Clan Childlaw has been working towards changes to the law and improvements in practice around sibling rights for many years. Losing contact with brothers and sisters has been a common issue for our clients since we opened in 2008. After a long campaign, we are all delighted the law has finally changed.
What does the law say?
Which law says this?
Local authorities must take steps to promote, on a regular basis, personal relations and direct (face-to-face) contact between a child in their care and their siblings, as appear to the authority – having regard to their paramount duty to the child to safeguard and promote their welfare – to be appropriate.
Section 13 of the Children (Scotland) Act 2020, amending section 17(1) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995
Before local authorities make any decision about a child they are looking after, or are proposing to look, they must get the views of the child’s siblings (where reasonably practicable) and must have regard to those views (as far as practicable).
Section 13 of the 2020 Act, amending section 17(3) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995
Children’s Hearings and Sheriffs, when they are making, changing or continuing a Compulsory Supervision Order for a child, must consider contact between the child and any siblings and relevant persons they are not living with.
Section 14 of 2020 Act, amending section 29A of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011
The new law applies to both siblings and sibling-like relationships. For the new duties to apply, two people must either: (a) have a parent in common OR (b) have lived together and have an ongoing relationship with the character of a relationship between siblings.
Section 13(2)(b) of the 2020 Act, amending section 17 of the 1995 Act
Section 14(2) of the 2020 Act, amending section 29A of the 2011 Act
The Act also puts beyond doubt that children under 16 can seek and be granted a contact order under section 11 of the 1995 Act without automatically being given parental responsibilities and rights. This is a significant clarification for young people wishing to seek a court order on contact with their siblings (this follows the case Knox v S – read why here)
Section 15 of the 2020 Act, amending section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 – in force since 17th January 2021
Siblings have the opportunity to participate in their brother or sister’s Children’s Hearings where decisions are being taken that will affect them seeing each other. Children’s Hearings rules have been changed to set out the detail of who can take part and what must happen. Read more here.
Section 25 of the 2020 Act amending the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011.
The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (Rules of Procedure in Children’s Hearings) Amendment Rules 2021.
New duty to place brothers and sister together:
Where a local authority is considering placing a child with a kinship carer, with a foster carer, or in a residential establishment, and any sibling of the child is looked after or about to be looked after, the local authority must place the siblings, where appropriate, with the same carer or in the same residential establishment, or in homes which are near to each other if that would better safeguard and promote the welfare of a child than the siblings living together. In either situation, to decide that a placement is appropriate, the local authority has to be satisfied that it safeguards and promotes the welfare of the child which is the paramount consideration.
The Looked After Children