The Promise – commitment to siblings

The Promise – commitment to siblings

The Promise team has launched The Plan 2021-2024. This important document provides a road map for change over the next three years focusing attention on the issues of greatest importance to children, young people and their families such as being listened to, addressing poverty, having their rights upheld and removing stigmatising language. Protecting and promoting relationships with brothers and sisters is highlighted within the key priorities for change.

The Plan states: “Scotland will stop the practice of separating brothers and sisters, unless for reasons of safety. Relationships between brothers and sisters will be cherished and protected across decision making and through the culture and values of the people who care for them.”

The report also introduces the processes that will be used to measure change and monitoring progress. The Plan 21-24 can be found here.

 

Minister for Children and Young People congratulates SUFS

Minister for Children and Young People congratulates SUFS

The Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd has congratulated Stand Up For Siblings on its third anniversary. In a short video clip, the Minister thanks the partnership for all its work and achievements.

She said there had been great progress in practice, legislation and policy. The Minister said keeping brothers and sisters together, was a priority for the Scottish Government.

You can view the clip below.

Transforming practice to promote sibling relationships

Transforming practice to promote sibling relationships

“I don’t feel so alone in the world” (Sandy, 8 February 2021 on BBC News) This was not a conversation about isolation caused by Covid-19 which has dominated most people’s narrative over the last year, or someone who was beginning to see some light at the end of the tunnel. This conversation was about a care experienced young person who has felt alone in the world, for the biggest part of their life. 

As a toddler they needed to be cared for away from home – isolated and separated from their brothers and sister. This left a gaping hole, physically and emotionally, often hidden from sight because it wasn’t discussed. But in reality, that gaping hole or the impact on the child and their behaviour was in plain sight of the team around the child. The status quo remained however, for many years. 

Over the last 4 years this feeling of being alone and isolated has lifted, gradually. Small steps, mostly forwards, some backwards but a journey of identifying tracing and re-connecting to the brothers and sister lost over 15 years ago.

Edinburgh’s Lifelong Links service was in its infancy when we started working with Sandy. Edinburgh had recognised the need to transform our practice with too many of the children we care for losing many important connections as their care journey moves on. We should not be complicit, youngsters we care for should not feel alone and isolated in the world. 

While Lifelong Links will identify any individual a young person deems important to them, we were not anticipating the numbers of requests to find brothers and sisters, the very people who have walked in your shoes, with whom you share a history that few others will truly ever understand. The people that many of us will experience our longest and most enduring relationships. 

Are they happy? Are they safe? Questions often asked of coordinators by a youngster when they start with Lifelong Links. Youngsters have often “held” these questions deep within for a very long time, but they desperately want to know about their brothers and sisters.  In Edinburgh we are working with children, some who have no idea where their brothers and sisters are now and when asked will say to coordinators, they didn’t want to ask, often out of concern about upsetting the people who care for them.  Some youngsters have brothers and sisters born after they were removed from the family home, but they are still their family, they do feel connected and do want to try and make that connection. 

While the young person and their brothers and sisters will ultimately determine the outcomes, what happens within the Lifelong Links process is guided by a co-ordinator.  Not all outcomes are positive, but by allowing exploration, questioning and recognising the need and desire to connect with absent brothers and sisters, young people can be supported to understand why they are in care, to build a support network of a restorative nature or to achieve closure.

There are no fixed timescales for Lifelong Links, it is the youngsters who lead and dictate the pace that makes sense to them, really whatever they need at any given time. It is a process that can span just a few short weeks, or months to years. What is important is that this we truly recognise the importance of brothers and sisters. 

This is transformational work, Sandy explains why in this video clip:

Thanks to Edinburgh’s Lifelong Links Service for writing this article.

STAR wishes SUFS happy birthday!

STAR wishes SUFS happy birthday!

Karen Morrison, found of Siblings Reunited (STAR) celebrates Stand Up For Siblings third anniversary…

A massive happy third birthday to our team at SUFS! I could not be prouder of being a founding partner of a cause so close to our hearts here at Siblings Reunited (STAR). 

STAR was set up in 2013 and for many years to follow we did feel very alone in our fight for siblings separated in care.

Dr Chris Jones approached us here at STAR regarding her thoughts about SUFS and of course we were fully onboard and all extremely excited about this! Prior to the launch, STAR and Clan Childlaw had organised and led the mammoth task of scheduled workshops along the length and breadth of Scotland.

SUFS was launched at the same time as our end of Scotland-wide workshops.

This was a moment in time when I personally (as founder of STAR) stood up to do a planned presentation and I was so busy looking down at the electronics and my wording to really take in the scale of all of our work – I looked up to begin my presentation and quickly had to try and compose myself, I was fighting back such happy and proud tears. For the first time ever I realised that we had Scotland on our side – a team that could really fight this together and help make changes.

