Landmark care siblings ruling welcomed

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The Court of Session has ruled that a teenager should be able to apply to participate fully in his brother's children's hearing

6th August 2018 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Children will be allowed to participate in legal hearings that relate to the care of a sibling.

The Court of Session has ruled that a 14-year-old boy should be able to apply to participate fully in his brother's children's hearing.

The court ruled in the boy’s favour on Tuesday 31 July, in a case where he was represented by charity Clan Childlaw.

The boy wanted to have a say in decisions made about his brother at children's hearings, but this was not possible due to the way the legislation was worded which made it difficult for siblings and others with established family life to participate fully.

Lady Wise concluded that the current test for being able to participate in a children's hearing, including obtaining copies of the papers and having a right to appeal, is not sufficient to allow those such as the petitioner to claim a right to participate.

This means that words require to be read into the definition to make sure that siblings like the petitioner are told about the children's hearings and can take part in them. The case is to call again shortly to discuss the proposed wording.

Clan Childlaw said contact between brothers and sisters where one or all siblings are in care is a huge issue, with families often separated when children are placed with foster parents.

Lucy Frazer, solicitor at Clan Childlaw who represents the child, said: “It has now been recognised that there was a difficulty with the current law. We are hopeful that this will mean our client and others like him will be able to take part in children's hearings in relation to their siblings to a greater extent in the future. At Clan Childlaw, we know there are lots of children in a similar situation across Scotland and this should give them this opportunity.”

Commissioner Bruce Adamson said the judgment is a significant legal step in realising the rights of care experienced children and their siblings.

He said: “It recognises the importance of wider family relationships and will allow children to claim the right to participate in a sibling’s children’s hearing, a place where decisions are made in relation to welfare, care and contact.

“Care experienced children have the right to respect for family life and they consistently tell us that relationships with siblings are fundamental to this.

“We know that maintaining positive sibling contact can contribute to a child’s mental health and development. Where a decision is made to separate siblings, local authorities have a duty to ensure that there is regular and consistent contact so that those family bonds are not broken.”