Impact of COVID-19 on STAR

Impact of COVID-19 on STAR

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that one critical project which brings siblings together, has had to close.

STAR, Siblings Reunited, has had to temporarily close its doors during lockdown.

Although restrictions are easing, the Fife-based charity is still waiting to fully reopen.

STAR brings brothers and sisters together for two hours once a month for some much needed quality time together.

Karen Morrison who runs the project said: “Lockdown has been tough. We had to completely close. We did look at providing some kind of online service, but what makes STAR so special and successful, is that we offer a unique experience for children and young people.”

STAR has everything from a woodland, to a beach and garden area. There’s also the STAR wigwam, an outdoor kitchen (and a mud kitchen!) as well as the Fairy Garden and Hobbit House.

The project also has a host of furry friends, which the children and young people love to pet, including horses, rabbits, guinea pigs and Murphy the Ram (who is a popular choice for selfies!)

Karen and her family have been kept busy keeping the facilities maintained during the pandemic. Tuesday is normally their maintenance day, where up to 40 volunteers descend on the site to help keep clean, plant, set up new projects etc. In addition, the Department of Work and Pensions also regularly provides up to 20 helpers on a Tuesday which is the day they don’t have any children or young people on site.

Karen said: “To go from all this amazing help every week, to just the family, was a real challenge. All the family had to muck in and help out to keep everything ticking over. Somehow we managed and the site looks great. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back again.”

Karen had hoped the project would be fully up and running now, but the new restrictions on two households makes this difficult, as there can be siblings from multiple placements, as well as the STAR supervisors who are always on hand.

She added: “We know children and young people are missing vital contact with their brothers and sisters during this time. They might arrive here anxious or worried, but then they seem to leave these worries at the car park and enjoy spending time with their siblings and trying out all the different activities. The animals in particular have a calming and therapeutic effect.”

Hallowe’en and Christmas are two of STAR’s busiest times, so Karen is hoping things will be back to normal by then, but she added: “We are still here and we are desperate to get back to normal, but we want everyone to be safe.”

To find out more about STAR visit their website. 

STAR receives 50 per cent of its funding from The Big Lottery. The remainder is sourced through fundraising activities, however, Coronavirus has had a significant impact on this. You can make a donation to the charity via their website.

Sibling rights and the law

Sibling rights and the law

Stand Up for Siblings are delighted that the law in Scotland was recently changed to specifically protect and support the siblings relationships of children in care, and also siblings experiencing court proceedings following family breakdown. These changes follow a long campaign by Stand Up for Siblings partners. You can read what these changes are on Clan Childlaw’s website here.

Coming soon – Adoption Week

Coming soon – Adoption Week

Stand Up for Siblings is proud to support Adoption Week which will take place from 16 to 20 November.  Adoption Week celebrates adoption in Scotland and one of the themes of this year’s campaign is sibling relationships. Adoption Week is funded by the Scottish Government and managed by two SUFS partners, AFA and AUK Scotland.

A range of activities are being planned to take place around Scotland for people interested in adopting and for adoptive families. The events include a live webinar – which will take place in partnership with SUFS – to discuss maintaining sibling relationships. The webinar will take place on Tuesday 17 November at 7pm. More information will be available shortly.

To find out more about Adoption Week, please visit the Adoption in Scotland website.

 

A legal milestone for children in care and their siblings: Stage 3 amendments to the Children (Scotland) Bill

A legal milestone for children in care and their siblings: Stage 3 amendments to the Children (Scotland) Bill

Today (Tuesday 25 August) is a hugely important day for all children in care who have brothers or sisters. It is the final opportunity for MSPs to consider and vote on amendments to the Children (Scotland) Bill, which will be debated in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon.

If passed, this new law will introduce a number of important provisions that have the potential to transform the way the relationships of Care Experienced brother and sisters are recognised and legally protected in Scotland.

In relation to Care Experienced children, these include:

  • Section 10, amending section 17(1) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 to place a duty on local authorities to take steps to promote, on a regular basis, personal relations and direct contact between a child in their care and their siblings, as appear to them – having regard to their paramount duty to the child to safeguard and promote their welfare – to be appropriate.
  • Section 10 of Bill, amending section 17(3) of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 to expressly add siblings to persons whose views must be ascertained by local authorities, where reasonably practicable, before they make any decision about a child they are looking after, or are proposing to look after.
  • Section 10A of Bill, amending section 29A of the Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, placing a duty on children’s hearings/sheriffs to consider contact with relevant persons and siblings with whom the child does not reside.

In relation to children in family court actions, these include:

  • Section 11, amending section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, putting beyond doubt that children under 16 can seek and be granted a contact order under section 11 of the 1995 Act without automatically being given parental responsibilities and rights.
  • Section 12, amending section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, placing a duty on courts to consider the effect an order might have on the child’s important relationships with other people, which would include siblings.

If passed during the parliamentary debate this afternoon, Amendment 34 would also give individuals – presumably including siblings – the opportunity to participate in a Children’s Hearing.

Ahead of the Stage 3 debate, the Stand Up for Siblings coalition has submitted a further briefing to MSPs outlining our support for Amendments 43, 44, 45 and 34, which can be read here. As well as welcoming the proposed changes, this briefing highlights some further issues that require consideration when accompanying guidance is produced. We have highlighted:

  • The importance of sibling relationships being defined from the perspective of the child.
  • The need to take account of the changing nature of relationships.
  • The importance of children’s needs and wishes being taken into account and regularly revisited.
  • That the provisions in the Bill must apply equally to all looked after children, regardless of their legal status or type of placement including children for whom adoption or permanence is planned, or those already subject to Permanence Orders.
  • That decisions about participation in Hearings centre first and foremost around the wants and needs of the child at the centre of the Hearing.

We look forward to seeing the results of today’s debate and seeing this important piece of legislation pass into law.

Work to implement the Care Review’s Promise gets underway

Work to implement the Care Review’s Promise gets underway

SUFS is delighted that the work to implement the findings of the Independent Care Review has begun. 

The Review’s recommendations, known as ‘The Promise’, include a strong focus on supporting the relationships of brothers and sisters in care, with the clear message that siblings must be kept together, and where that’s not possible they must be supported to keep in touch, and their rights to be part of decision-making about their brothers and sisters must be protected. Stand Up for Siblings was represented in the Care Review’s Siblings Group which looked at the issues faced by brothers and sisters and fed its conclusions into the final Promise. Details of the evidence gathered by the Review, including on siblings, has now been published in a 1760-page Care Review Evidence Framework

‘The Promise’, the team which will take forward the Review’s blueprint, started work on 1st July as a small team transitioned from the Care Review, but will soon expand – recruitment is underway (for more information on vacancies, click here.

Fiona Duncan, who chaired the Independent Care Review, will chair The Promise Oversight Board. 50% of its members will be care experienced, with more information on a recruitment plan for the Oversight Board expected in August.

On 16th July, Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced a £4 million ‘Promise Fund’ and said that existing funding in the care system will also be re-profiled. You can read the statement and debate in the Scottish Parliament here and watch it here

Keep up to date on all the developments at www.thepromise.scot

 

 

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