Clan at 16

June 12th 2024

Alison Reid and Fiona Jones founded Clan Childlaw 16 years ago to create legal services for children and young people which met their needs.

In this blog, Fiona Jones reflects on how far Clan has come from those early beginnings and some of the achievements that have been made in the last 16 years and what is in store for the future of Clan Childlaw.

Looking back over the past 16 years, what have been the most significant changes in legal representation for children and young people, and in the work to strengthen and protect children’s rights?

The setting up of Clan Childlaw 16 years ago represented a bold and significant step in the effective delivery of legal representation for children and young people in Scotland. It was precisely to fill what we felt was a serious gap in provision that we founded Clan. Children’s rights have been greatly strengthened and protected by radically improving their access to justice. It is encouraging that the new enforceable duties under the UNCRC will help to further that protection.

What have been Clan’s most important achievement(s) since it was founded?

Every child helped by Clan represents an achievement. The impact on our clients of having legal representation has enabled their rights to be upheld in various settings.

There are 2 other important achievements I’d highlight, in addition to many others over the years.

The first is the work Clan has done in relation to siblings, especially those with care experience. Over several years, Clan worked to highlight the difficulties faced by siblings in the prioritisation and upholding of their rights.  Clan represented a client in a significant case which went all the way to the Supreme Court, concerned with rights of a sibling in the Children’s Hearings system. The law was changed in 2020 and 2021, substantially as a result of Clan’s work over the years. Local authorities now have duties placed on them in respect to placement of, and contact between, siblings in care. Brothers and sisters have stronger rights to be heard in Children’s Hearings.

The use of strategic litigation to advance children’s rights is a further important achievement by Clan Childlaw, who were trailblazers in Scotland by raising awareness of and using such litigation. Using court cases to have an impact on law and policy is now more common in Scotland following Clan’s lead, which began with interventions in high profile Supreme Court cases affecting children’s rights.

What are your hopes for the future for Clan Childlaw and the work to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights?

My hope is that Clan Childlaw can continue to deliver its excellent legal service to protect children’s rights. Specifically, I hope to see the following:

  • In future, every child in need of legal help gets access to a specialist lawyer skilled in representing children;
  • Areas continue to be identified where the legal landscape for children needs to be changed, and effective challenges can be made.

To hear more about our plans for the next three years, read our strategy here.