26 June 2023

New report outlines priorities for further work in Scotland to support the rights and relationships of care experienced children and their brothers and sisters

The Scottish Government has today (26 June) published an update on progress and set out future priorities to support children to maintain connections with their brothers and/or sisters when they are in need of care and protection.

The report summarises the work of the Siblings: Staying Together and Connected National Implementation Group, which was co-chaired by CELCIS with the Scottish Government and included insight and feedback from care experienced children and young people.

This continues the work following the introduction of changes in legislation to the Children (Scotland) Act 2020 and to new guidance published in 2021 to strengthen the law and uphold the rights of children with care experience to maintain relationships with their brothers and sisters wherever appropriate.

Five inter-related priority areas of work are identified in the report, which provides recommendations for the short, medium, and long term:

  1. People, culture and practice, which highlights the need for sufficient workforce planning, resourcing, training and support to help build knowledge and understanding of the new legislation. The report recommends supporting social workers through an online Community of Practice to share learning, reflections and ideas, and the development of new training and learning materials.
  2. Connections and staying connected, which highlights the strong commitment within the social work workforce to ensure that children retain (or (re)establish) relationships with brothers and sisters, and the need for consistent approaches to map and understand children’s relationships. The report recommends that relationship- mapping begins as soon as children are known to social work services, rather than at the point of a permanence decision, and calls for the development of a national tool, based on the GIRFEC framework, to ensure that social workers are supported to help enable consistent relationships between brothers and sisters to flourish.
  3. Rights, which highlights a need for clarity and consistency regarding the current legislation and recommends that the Scottish Government lead on the development of broader public awareness to convey the importance of relationships and rights for brothers and sisters and the impact on children if these are neglected. The report also calls on the Scottish Government to provide a clearer definition of terminology used in legislation and guidance to ensure that rights are upheld consistently.
  4. Housing, which focuses on the limited availability of large enough homes for families to live in and enable brothers and sisters to remain together. The report recommends that the Scottish Government scope the viability of establishing a centralised Scottish Government fund for families and carers to help modify or move homes and recommends that the Scottish Government request local housing departments to review allocation policies from the perspective of corporate parenting.
  5. Understanding impact and lived experience, which highlights the need for children’s views and voices to be built into support for children, their families, and carers. The report states that four new data items have been agreed to establish a national picture on the extent to which brothers and sisters are separated or living together when they are being cared for away from home and recommends that local authorities are provided with support to implement this data collection. The report also states that the development of further data and research to better understand the current landscape should be considered.

Dr Heather Ottaway, Head of Evidence and Innovation at CELCIS, said:

"Children and families have told us all of the lifelong impact being separated from their loved ones can have. Scotland has made a commitment in law to do more to support and uphold the rights of care experienced children to remain connected to their brothers and sisters. This must be matched by action to ensure that where it is safe to do so, children can grow together through relationships that are protected and nurtured. It is vital that practice is consistent, children are made aware of their rights, and the workforce is supported and equipped with the resources they need."


Read the Staying Together and Connected report 

Read the National Practice Guidance