Siblings’ right to participate

A court has ruled that, to recognise a child’s right to family life set out in Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights, a 14-year-old boy should be able to apply to participate fully in his brother’s children’s hearing.

The boy wanted to have a say in decisions made about his brother at Children’s Hearings. However 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.

Contact between brothers and sisters where one sibling is in care or where both or all siblings are in care is a huge issue.

Because of the lack of foster placements who can take sibling groups, brothers and sisters are often placed in different foster placements and some local authorities perform poorly in terms of ensuring they remain in contact. It is unacceptable that, just because they are in care, brothers and sisters often lose contact with each other.

Clan Childlaw is part of a partnership of organisations called “Stand Up for Siblings” aiming to improve and change legislation, policy and practice. The Independent Care Review, which aims to identify and deliver lasting change in the care system, is also exploring further this issue as it was raised as a problem by a large number of care experienced young people. The Review has pledged to work alongside Stand Up for Siblings.

This is one of the most significant cases in relation to care-experienced children for some time.

You can read the full judgement here.