And we have already helped to make so many changes – what a team effort – love u all. Karen x

The Care Inspectorate – proud partner of Stand Up For Siblings

The Care Inspectorate – proud partner of Stand Up For Siblings

The Care Inspectorate are proud to be part of the Stand Up For Siblings partnership.  We first reached out to colleagues in SUFS at the start of 2019.  Our Young Inspection Volunteers who have lived experience of care, were making a video about the importance of sibling relationships for care experienced children and young people.  

This was an important issue to them, both because of their own experience and because when they were involved in inspecting services, it was an issue many young people spoke to them about. Young people sometimes did not understand why they were separated from their siblings or were unhappy about not being in each other’s lives.  Colleagues in SUFS were supportive of this work and welcomed us into the partnership.

Messages that our Young Inspection Volunteers highlighted were that the sibling relationship is a unique and complex one.  It is for most people their most enduring relationship. They highlighted that within the sibling relationship it is normal sometimes that there are tensions and fights, as well as that supportive bond.  What is not normal for most people though, is to grow up as strangers and to lose contact with important people in your family as can happen in the care system.

Our Young Inspection Volunteers shared their video and these messages at the Care Leavers Covenant Conference and the SIRCC conference in 2019, working alongside colleagues from SUFS. These messages resonated and are continuing to gain traction and momentum across the sector. The Independent Care Review and The Promise recognised powerfully that brothers and sisters should be together.

Inspectors within the Care Inspectorate also now have much more awareness of the importance of sibling relationships for care experienced children and young people.  They have undertaken some training which very much included looking at the work of SUFS.  The inspection and self-evaluation frameworks developed and in the process of being developed highlight the importance of supporting sibling relationships for care experienced young people. 

The frameworks reference the SUFS website. The Care Inspectorate has included our commitment to this work in our Corporate Parenting Plan. We want services to really think about how they can meaningfully support these relationships and how they can do more to recognise the lifelong benefits for children and young people of having their brothers and sisters in their lives.

The Scottish Government has been looking at how they can continue to take these important issues forward and build on the recent positive legislative changes.  As part of this work, SUFS recently responded to questions posed by the Scottish Government as part of a consultation. Given the lived experience and expertise of the Care Inspectorate’s Young Inspection Volunteers, their thoughts were included and highlighted within the SUFS response.  

Here are some quotes from our Young Inspection Volunteers that were part of that response and show the benefits of being part of a partnership working collaboratively on such an important issue. They sum up powerfully why this is such a vital issue.

“Siblings provide comfort to each other. When everything is changing, we have each other. Being with each other reduces stress – no one else knows about your childhood in the way your sibling does. Separating siblings causes psychological and emotional stress. It will have a physical impact on children too.”

“Being separated can break relationships and cause resentment if one lives with a foster family and one is in residential care. When you separate siblings, you start to not know who they are over time. You are sisters but strangers.”

“If you are worrying about your siblings, you can’t settle or relax where you are.”

“Please recognise we are going to fight and fall out. Please keep us together so we can be close and have relationships in the future.”

SUFS has made great progress – we are proud to be on the journey as part of this partnership.

New Rules for Hearings on brothers & sisters participating when decisions will affect sibling contact

New Rules for Hearings on brothers & sisters participating when decisions will affect sibling contact

Changes to the Rules of Procedure in Children’s Hearings on giving siblings the opportunity to participate in Hearings will apply from 26 July 2021.

The changes will make sure that brothers and sisters can take part in decisions at Hearings that might affect them seeing each other. 

The new Rules set out the criteria for who can take part and how. A person will be able to take part if: 

(a) they are living or have lived with the child at the centre of the Hearing,

(b) they and the child have an ongoing relationship with the character of a relationship between siblings (whether or not they have a parent in common),

(c) the children’s hearing is likely to make a decision significantly affecting contact or the possibility of contact between the person and the child, and

(d) the person is capable of forming a view on the matter of contact between the individual and the child.

At the moment siblings can ask to take part in their brother or sister’s Hearing, but this doesn’t often happen. 

The changes to the Rules should ensure consistent application of sibling rights across all Hearings. 

These changes follow two Supreme Court cases last year (read more about the ABC and XY cases here) and new law on this issue in the Children (Scotland) Act 2020 (section 25). 

If you would like to hear more about the rule changes, Clan Childlaw is organising a lunchtime webinar on 19 April 2021. For more information, get in touch with janet.cormack@clanchildlaw.org.  

Read the new rules and the policy intention behind them here: 

The Children’s Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011 (Rules of Procedure in Children’s Hearings) Amendment Rules 2021.

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