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