By Bill Heaney
Legislation comes into force today to help siblings in care stay together.
Part 13 of the Children (Scotland) Act 2020 and the Looked After Children (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 mean local authorities have a duty to ensure siblings are supported to stay together, where appropriate.
Where it is not appropriate for brothers and sisters to live together, steps should be taken to help them stay in regular touch with each other and to nurture their relationships.
The new rules also mean changes in Children’s Hearings procedures. Brothers and sisters will have new rights to appropriately participate – with support including advocacy services – in Children’s Hearings where contact with their siblings is being considered.
Guidance has been published today to help social workers and other practitioners to implement the legislation. The guidance was developed in consultation with children, young people and families with care experience.
The legislation and National Practice Guidance is a milestone in the Scottish Government’s commitment to Keep The Promise to implement the recommendations of the Independent Care Review, which highlighted the importance of children being able to maintain sibling relationships.
Children’s Minister Clare Haughey, pictured left, said: “All children need the same things to thrive - a stable home, strong support and steady, loving relationships.
“We know through speaking to children and young people that the relationships with their brothers and sisters is vital to their sense of belonging and to their wellbeing.
“Thankfully, most siblings who experience care away from home are now placed together, but where that is not possible, it is important that those precious bonds are protected and nurtured through spending time with each other.
“The changes that come into force today are a significant step in our commitment to keeping The Promise to drive the changes needed in how we care for our children, young people and families”
Saffron Rohan, who was on the consultants working group for the National Practice Guidance, said:
“It was fantastic to input into this guidance, supporting its development with our thoughts and experience. It is my hope that this guidance will give practitioners the knowledge and direction to ensure children’s rights are continuously upheld and these crucial and meaningful relationships are supported to flourish.”
Artwork by Jane Heaney