with a refresh of Girfec policy guidance, could provide helpful safeguards eithout the need for a statutory code. We reached this view by exploring many good examples of how families and practitioners are already working in partnership in this way using existing laws.
We also asked the Scottish Government to start examining how it can update Girfec guidance, to reﬂect the vast range of more recent activity around Early Years improvement, ACES and trauma-informed staﬀ and services, coproduction of services, empowering partnerships with parents, health and social care integration and human-rights-based approaches. Our legal sub-group explored Scots and UK law, regulation and guidance, as well as relevant European and international law.
I think it’s now clear information sharing will be a larger issue for governments to consider across the spectrum of policies and services but in this particular context, it is vital for practitioners to provide families with assistance early so wellbeing issues can be addressed quickly and don’t have a wider or deeper impact on a child.
We believe it is a progressive and humane policy; early intervention to maximise later life opportunities, underpinned by the development of resilience in young people and supported by a responsive and sympathetic named person approach which puts partnership power into the hands of parents and young people.
Services can, and should, share only proportionate and appropriate information when it will help address such wellbeing concerns and any such information sharing must respect the legal rights of children and families. Nonetheless parents and young people need to know that help is always at hand.
The Panel’s current thinking – if adopted and given renewed energy and investment in practitioner training and development – could help by enabling practitioners to know what power they have to assist on one hand, and their responsibility to protect privacy on the other.
No setback here, only a call to recalibrate Girfec in the interests of our young people and their huge collective potential. The Panel is in the ﬁnal stages of its work and will conclude with a report to Scottish Ministers for their further consideration.
Professor Ian Welsh, OBE is Independent Chair of the Getting it right for Every Child Practice Development Panel
Responses by parents:
30 January 2019
The Named Person scheme must be abandoned (Lesley Scott, Herald Letters)
The arguments put forward in Professor Ian Welsh’s article (“’Named Person’ hurdle is an opportunity is not a setback”, The Herald, January 26) pose a threat for families across Scotland. Despite the UK Supreme Court ruling it unlawful in 2016 and ongoing strong opposition from families, Government and its agencies remain determined to push through the dangerous Getting it right for every child (Girfec)/Named Person legislation. Lady Hale, one of the judges involved in the 2016 judgment, recently reminded us of its dangers: “The spectre of the totalitarian state which tried to separate children from the subversive influence of their families loomed large. The Supreme Court recognised this in the Christian Institute v Lord Advocate …. the case which challenged the Scottish ‘named person’ scheme.”
Instead of a totalitarian state, Prof Welsh tries hard to paint a picture of “partnership power” through Girfec/Named Person with parents and children in the driving seat; but, after a decade of Girfec/Named Persons, the reality is one of human rights abuses, unwanted and unwarranted interference by the state, families erroneously referred to the Children’s Reporter and on to Children’s Hearings. In short, the intervention is often causing serious harm.
What is glaring in its omission from Prof Welsh’s article is the fact that Girfec and Named Person and their reliance on “wellbeing” as a procedural basis require consent prior to any data sharing taking place. Practice on the ground, however, reveals that for many families personal and confidential information continues to be shared without their knowledge, never mind their consent.
Government and its agencies need to stop telling parents how to parent and let them raise their children under their own unique “subversive influence”.
Rather than “recalibrating Girfec” Professor Welsh should listen to the UK Supreme Court and abandon this totalitarian scheme before it can do any more harm.
20 May 2019
SNP ‘hiding’ key report about state snooper plan (Mail on Sunday)
A NO2NP spokesman said: “It’s unacceptable Mr Swinney has had this report from his independent advisers on data sharing for nearly two months but has not disclosed it, or responded. What is going on?”
24 May 2019
Education and Skills Committee is to discuss the Scottish Home Ed Forum / Tymes Trust joint petition on 29 May. Latest petitioners’ submissions, in support of a public inquiry into the human rights impact of GIRFEC policy, include an advocate’s summary and 10 anonymised case studies.
1 September 2019
Expert panel fails to come up with a code of practice that can satisfy the 2016 Supreme Court judgment.
16 September 2019
Update from senior leaders responsible for standards and practice in health, social work, social care and education.
GIRFEC is special and world leading, in being a long lasting multi-disciplinary strategy for enhancing the wellbeing of a nation’s children. It has the support of successive Government administrations, both in local and national Government, and of professional bodies across the range of disciplines, as reflected in the signatories to this letter.
But the non-consensual data collection and sharing that it relied on did not have the support of the Supreme Court and could not be made lawful below the established threshold for interference with Article 8.
Deputy First Minister has recently agreed the recommendations of the GIRFEC Practice Development Panel, which had been established to develop an authoritative Code of Practice for information sharing. The Panel concluded that while it was possible to produce a code of practice that properly reflects the relevant legal requirements, the detail that such a code would require means it would not be user friendly in practice and would not be helpful.
It just couldn’t be done as they had been painted into a corner by the court and finally had to admit defeat.
The refresh of the practice guidance has commenced, and consultation with professional groups will follow in coming months. This refresh will incorporate current best practice and the work and findings of the Practice Development Panel. It will reaffirm GIRFEC as a rights-based strategy. Effective, early intervention should be based on a consensual approach, and easy access to advice and further support. This means good engagement with children and families about any concerns, and it involves families and practitioners working together to address those concerns.
GIRFEC is not a rights-based strategy as it imposes state-dictated outcomes on all rights-holders who are each entitled to determine their own ‘wellbeing’ and best interests without arbitrary interference. The policy can only operate on a consensual basis and that consent needs to be GDPR-compliant; it does not meet the alternative test of ‘necessity’ since it has no statutory basis to compel co-operation. The Supreme Court explicitly held that families are not required to accept any ‘advice’ or work together with practitioners whose ‘wellbeing’ advice is unwanted.
Practitioners should be assured that if they have a genuine concern about a child’s wellbeing, provided it is lawful and proportionate in the individual circumstances, they can share necessary information to support children and families to get the right help, from the right service at the right time.
This is doublespeak rooted in denial. The court could not have been clearer that the ‘notably vague’ notion of ‘wellbeing’ is not the threshold for compulsory intervention, including the collection and sharing of personal data.
Of course, where there is reasonable concern that a child may be at risk of harm, we all have a responsibility to act to make sure that they are safe and protected, and relevant information can be shared without consent, provided it is proportionate, necessary and lawful to do so. In such circumstances, practitioners should follow local inter-agency child protection guidance.
The threshold upheld by the Supreme Court in 2016 (named person) and 2017 (EV case) is (likely) risk of significant harm, which requires much more than ‘reasonable concern’ on the part of a SHANARRI box ticker. Sadly the 2014 child protection guidance is incompatible with Article 8 of the ECHR and data protection legislation.
We believe in Getting it right for every child, because it works. GIRFEC has succeeded, where similar strategies elsewhere have not, because it has been built from the bottom-up. It has been developed and delivered by practitioners who want to make a difference in the lives of children and families, and who understand the value and importance of partnership working.
The denial remains strong. GIRFEC has been a disastrous policy that has breached the human rights of families by design. The only difference it has made is the creation and promotion of a toxic and corrupt GIRFEC gang culture that seeks to enforce totalitarian state ideology on all families in Scotland.
19 September 2019
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills makes statement to Parliament that the Scottish Government are withdrawing the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) (Scotland) Bill.
- Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills to the Convener of the Education and Skills Committee. 19 September 2019 (562KB pdf)
- Getting it right for every child: ministerial statement
- Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) Practice Development Panel: final report
- Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) Practice Development Panel final report: Scottish Government response
In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Deputy First Minister John Swinney also announced that the mandatory named person scheme for every child – enshrined in the Children And Young People Act 2014 – will be repealed. Instead, 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 want to use them.
The Scottish Government will now develop practical guidance and support to give professionals confidence to share wellbeing concerns in a compliant way*, and to help families understand their rights under existing law.
The report of an expert panel established to explore the development of a legally-binding Code of Practice to support the Children and Young People (Information Sharing) Bill has also been published.
* i.e. with fully informed consent in order to comply with the Supreme Court named person judgment and 2015 Bara CJEU ruling.
12 October 2019
Petitioners sent a further submission in response to the latest correspondence received by the Convener from Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, John Swinney (dated 22 August 2019) and Dr Ken Macdonald, Head of ICO Regions (8 July 2019
27 November 2019
I am conscious that the committee made a decision not to return to the petition until the outcome of the process around the named person legislation. As that legislation has fallen, we are still awaiting the publication of guidance by the Scottish Government, and it might be helpful to wait until that guidance is available before revisiting the petition. I suggest that we write to the Scottish Government for an update on progress.