Relationships with siblings are among the most important and long-lasting in our lives and can provide a source of resilience at a time of change. At the moment, the heart-breaking reality is that if brothers and sisters are looked after by the state, there is a high chance they will live apart and the time they spend together will be limited. Sometimes they will lose contact completely. Uncertainty and disruption to these relationships is painful and distressing for children and young people and can have lifelong consequences.
On 26 July, the law is changing as the Children (Scotland) Act 2020 and changing regulations give new rights to siblings in Scotland. The new law emphasises the importance of ensuring brothers and sisters live together whenever possible. If brothers and sisters can’t live together or near each other for reasons of safety, they must be supported to keep in touch and see each other regularly. Children’s Hearings will also have a new legal duty to consider sibling contact. Crucially, the new laws apply to both those who share a parent and people who’ve lived together and whose relationship is like one between siblings. These changes to the law are accompanied by changes to the rules for siblings in Children’s Hearings. Children and young people should now be able to have a say in their brother or sister’s Children’s Hearing when decisions are being made that might affect them seeing each other.
As Scotland’s law centre for children and young people, Clan Childlaw has been a leading campaigner for better rights for siblings for over a decade. In 2017, Clan Childlaw was a founding partner of the Stand Up for Siblings coalition, bringing together organisations across Scotland to advance law, policy and practice. Lawyers at Clan Childlaw work with children and young people every day and have helped hundreds of brothers and sisters to challenge decisions that threaten their relationships. In 2019, Clan Childlaw took the issue of sibling rights all the way to the Supreme Court, raising awareness of a gap in legislation to protect the relationships of brothers and sisters.
Alison Reid, Principal Solicitor and co-founder of Clan Childlaw, said:
“The new law represents huge progress for the rights of brothers and sisters in Scotland. Until now there been no obligation to keep brothers and sisters together or support them seeing each other, or to ask them for their views when decisions are being made about a sibling. We will be watching closely to see how the new law is implemented in the coming months, but for now we are celebrating the culmination of over a decade of work by Clan Childlaw to make sure that sibling relationships are respected and protected in Scots law.”
Janet Cormack, Legal Policy Manager at Clan Childlaw, said:
“This is a moment of celebration for all of us at Clan Childlaw and for all the people and organisations who have helped to bring about positive change for brothers and sisters in Scotland. It’s been a real privilege to work together with our partners in the Stand Up for Siblings coalition to drive forward these changes in law, policy and practice.”
Changes to the law for brothers and sisters – We explain what the law says, who it applies to, and how children and young people can access their new rights.