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

 

 

Panel discussion on Supreme Court judgment on sibling rights

Panel discussion on Supreme Court judgment on sibling rights

On Tuesday 21 July at 1-2pm the Child Law Network are hosting a live panel discussion on the recent Supreme Court judgment on sibling rights in children’s hearing with Lucy Frazer and Alison Reid from Clan Childlaw and Lynda Brabender QC, who represented ABC in the Supreme Court. They will explore what the decision means for young people who would like to be part of children’s hearings being held for their brothers and sisters.

They are hosting it via Child Law Network (the link will be shared on the Network) – if you’re not a member but would like to sign up (it’s free!), you can do so here.

All the information about the event next Tuesday is available here: Panel discussion on 21st July at 1pm: Brothers and Sisters in Children’s Hearings – What did the Supreme Court decide?

Stand Up For Siblings successfully lobbies for changes to the Children (Scotland) Bill

Stand Up For Siblings successfully lobbies for changes to the Children (Scotland) Bill

On Tuesday 23rd June, the Justice Committee considered a variety of amendments to the Children (Scotland) Bill as the new law progressed through Stage 2 of legislative scrutiny. MSPs voted through important changes to the wording of the Bill, which will now further strengthen siblings’ rights in the law.

Firstly, the rights of siblings to have contact with each other if separated in care has been strengthened. In Section 10 of the Children (Scotland) Bill, it previously stated that a local authority will have a duty to “…take such steps to promote, on a regular basis, personal relations and direct contact between the child and [their sibling where] both practicable and appropriate.” SUFS has consistently suggested that greater clarity was needed regarding the use of the term ‘practicable’ and wrote to MSPs ahead of both the Stage 1 and Stage 2 debates to ask for this term to be removed from the wording of the Bill.

Ahead of the Stage 2 debate, MSPs were able to lobby the Minister for Community Safety, Ash Denham by utilising a briefing from the SUFS coalition. This briefing clearly outlined our joint position on the need to remove ‘practicable’ from the duty and presented a variety of evidence showing the need for Section 10 to be strengthened by further demonstrating the current fragility of sibling relationships within the care system.

This lobbying effort resulted in the Minister lodging an amendment in Stage 2 on behalf of the Scottish Government to remove the word ‘practicable’ from this new duty on local authorities to promote sibling contact, which was passed unanimously by the Justice Committee.

We would like to give our sincere thanks to Neil Findlay MSP and Liam Kerr MSP, who raised this issue during the Stage 1 debate of the Bill and then met with the Minister to further support this important change to the Bill’s wording. Thanks to all the members of the Justice Committee for supporting this amendment.

Secondly, children’s hearings will, if the Bill is passed, now have to consider contact between a child and their siblings when making important decisions about their lives. An amendment was passed unanimously to the Bill, which has added a duty on children’s hearings to consider contact between a child and their siblings, with SUFS being mentioned as a key group who has pushed for this ask continuously:

“On amendment 31, one of the asks in the Stand Up For Siblings pledge for siblings is to introduce a duty on children’s hearings to consider contact between a child and their siblings. Amendment 31 does that…

…Amendment 31 allows children’s hearings to take a bespoke approach to the relationship between siblings. That is in line with the decision of the Supreme Court last week in the cases of ABC and XY. As the committee is aware, those cases considered siblings’ participative rights in children’s hearings. The Supreme Court’s decision recognises that the legislative scheme behind Scotland’s children’s hearings is compatible with children’s article 8 rights.

As we have previously indicated, ministers want Scotland’s care system to move from compliance into excellence. It remains our ambition to bring in procedural and practical improvements that will better support children in care to maintain relations with their brothers and sisters. My intention is to bring any necessary amendments at stage 3 to further address any gaps. That will also enable the Government to honour the independent care review promise on siblings.

Finally, we are grateful that the Minister has committed to further consideration by the Scottish Government on how the definition of a sibling can be improved, in recognition that the use of ‘blood’ and ‘half-blood’ is outdated terminology. This is another issue that the SUFS work has previously focused on and we look forward to seeing the result of these discussions with Rona Mackay MSP at Stage 3.

Read the joint briefing by SUFS to MSPs, ahead of the Stage 2 debate of the Children (Scotland) Bill here.

Read the full transcript of the Stage 2 debate by the Justice Committee here.

Supreme Court judgment

Supreme Court judgment

The Supreme Court today handed down its judgment in two cases involving the rights of brothers and sisters in Children’s Hearings.

The Court ruled that following adaptations to Children’s Hearings, such as direction to Reporters and guidance for Panel Members, the requirements of Article 8 ECHR were met in relation to siblings and other family members.

Stand Up For Siblings will continue to work with all members in our partnership to ensure that siblings rights and relationships are at the heart of Children’s Hearings and the wider care system.

 

Research into virtual Children’s Hearings

Research into virtual Children’s Hearings

Stand Up For Siblings is encouraging as many people as possible to complete a survey on experiences of Children’s Hearings during lockdown. A research team based at the University of Strathclyde is gathering the views and experiences of people participating in Children’s Hearings during the Coronavirus pandemic.

They are conducting a survey from now until 29 June 2020.

The purpose in undertaking the research is to help inform improvements relating to the conduct of virtual Children’s Hearings.

The research team are interested in hearing from young people, parents, other family members, carers, social workers, reporters, advocates, solicitors, safeguarders, panel members, or anybody else who might want to share their views and experience.

You can access the survey here – www.celcis.org/CHsurvey

SUFS welcomes MSPs’ support for changes to law to promote sibling contact

SUFS welcomes MSPs’ support for changes to law to promote sibling contact

The Stand Up for Siblings coalition is delighted that yesterday’s debate in the Scottish Parliament signalled such strong support among MSPs for changing the law to support brothers and sisters in care.

MSPs were debating the Children (Scotland) Bill at Stage 1 of the overall 3 stages the Bill will go through. If passed, the Bill will create a new binding legal duty on Scottish 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, where those steps are practicable and appropriate.

MSPs from all parties spoke of the tremendous impact evidence heard – above all from Oisin King, a care experienced member of Who Cares? Scotland – had had in illustrating why the law needs to change to support brothers and sisters in the care system.

Far too often, siblings are separated when entering care and lose touch against their will.

The Justice Committee had set out its recommendations on 1 May, which Stand Up for Siblings warmly welcomed here.

In its response to the committee, the Scottish Government indicated that although it agreed with some of the recommendations, it did not agree that the word ‘practicable’ should be removed from the Bill.

However, in the debate yesterday Minister for Community Safety Ash Denham MSP agreed to look at the provision again.

In its evidence and supplementary evidence, Stand Up for Siblings called for the removal of ‘practicable’ because of concerns that it could lead to local authorities failing to promote contact for reasons such as a lack of resources. We are pleased that this will now be considered in meetings between MSPs and the Minister.

We look forward to continuing to contribute to this vital debate as the Bill moves into Stage 2. You can read a transcript of the Scottish Parliament debate here and watch it here.

Members of the Stand Up for Siblings coalition are listed here.

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