1. The Scottish Government undertook a public consultation on the draft statutory guidance for Parts 4, 5 and 18 (Section 96) of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (the Act) between 6 February and 1 May 2015. The consultation contained 38 questions, and invited views on draft guidance and accompanying Orders relating to specific parts of the Act, including the definition and assessment of 'wellbeing' and the provisions for a 'Named Person' service and a 'Child's Plan'.
2. A total of 282 responses were received from 149 organisations and 133 individuals. Organisational respondents included those with a direct role in implementing the Act (local authorities, health organisations, partnership bodies and national public sector bodies) as well as a wide range of non-statutory and third sector bodies.
3. A significant proportion of respondents (28%) did not use the consultation questionnaire but provided free-text submissions. Many respondents -particularly individuals - focused on the substance of the Act rather than the detail of the guidance in their comments.
Views of organisations
4. Respondents across all organisational sectors were generally supportive of the Act. They particularly welcomed the strong focus on the needs of the child, and the focus on hearing the child's 'voice'.
5. A majority of the organisational respondents (55%) agreed (at Question 1) that the guidance provided a clear interpretation of the Act to support implementation of the duties. Most of the organisations that would be directly involved in implementing the legislation agreed, while a majority of other types of organisations disagreed. Levels of agreement in relation to the other questions in the consultation varied from just under half (47%) to around nine out of ten (91%) of organisational respondents.
6. Regardless of whether they agreed or disagreed at individual questions, respondents went on to offer a range of comments on how the guidance might be clarified or otherwise improved to support implementation.
7. Respondents called for improved presentation and 'usability' of the guidance including the use of simpler language, consistent terminology, sharper definitions, and better structuring and signposting. They also wished to see greater use of diagrams, flow charts and examples. Respondents frequently highlighted the need for practice guidance (local and / or national) and / or guidance for specific professional groups.
8. Respondents asked for more clarity on the central concept of 'wellbeing' which underpinned the guidance. This concept was not thought to be sufficiently well defined to allow consistent interpretation and implementation.
9. Specific issues on which respondents frequently sought clarity or additional guidance included: information sharing; working with particular subgroups of children and young people (e.g. those with disabilities); the role of the Named Person; and the role of the Lead Professional. Respondents also asked for greater clarity on the interface between the guidance and other extant legislation, systems and procedures - this included, but was not restricted to, the Data Protection Act, the European Convention on Human Rights and child protection legislation and procedures. Complaints procedures and processes for dispute resolution were seen as notable omissions from the guidance.
10. Other wider issues raised by third sector and non-statutory organisations included the need to take account of the role of the third sector in working with, and providing services to, children and young people, and the need for a greater emphasis on a rights and asset-based approach to providing support.
11. The resource implications of the legislation and guidance were raised by a wide range of respondents. There was a concern that the demands on busy professionals (especially health visitors and senior teachers) were unrealistic.
Views held by those opposed to the legislation
12. Individuals (and a small number of organisations) generally used their response to voice opposition to the Act and to the Named Person service in particular. These comments were outwith the scope of the consultation. Therefore, the reasons given by this group of respondents for their opposition to the Act are noted briefly within the report, but the analysis focused mainly on the views of those who addressed the consultation questions.
13. Respondents who were opposed to the legislation did not generally offer comments on the detail of the guidance. However, a few did, and these respondents expressed the following views: i) teachers, health visitors and other potential Named Persons are already stretched / under pressure and they cannot take on this role without compromising their other responsibilities; ii) the Named Person has been given very wide powers, and it is not clear how they - and the Named Person service - will be made accountable; iii) offering a universal service will prevent resources being directed at those who are genuinely in need of support; and iv) the guidance is impractical, overcomplicated, unrealistic, legalistic and too vague / unclear.
Email: Richard Kaura