Press Release – Sibling Rights Cases in relation to Children’s Hearings to be heard in the Supreme Court on 13th and 14th November 2019
Clan Childlaw’s leading case involving the rights of brothers and sisters in children’s hearings is to start in the Supreme Court on 13th November. The case, known as ABC, involves a 14 year old (now aged 16 years) who wanted to have a say in decisions made about his sibling at children’s hearings. This was not possible due to the way the legislation was worded which made it difficult for siblings and others with established family life to participate fully.
Before one judge in the Court of Session, Lady Wise concluded that the current test for being able to participate in a children’s hearing, including obtaining copies of the papers and having a right to appeal, is not sufficient to allow those such as the ABC to claim a right to participate. However, the Inner House decided that there was “more than enough flexibility in the current system, if sensibly operated, to allow … [those with an interest in contact decisions] … to be taken into account in a fair and procedurally satisfactory manner.” They also noted the essentially “informal child-centred nature of the children’s hearings system.”
Permission to appeal to the Supreme Court was granted and the case will be heard along with another known as XY over two days. Lucy Frazer, solicitor for ABC said: “We are pleased that the Supreme Court is going to consider these cases which are likely to establish how children’s hearings consider relationships between brothers and sisters. Currently brothers and sisters do not have a right to be told when a hearing of a sibling is due to take place, nor to receive any written information or to appeal the decision, despite decisions being taken about how often they can see each other.”
Contact between brothers and sisters where one sibling is in care or where both or all siblings are in care is a very serious issue. Because of the lack of foster placements who can take sibling groups, brothers and sisters are often placed in different foster placements and some local authorities perform poorly in terms of ensuring they remain in contact. It is unacceptable that, just because they are in care, brothers and sisters can lose contact with each other. This has been a serious issue of concern for our client group. Clan Childlaw is part of a partnership of organisations called “Stand Up for Siblings” http://www.standupforsiblings.co.uk/ aiming to improve and change legislation, policy and practice. Stand Up for Siblings were winners of the Herald Society Award for Partnership working at an award ceremony last week. The Independent Care Review https://www.carereview.scot/ , aiming to identify and deliver lasting change in the care system, are also exploring further this issue as it was raised as a problem by a large number of care experienced young people. The Review has pledged to work alongside Stand Up for Siblings. This is not a new situation. The Child Abuse Inquiry in Scotland is hearing evidence from adults who were placed in care in the past and were separated from their siblings or who did not even know that they had siblings.
Alison Reid, Principal Solicitor at Clan Childlaw said: “Our experience in practice is that there are children’s hearings all over the country making decisions affecting the relationship between brothers and sisters without giving one of the siblings a proper opportunity to participate in that decision-making process. Also, some children’s hearings are not considering sibling contact at all when they are making decisions. We will continue to work with others to make sure that young people like ABC have their right to participate protected and to ensure that the system has the welfare of all children at its heart.”
The decisions are not expected until next year.
Supreme Court website: