A renewed call for participation rights for brothers and sisters in children’s hearings to be included in the Children (Scotland) Bill has been made by the law centre dedicated to the rights of children and young people.

Clan Childlaw maintains that it is unacceptable that brothers and sisters can lose contact with each other when they are in care, and is seeking amendments to the bill when it comes before the Holyrood Parliament for its final stage next Tuesday, 25 August. Amendments for stage 3 have to be lodged by today, 18 August.

Clan said it strongly supports the changes relating to care experienced siblings that are already in the bill, which include a new duty on children’s hearings to consider contact between a child and siblings and relevant persons they do not live with. Such an approach would be in line with the recent decision of the Supreme Court last week in the cases of ABC and XY, in which the court ruled that siblings do not as such have the right to be regarded as relevant persons before children's hearings.

However it would like to see the bill used as an opportunity to create succinct and clear rights that can be understood and realised by children and young people within the hearing system. 

At stage 2, Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said it was the Government's intention to bring any necessary amendments at stage 3 to further address any gaps, and honour the promise of the Independent Care Review that particular attention would be paid to ensure that brothers and sisters have all the necessary legal rights to have their voice heard.

Clan believes that the most pressing rights are for siblings to be notified of the hearing and to appeal the decision if there is a procedural problem or if the decision is not justified. However it also wants them to be entitled to see papers before the hearing, and to attend and make representations at the hearing.

While concerns have been raised that such rights could delay the hearing process and shift the focus away from the child at the centre, Clan comments: "In our experience, the young people we have supported in participating in hearings concerning their brother or sister have absolutely been justified in wanting to take part and give their views and as such, any delay as a result of their participation cannot be considered undue delay."