As of today, 23 January 2023, new regulations will allow siblings to apply for legal aid for a lawyer to represent them at their sibling’s Children’s Hearings. Clan welcomes this change, which will ensure that children and young people who have siblings going through the children’s hearing system can effectively participate and ensure their views on contact and connection with their brothers and sisters are made known to, and taken on board by, the panel.
In July 2021, the law changed to give siblings the ability to seek the right to participate in their sibling’s hearings when decisions were being made that impacts contact between them. This was an important step towards supporting siblings to stay together and maintain relationships. However, the use of this right was limited by the fact that a sibling could not apply to SLAB for legal aid for a lawyer to represent them. Instead, funding could only be granted at the discretion of the Scottish Ministers, which required a long and complex application process.
Clan found that that this process lacked clarity and made it very difficult for lawyers to access funding for legal representation. The process was also not set up to deal with urgent requests and our lawyers experienced significant delays when awaiting decisions on whether legal representation would be funded. These concerns were raised with the Scottish Government, and Clan are delighted that these issues have now been addressed through these Regulations.
While there is still no automatic right to legal aid for sibling representation, these new Regulations will make it easier for siblings to access a lawyer. This is turn will strengthen the implementation of these new rights by allowing siblings to participate effectively at their brother and sister’s Children’s Hearings, increasing the prospect of meaningful and regular contact between them.
Find out more
Read about the new regulations:
Read more about the rights of brothers and sisters in Scotland: