Free Webinars – Registration Now Open

Free Webinars – Registration Now Open

Want to know the latest on siblings rights? What’s happening in practice and policy? Then check out our series of free webinars running next month! There’s three virtual sessions running and delegates can register now. 

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The first ‘Brothers and sisters – our rights to be together, be heard and participate’ is on Monday 4 October at 4.30pm.

Join solicitors from Clan Childlaw and Care Experienced members of Who Cares? Scotland’s National Representative Body, to dive into the new legal rights for siblings in care. 

We welcome anyone to come along who is interested to learn more, particularly people with care experience, carers, families and practitioners. This will be a participatory workshop, with opportunities to share your views on these new rights and think about them in practice. There are limited spaces, however the session’s presentations will be recorded to access afterwards. 

Find out more and sign up here

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The second session ‘Research into Practice’ will take place on Wednesday 6 October from 12.30-2pm. 

Learn about how research on estrangement of children in care from their brothers and sisters is influencing practice change in Children’s Hearings and a local authority.  This webinar is for all those involved in the Children’s Hearings System and care system.  It gives an opportunity to reflect on your practice and exchange ideas with others working to support children’s relationships with their brothers and sisters. 

Find about what the research said about the estrangement of children in care and permanence from their brothers and sisters, and why this needed to change.  Speakers from Children’s Hearings Scotland will present a pilot on best practice in Hearings on brothers and sisters, and discuss the challenges they’ve experienced implementing the new laws in Hearings.  And The Promise Lead in West Lothian Council will discuss how this local authority is working to meet The Promise for brothers and sisters in care. There will time for questions and exchanging experiences and ideas with the speakers and other participants. 

Find out more and sign up here

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The third and final webinar ‘Implementing Policy and Practice Change’ will take place at 12.30pm-2.30pm on Friday 8 October. 

This webinar will chart the policy and legislative changes in Scotland for brothers and sisters in the care system, and explore how the work of SUFS partnership contributed to realising these changes over the past 4 years. We will explore the challenges and enablers to implementing practice change on the ground, from the perspectives of local authority practitioners, Social Work Scotland, and the Care Inspectorate. There will be a panel Q&A offering opportunities to learn, share, debate and discuss practice and policy issues. 

The webinar is particularly aimed at social work practitioners in children and families and family based care teams, and their managers, but may also be of interest and accessible to a wide range of stakeholders, policy makers, panel members, parents/carers and care experienced people. 

Speakers include Kate Richardson from Scotland’s Adoption Register, Lizzie Morton from Celcis, Mary Morris and Fiona Sheils from the Care Inspectorate and Janine Fraser from Glasgow City Council. 

Find out more and sign up here.

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Young people’s experience of having a sibling in prison

Young people’s experience of having a sibling in prison

Researcher Kirsty Deacon writes for the Stand Up For Siblings website about her work on young people’s experiences of having a sibling in prison…

From the 26th of July 2021 brothers and sisters’ rights to a family life have a greater protection in law in Scotland. This means that they will be allowed to have a say in their sibling’s Hearing, and there will be new duties on local authorities in relation to siblings who are placed into care, ensuring that direct contact between them is promoted, and that the views of brothers and sisters will be asked for, and taken into account, before any decision is made about the child.

These requirements stem, in part, from an acknowledgement that sibling relationships can be some of the longest lasting in our lives, signifying a unique bond, and that separation can be harmful and traumatic. While the importance of these relationships is increasingly being recognised in terms of those children and young people who are separated when they are taken into care, this is not the case where siblings are separated due to the intervention of the criminal justice system through imprisonment. Although the importance of retaining relationships for children in care with imprisoned siblings is recognised within the Staying Together and Connected National Practice Guidance. While I’m not saying that these two experiences are the same, it serves to highlight the lack of attention by the criminal justice system to this issue, raising the question of what the impact of this separation is, whether it is recognised and what is being done to mitigate any impact arising from it.

My PhD looked at young people’s experiences of parental and/or sibling imprisonment and involved seven young people aged between 17 and 22 at the time of their interview who had brothers who were currently and/or had previously been in prison. This imprisonment had often happened when they were teenagers rather than younger children.

Almost all spoke of having had close relationships with their brothers, and some of the dual sibling and parental role that they had played in their lives. For some, this involved their brother temporarily taking on specific aspects of care that parents could not always provide, for example, due to working shifts. For others though, this was a more permanent and complete provision of care, coming from their parents’ inability to fulfil their own caring role adequately:

“So to me my brother, my brother is like my dad.” (Liam[1])

Liam’s mother had issues with drug misuse and his father was often absent in his life, not always related to the serving of a prison sentence. Consequently, Liam saw his older brother and sister as parental figures. This parental role is not always recognised by the prison, who instead can have a narrower view, which although it may include biological, step- or adoptive-parents, or other official carers, is less likely to include those who fulfil a parental role more informally within a child or young person’s life.

This can affect not only the sibling who is left outside, but also the person who finds themselves within the prison. Similar to the effects of siblings being separated when entering care, where one has been carrying out a caring or parental role, this could cause trauma for both sets of a sibling pairing separated by the imposition of a period of imprisonment.

The prison can also appear to add additional criteria to who is seen as a child in respect of children’s visits. They can focus on those who are a child in terms of their age (i.e. under 18, though sometimes 16) and who are the child of the person in prison. Those young people with a brother or sister in prison can therefore feel forgotten and excluded:

“…I went to [the prison] and they were, like, ‘Oh, how old are you?’ I was, like, ‘Right, I’m 14,’ and they were, like, ‘Oh that’s perfect. So are you visiting your dad?’ and I was, like, ‘No, I’m visiting my brother,’ and they were, like, ‘Never mind, we can’t help you.’” (Morven)

While Morven’s experience took place a few years ago, more recent research (currently unpublished) shows that there is still a focus on parental rather than sibling imprisonment for children and young people.

While not all sibling relationships are close, where they are, the move from seeing each other every day to at most once a week at a prison visit can have a significant impact:

“I was lost when [my brother] was in here [YOI] a wee bit ‘cause, know what I mean, I used to just go oot wae him every day, you know what I mean, I used to muck aboot wae [my brother] aw the time. And you only notice that’s the, the true pal you have is your family kinda a wee bit.” (Chris)

There is no official data, and neither are there estimates, on how many children and young people experience the imprisonment of a sibling each year. While these numbers are likely to be lower than the estimates of around 20-27,000 for parental imprisonment, they are still significant given the negative impacts that can arise from this. This is an under-researched and under-acknowledged issue and hopefully the changes and recognition of the importance of sibling relationships within the care system may act as an incentive and inspiration for changes within the criminal justice system to follow.

[1] Some young people in the research chose to use their own name while others are represented by a pseudonym.

 

New policy – keeping brothers and sisters together

New policy – keeping brothers and sisters together

Renfrewshire Council has produced a ground breaking new policy aimed at keeping brothers and sisters together.

The local authority worked with Renfrewshire Champion’s Board to consult with young people and co-produce the policy ‘Keeping Brothers and Sisters Together’.

The work stemmed from The Independent Care Review’s Stop-Go campaign which highlighted the issue of brothers and sisters being separated and put into different places.

The policy is the first of its kind in Scotland.

John Trainer, Renfrewshire Council’s Head of Child Care and Criminal Justice/Chief Social Work Officer explained how it came about: “We knew this was a big issue for children and young people and we wanted to do something about it. We knew if we were going to get it right and if it was going to make a real difference, we had to work closely with care experienced children and young people.”

Renfrewshire Champions Board carried out a survey with local care experienced young people and then published a report with the findings. The highest priority identified was ensuring that if brothers and sisters require to be accommodated by the local authority that they should be able to stay together.

Out of the young people who responded, 61 per cent had three or more siblings and 30 per cent had five or more brothers and sisters. While 82 per cent said they had experienced separation from their siblings and 82 per cent also said they didn’t get to see their brothers and sisters as often as they would like.

John said: “We listened to the young people and we now have a robust, rights-based policy that has been genuinely co-produced from the start. The policy also starts with a pledge – When children come into care, Renfrewshire will place brothers and sisters together.

“This means Renfrewshire Council has committed to stop separating brothers and sisters unless there are clear safeguarding reasons to do so. It is a significant step forward.”

So how will the policy work? John explained: “There is governance measures wrapped around this policy to ensure it is fully implemented. Our default position is that brothers and sisters being placed in care, will remain together.

“Brothers and sisters will not be separated without being agreed and authorised by me. In addition, before agreeing that brothers and sisters can’t be placed together, I must be made aware of the clear safety reasons as to why keeping them together isn’t possible. Then a report will be provided outlining what actions have been taken to keep the children together. This is to ensure we are being as thorough and transparent as possible.”

If children can’t be placed together, the local authority will produce a Family Time plan which will reflect how the siblings will be supported to maintain their relationships with each other. This will be based on the wishes and views of the individual children.

John added: “Plus where brothers and sisters can’t be kept together, we will make sure we minimise the physical distance between where the children are staying, unless there are clear safeguarding reasons not to.”

The new policy was recently approved by Renfrewshire Council and the support has been overwhelmingly positive.

John added: “All our staff are delighted with this. It is bold and it is ambitious, and yes there will be some challenges around it, but it is the right thing to do and it will make a tremendous difference to brothers and sisters in Renfrewshire.

“I would like to thank everyone who was involved in developing the policy and particular thanks to all the young people who contributed. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

Stand Up For Siblings would also like to say a massive thank you to Renfrewshire Council and all the young people for producing a truly life changing policy.

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