Following the commitment made by Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd MSP earlier this year to improve the law for brothers and sisters in the care system, the Scottish Government has published its proposals: the Children (Scotland) Bill and Family Justice Modernisation Strategy were published on 2 September 2019. The Scottish Government plans the following actions to prioritise the relationships of brothers and sisters in care:
Duties on local authorities
- Section 10 of the Children (Scotland) Bill introduces a duty on local authorities to promote direct contact and personal relations between a child and their siblings, where this is both practicable and appropriate and in the interests of the child. Siblings are defined to include individuals with whom a child has an ongoing relationship with the character of a sibling relationship.
- Section 10 of the Bill also requires local authorities to seek the views of the child’s sibling in relation to contact when it is reasonably practicable for the local authority to do so.
- The Scottish Government will introduce amendments to the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009 to put a duty on local authorities to place siblings under 18 years of age together when they are looked after away from home when it is in their best interests to do so. These regulations will come into force at the same time as the section in the Bill placing duties on local authorities.
In recognition that legislative changes alone may not meet the policy aims, the Scottish Government will engage with the Stand up for Siblings Partners, corporate parents and key organisations to assist implementation and share good practice across Scotland.
Independent Care Review
The Independent Care Review has, in engaging with infants, children, young people and adults with experience of care and their families, identified at an early stage in the review that siblings must be kept together, or supported to maintain relationships, to ensure the best outcomes for looked after children. These actions are intended to support those aims. The Scottish Government will take further action, as required, to take forward the Review’s recommendations on this issue when it reports in Spring 2020.
The proposals are a significant milestone in the work to improve the rights and wellbeing of care experienced siblings across Scotland. Stand Up for Siblings partners look forward to workingwith the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament as the proposals advance.