26 January 2023

Children’s Commissioner for England publishes report on the separation of children in care and their brothers and sisters

Children’s Commissioner for England Rachel de Souza has today (26 January) published ‘Siblings in Care’, a new report investigating the number and circumstances of children in care who have been separated from their brothers and sisters.

Care experienced children and young people have spoken about the important role sibling relationships play in creating loving family relationships, and how being separated from their brothers and sisters has had lifelong repercussions for them.

The report estimates that more than one in three children in care in England – an estimated 20,000 children – have been separated from their brothers and sisters. Of the sibling groups who were split up, 39% were split between two different local authorities and 2% were split between three or more different local authorities.

The report highlights some of the main reasons why brothers and sisters are separated, based on interviews with children and young people in care and case studies shared with the Children’s Commissioner’s Office. These reasons include a lack of sufficient places where brothers and sisters can live together, with particular challenges for larger brother and sister groups; an estimated 64% of children with five brothers and sisters are separated, compared to 26% of children with one sibling. Children who live in semi-independent accommodation or children’s homes are much more likely to be separated from their brothers and sisters (93% and 78%) than children who live with foster carers or with a relative or friend (30%).

The findings also showed significant inconsistencies across England in the way that decisions are made about whether brothers and sisters can stay together, with some local authorities not sufficiently considering the needs and views of children. Further to this, some children and young people were not in touch with their brothers and sisters and did not know where their siblings were living, despite this not being in their best interests.

The report makes eight recommendations to improve practice on sibling relationships and ensure that children’s needs and voices are at the heart of decisions made about them.

In Scotland, Stand Up For Siblings, a Scotland wide partnership aimed at improving and changing legislation, policy and practice has campaigned to keep care experienced children together with their brothers and sisters together since 2018. In 2021, new National Practice Guidance was published to accompany new legislative changes in Scotland designed to uphold the rights and meet the needs care experience children with siblings.

Read the Siblings in Care report

Find out more about Stand Up for Siblings

Read the National Practice Guidance