16 February 2014
Child guardians bill tramples international child protection laws and “undermines parental authority”
Photo credit: Dbking via Creative Commons
Glasgow (16 Feb) – A new child protection law scheduled for a parliamentary vote on 19 February is on course for a head-on collision with international conventions, warns Evangelical Alliance Scotland.
The Alliance Scotland has called on Aileen Campbell, minister for children and young people, to sit with opponents to discuss the bill and arrive at a consensus.
The Alliance, which represents more than 750 organisations and two million evangelical Christians in 3,500 churches across 79 denominations in UK, says the broad brush approach by the Alex Salmond administration to assign a state guardian known as a 'named person' to each of the 1,042,597 children across Scotland, runs counter to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The government has said that these named persons would be a health visitor in the early years and later a senior teacher or head teacher. The idea is to safeguard against child abuse.
"While we do not doubt the government's sincere intentions behind this bill these proposals raise serious concerns about the role of the state in modern Scotland, have massive implications for the role of parents and appear to be begging for a fight in the law courts as some parents may wish to challenge it because it is not immediately apparent whether it is lawful under the ECHR," says Fred Drummond, director of Evangelical Alliance Scotland.
Article 8 of the ECHR protects the private life of individuals against arbitrary interference by public authorities and covers four distinct areas including private life, family life, and the home.
In addition, the named person provision violates the obligations of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which the government is seeking to implement in this bill.
Article 5 of the CRC makes it clear that governments must respect the rights and responsibilities of parents to guide and advise their children while Article 16 states that no child should be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy or family and must have the right of the protection of the law against such interference.
A major concern is what happens when the opinion of the named person conflicts with that of the parent over how the child is being raised. This could have massive implications and an overburdening of the system if children are going to be referred to social services as a result of misunderstanding or misrepresentations.
"As a parent I am horrified and I am sure that parents across Scotland will be horrified to learn that the state can override their wishes particularly as there is no provision in the bill for consent from or withdrawal by either parent or child," says Drummond.
"At the Evangelical Alliance we fundamentally believe in the positive role of families which is why we are so concerned by the named person provision of this bill. It's the second anti-family bill in recent weeks. There are enormous civil liberties implications raised by these proposals that fundamentally endanger the rights of families in Scotland to a private and family life. We are deeply concerned that their approach will undermine the place of family, when the strongest, best and most secure context for the vast majority of Scottish children lies at home with loving parents," adds the Alliance director.
Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, says: "At a time when family life is becoming increasingly difficult, these proposals seek to complicate it further by undermining parental authority with state interference."
Notes to Editors
The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.