On 26 July 2021, the law changed on what local authorities and Children’s Hearings have to do to support brothers and sisters.

What does the new law say?
Who does the new law apply to?
Can I take part in my brother or sister’s Children’s Hearing?
How do I ask to take part in my brother or sister's Children's Hearing?
What happens when I take part in my brother or sister's Children's Hearing?

Changes to the law for brothers and sisters in Scotland

This is what the new law says:

  1. If you are in care, you and your brothers and sisters should be able to live together if that’s safe. Or if it’s better for your safety and welfare, you should be able to live near each other rather than in the same home.

  2. You must be supported by your local authority to see and keep in regular touch with any brothers and sisters you aren’t living with (as long as this is safe).

  3. Before any decisions are made about your brother or sister, you should be asked what you think, and social work must take that into account.

  4. Children’s Hearings and sheriffs must consider arrangements for you to see siblings and relevant persons you are not living with.

If any of these things are not happening, a lawyer may be able to help you to ask for changes to be made. If you have any questions or worries about any of this, you can phone us on 0808 1290 522 and we will try to help you.

Who does the new law apply to?

These changes are not only for brothers and sisters who have the same parent, but also for people who have lived together and are just like brothers and sisters.

Sometimes all the brothers and sisters will be in care and sometimes not all will be, but they all still have the right to see each other if this is safe. For example, if your brother or sister is looked after by a local authority and you are not, you still have all the same rights to see them and stay in touch.

Changes for brothers and sisters who wish to take part in Children’s Hearings

From 26 July 2021 there are new rules to make it easier for brothers and sisters take part in each other’s Children’s Hearings.

Can I take part in my brother or sister’s Children’s Hearing?

If you want to go to a sibling’s Children’s Hearing, it must first be decided that you should be a ‘person afforded the opportunity to participate’.

 You can get this status if you meet all these criteria:

  1. You are living or have lived with your sibling,

  2. You and your sibling have an ‘ongoing relationship with the character of a relationship between siblings’. This means you feel like brothers and sisters, even if you don’t share a parent.

  3. The Children’s Hearing is likely to make a decision which could significantly affect whether or not you can see your brother or sister. This could include a decision that your sibling should move to live with a new carer, which may make seeing them more difficult.

  4. You are capable of having a view about seeing your brother or sister.

How do I ask to take part in my brother or sister's Children's Hearing?

The Reporter may get in touch with you. You can try to get the status yourself by writing to the Reporter and asking for a pre-hearing panel to decide whether you should be given the status. You can do this yourself or an advocacy worker or lawyer can help you.

If you think you should be a ‘person afforded the opportunity to participate’ in your sibling’s children’s hearings, you can speak to Clan Childlaw and we can advise you and support you through the whole process.

What happens when I take part in my brother or sister's Children's Hearing?

If a panel decides you are a ‘person afforded the opportunity to participate’ it gives you these rights:

  1. To be told about your brother or sister’s hearing

  2. To give a report or other document to the hearing

  3. To be given certain documents about the hearing

  4. To go to part of the hearing

  5. To have someone at the hearing to support you or help you give your views. This could be an advocacy worker, a lawyer, or someone else who can help you.

  6. To ask for a review hearing for your brother or sister three months after the last hearing

If your sibling has just had a Children’s Hearing and you weren’t given a chance to take part, even though you are eligible, there is also a new power to call a review hearing.  

Further Information

About Your Rights

As well as the rights explained on this page, everyone has the right to family life with family members including brothers and sisters. These legal rights are protected by article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and article 16 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

About the Law

These rights for brothers and sisters come from three different pieces of legislation.

  • Children (Scotland) Act 2020

  • The Looked After Children (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021

  • The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (Rules of Procedure in Children’s Hearings) Amendment Rules 2021

Find out more about which law says what