Confusion over the  ‘named person’ policy is undermining efforts to protect children from neglect, according to Scotland’s Care Watchdog.

A survey of 25 cases in which children or young people had died or been harmed found that practitioners such as teachers, social workers and health visitors were uncertain about the role, even before a Supreme Court ruling in 2016 called it into doubt.

The Care Inspectorate report found that of 25 significant case reviews carried out after young people were harmed (SCRs), covering 44 young people, ten made reference to professional confusion over the role of the named person. “Findings from just under half of the SCRs we reviewed showed there is perhaps a degree of confusion and uncertainty within the system that is undermining the professional confidence and role of the named person and lead professional,” it says.

Eight of these cases were before the July 2016 court case which ruled data-sharing guidelines for named persons were unlawful.

Read more: Scottish Government's Named Person scheme ruled 'unlawful' by Supreme Court

The report says other factors have also contributed to children being left in danger. In some cases health and social services left children in neglectful or risky situations for too long because child protection "thresholds" had not been met. Communication between agencies is still not happening enough or soon enough, and decision making was often delayed becuase of poor assessments and a lack of information. 

Despite increased focus on trauma and "adverse childhood experiences" there was little evidence of effective early intervention or mental health input, the Inspectorate adds.

The report say of the 25 SCRs carried out between March 2015 and April 2018, 19 involved children aged under five. Meanwhile three cases related to teenaged girls who had taken their own lives.

The Care Inspectorate says in some child welfare cases "neglect had not been sufficiently recognised or adequately responded to" before children were either seriously injured or fatally harmed.

Despite the Girfec (Getting it Right for Every Child) policy which is meant to place children's needs at the centre of decision making, “nine of the 25 reports found a lack of focus on the child or young person’s experiences and perspective in considering their wellbeing and safety”.

A "recurring theme was that of children remaining unnoticed in neglectful or harmful situations until a threshold for child protection was reached".

In almost all instances where there had been a significant case review, the "families were already known to services and were being supported on a non-statutory basis".

Read more: One in ten Scots children experience multiple traumatic life events says Edinburgh study

Peter Macleod, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said: "It's everyone's job to help ensure that every child in Scotland is kept safe, nurtured and supported to reach their full potential.

"We know that social workers and others across Scotland successfully care for and protect many children and young people every day, despite often challenging circumstances.

"We also know that it is very difficult to eliminate all risk.

"In the small number of cases where a child has come to harm, it is crucial that all agencies involved are fully committed to reviewing actions and decisions in each case, to learn any and all lessons that need to be learned.

"This report contains important insights that we expect partners to consider."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The safety of children is always paramount, which is why we are determined to ensure child protection measures are as robust as possible and planning is already underway to develop a programme of work to address many of the Care Inspectorate’s findings.

“To ensure we deliver the best outcome for every child we have set up an independent panel to develop a code of practice on information sharing for people working with children and families. We are considering the panel’s findings and recommendations carefully and Ministers will update Parliament on the Panel’s report and our response in due course.

“We welcome this report which looks at how parties working in child protection can learn from significant cases. We are already examining the case review system to support learning and improvement in a more consistent and effective way and the group overseeing this work will carefully consider this report.”

Simon Calvert, spokesman for the No To Named Person campaign, said: "It would be better if the Government dropped their attempts to roll out the unpopular and ineffective Named Person scheme. This will allow agencies to focus more energy and resources on working together to protect the vulnerable”