Scotland has introduced new legislation to help siblings taken into care stay together.
Part 13 of the Children (Scotland) Act 2020 and the Looked After Children (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 mean local authorities have a duty to ensure siblings are supported to stay together, where appropriate.
Children’s Minister Clare Haughey said: “All children need the same things to thrive - a stable home, strong support and steady, loving relationships. We know through speaking to children and young people that the relationships with their brothers and sisters is vital to their sense of belonging and to their wellbeing. Thankfully, most siblings who experience care away from home are now placed together, but where that is not possible, it is important that those precious bonds are protected and nurtured through spending time with each other.
“The changes that come into force today are a significant step in our commitment to keeping The Promise to drive the changes needed in how we care for our children, young people and families,” she added.
The legislation means that where it is not appropriate for siblings to stay together in care, measures should be taken to help them stay in frequent touch with each other and to nurture their relationships.
Brothers and sisters will have new rights to appropriately participate in Children’s Hearings where contact with their siblings is being considered – with support including advocacy services, under the new legislation.
The legislation applies to siblings with the same parent, children and young people who have lived together like siblings and children and young people who consider each other as brother and sister. These changes to the law mean that if sibling contact does not happen, then siblings and their advocates can challenge this.
Social workers and other practitioners will have access to new guidance to help them to implement the legislation, which was developed in consultation with care-experienced young people. Staying Together and Connected: Getting it Right for Sisters and Brothers National Practice Guidance provides practical advice based on research, evidence and listening to experience about what all children need to grow and thrive through sustained, positive relationships with their siblings. It provides key information including on:
Saffron Rohan, who was on the consultants working group for the National Practice Guidance, said: “It was fantastic to input into this guidance, supporting its development with our thoughts and experience. It is my hope that this guidance will give practitioners the knowledge and direction to ensure children’s rights are continuously upheld and these crucial and meaningful relationships are supported to flourish.”
Aileen Nicol, Head of Improving Protection and Permanence at CELCIS, said: “For far too long, the relationships between children who have sisters and brothers with experience of care have been irreparably changed or prevented. This has undermined an approach founded on the principle of what is in the best interests of a child. This guidance is one important practical step in the culmination of many years of work to provide challenge and share and amplify the necessary and vital voices that led to the change in law. Together we can ensure better experiences our children across Scotland.”