Read article ‘In Care, in family?’ in the Law Society of Scotland Journal by Clan Childlaw’s Principal Solicitor Alison Reid, in which she explains how new statutory rights designed to keep siblings together and connected came about and the impact of bringing an appropriate test case.
Brothers & sisters: What are the changes to the law?
‘Changes to the law for brothers and sisters’ explains what the law says, who it applies to, and how children and young people can access their new rights.
You will find more details about the legal changes on this page, which explains the Children (Scotland) Act 2020, The Looked After Children (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 and The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (Rules of Procedure in Children’s Hearings) Amendment Rules 2021.
Clan Childlaw’s Role in Changing the Law for Brothers and Sisters
Sibling relationships are among the most important and longest lasting relationships in our lives, but care experienced children very often have to live apart from their brothers and sisters and do not receive the support they need to keep in touch and continue seeing each other.
Clan Childlaw has been working towards changes to the law and improvements in practice around sibling rights for many years. After Clan was founded in 2008, it quickly became clear that losing contact with brothers and sisters was a common issue for our clients and it’s one that we still see frequently today.
Our solicitors regularly help children and young people who live apart from brothers and sisters or risk not seeing each other, and often represent them at their sibling’s Children’s Hearings. Please get in touch if we can help with any kind of issue (call us on 0808 129 0522 or email email@example.com). You can read an example a problem we can help with here. Lots of children and young people have had difficulties seeing family during Coronavirus due to restrictions – read more about this here.
We represented our client ‘ABC’ in a leading case on sibling rights in Children’s Hearings which went all the way to the UK Supreme Court. Read more about the case here. The case, along with the case XY, has led to significant changes which should make a big difference for care experienced brothers and sisters.
Our Principal Solicitor Alison Reid was part of the Rights Group of the Independent Care Review and we also took part in the Review’s Siblings Group as part of Stand Up for Siblings. The Scottish Government is committed to implementing the Review’s recommendations, The Promise, in full, which includes key changes for care experienced siblings. The Promise states:
“Scotland must ensure ... a strong legal framework that acknowledges protects and promotes brother and sister relationships in and on the edges of care. Those legal protections must include the right to time together, meaningful participation in decision-making about their siblings and clear, simple rights to appeal.” (Chapter 4: Care, page 63).
Influencing the Children (Scotland) Act 2020
Until now Scots law has not allowed children to easily address sibling separation and contact. Changes to legislation passed in 2020 change this.
Sibling relationships have long been protected as part of the right to family life in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 16 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, but The Children (Scotland) Act 2020 puts necessary detail into Scots law about sibling rights and should make a big difference for care experienced children and young people.
Clan Childlaw worked hard to help make these changes happen.
Our publications identified what was wrong with the law and practice (see PrioritisinPrioritising Sibling Relationships (2018) and Promoting Sibling Contact for Looked After Children (2015).
Our solicitors’ case work has led to important decisions with a lasting impact, tackling systemic issues.
Our training, including Scotland-wide workshops together with charity Siblings Reunited (STAR), raised awareness among professionals supporting care experienced children about the law and good practice for supporting brothers and sisters. At our conference for this training programme in March 2019, the Minister for Children and Young People announced the Scottish Government’s commitment to changing to the law.
We engaged with the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament throughout the reform process, submitting evidence in Clan Childlaw’s name and joint evidence alongside Stand Up for Siblings partners (see below).
- Read Clan Childlaw’s response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Review of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 and creation of a family justice modernisation strategy
- Read Clan Childlaw’s evidence to the Scottish Parliament Justice Committee here. Clan Childlaw gave oral evidence on 28 January 2020.
- When the Scottish Government introduced amendments at Stage 3 – directly following our client ABC’s Supreme Court case – on the opportunity for siblings and other relatives to participate in children’s hearings, we engaged closely with MSPs to support changes – read our position statement on this issue of 18th August 2020 and Briefing for MSPs of 24th August 2020 here.
Clan Childlaw is a co-founder of Stand Up for Siblings, a Scotland wide partnership launched in March 2018 aimed at improving and changing legislation, policy and practice to support the sibling relationships of children in care, and to prevent sibling separation and estrangement. The Stand Up for Siblings website contains lots of information about good practice, research and the law.
Stand Up For Siblings has published ‘Seven Steps to Sibling Relationships’, a road map for stopping sibling estrangement when children become involved with the care system.
SUFS contributed to the Independent Care Review and is delighted that The Promise, launched in February 2020, contains the clear message that siblings must be kept together, and where that’s not possible supported to keep in touch, and that their rights to be part of decision-making about their brothers and sisters must be protected.
SUFS closely worked hard to influence the the Children (Scotland) Act 2020 (see below) – read more about SUFS’ engagement here. The partnership continues to promote good practice and support implementation of the new laws which took effect on 26th July 2021 and the implementation of The Promise.
Stand Up for Siblings won the Partnership award at the Herald Society Awards 2019.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org