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July 23, 2013

Proposed Law Assigns Government Agent for Every Child

Scottish Homeschoolers Seek Help Battling “Invasive, Anti-Parental” Bill

Thank You For Taking Action

HSLDA originally requested that members and friends contact the Education and Culture Committee to express concerns about the Children and Young People Bill. However, emails are no longer needed as the committee stopped accepting submissions on July 26.

A beleaguered and relatively small group of parents in Scotland are fighting to keep an increasingly intrusive government bureaucracy from undermining their right to homeschool and potentially destroying the critically important relationship between parents and children.

Scottish home educators have asked for help from families worldwide to oppose a bill that proposes a massive invasion of every home. Among other things, the Children and Young People Bill would assign a government social worker to “promote, support or safeguard the wellbeing” of every child from birth. The bill is part of a larger government policy initiative in Scotland called “Getting it Right for Every Child” (GIRFEC).

The national homeschooling association in Scotland, “Schoolhouse,” has told HSLDA that the proposed bill that would rewrite the Scottish child protection system is bad for all families but would certainly target of home educating families. The group is asking American home educators to help them oppose this Orwellian legislation.

Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA, calls this bill the “most invasive and anti-parent proposal” he has seen.

Clear Violation

Alison Preuss, secretary and press officer of Schoolhouse and longtime home educating parent, explains that the proposal as written is not only draconian but may be illegal, violating data protection laws in the United Kingdom and the European Union.

“Home educating families and others who make less conventional, but lawful, parenting choices are already being targeted under the current implementation of GIRFEC, and this bill would guarantee further intrusion,” said Preuss. “We know of several home educating families who have had difficulties with the authorities simply because they choose not to use the school system. This new law would violate family privacy and civil liberties, result in the unfair targeting of home educating families and other minority groups, and is completely contrary to the values of a free society.”

The bill is described by proponents as “shifting the culture” from intervention only when there is evidence of a problem to intervention whenever a host of subjective factors indicate there may be a problem in the future. According to Preuss, two of the most concerning parts of the bill relate to the “named person” and the data collection elements of the proposed legislation.

“The collection and sharing of personal data breaches both the UK Data Protection Act and Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights,” she said. “Furthermore, the ‘named person’ requirement of the bill should operate as an opt-in, similar to the current ‘health visiting service’ that the government provides. Unfortunately, many families in Scotland—not just those who home educate—have already experienced issues as officials are implementing policy related to this provision which isn’t even legislation yet. Some have been hounded by professionals who refuse to go away, interfere into family life without legitimate reasons, and seek to mislead families about their parenting choices."

Inspired by the United Nations

HSLDA Director of Federal Relations Will Estrada points to the law as the natural progression for a country that has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

“Proponents of this bill explicitly state that the legislation is intended to implement the UNCRC,” Estrada said. “This is an example of why HSLDA opposes ratification of the CRC, CRPD and other UN treaties. The argument that these treaties are mere altruistic expressions melts away when you look at what is happening in the legislatures of countries who ratify the treaties and try to live up to their treaty obligations. A ‘named-person’ for every child and national databases? No thanks.”

HSLDA has successfully opposed both the UNCRC and UNCRPD, treaties that rely on a “best interests of the child” standard in all cases, not just when there is an evidenced need for government intervention. Both treaties require that the government supervise the implementation of that standard in all instances. Just last year, HSLDA successfully spearheaded opposition to the UNCRPD and is preparing to oppose the treaty again should it come up, as promised by proponents, in the current legislative session.

“This Scottish bill shows what form such oppression can take.”

Michael Donnelly
HSLDA Director for International Relations

HSLDA Director for International Relations Michael Donnelly encouraged American and other homeschoolers around the world to support their fellow homeschoolers by contacting the Scottish parliament.

“There is a growing global battle that all homeschoolers must be aware of and fight together—the idea that the state should decide how children are educated, contrary to the decision of parents,” he said. “This Scottish bill shows what form such oppression can take. We see the results of such oppression in countries like Germany and Sweden, where parents are fined, threatened and their children taken over their choice to homeschool. Free people must stand together to defend the rights of families to make educational and other decisions without government interference. Scottish homeschoolers have asked for help, and I ask HSLDA’s members and all friends of liberty to take action immediately to meet this Friday’s deadline to contact the Scottish parliament about the bill.”

Reasons for Concern

The main concerns expressed to HSLDA by Schoolhouse are that:

  1. The “named person” requirement should be an opt-in service, like the current government provided health visiting service;
  2. Personal data should never be gathered or shared without consent, as it breaches both the UK Data Protection Act and Article 8 of the ECHR;
  3. The proposals will result in many families actively avoiding contact with services, which is not helpful if you really want to help people; and
  4. There is a need for legal redress to be available against any professional who “gets it wrong” for a child. Currently the bill exempts named persons and others from liability if they “get it wrong” for the child.

Ultimately, the underlying concerns that HSLDA shares regarding this bill is that it appears to be motivated by principles that are at odds with those that undergird a free society. Specifically, the notions that government should be limited and only intervene when necessary, or specifically provided for under objective standards; that a free people are competent to raise their own children without interference or uninvited “help” from government bureaucrats; that information about children should be protected and only shared when written consent is given by parents or legal guardians; and most importantly, that in a free society the rights of families and the irreplaceable relationship between parents and children must be protected and respected. The proposed Scottish legislation turns the notion that parents are responsible for their children on its head and basically says that parents can’t be trusted—only the government can.

Information and Action

Homeschoolers in the U.S. can help their Scottish brethren by addressing comments to the Scottish Education and Culture Committee by this Friday. Instructions on how to submit comments can be obtained at the Scottish parliament website.

Written submissions can be submitted by email to:

For more information about the bill and the need for help read this article.

Proponents of the bill aren’t shy about their intentions.