Children (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 27th May 2020.

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Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

I do. That is an important point, and I am grateful to Rona Mackay for making it. However, on balance, the evidence that we heard leads me to believe that section 16 might not be the most effective way to deal with the issue. I am very keen to hear from members on what would be the most effective way to deal with it. Rona Mackay’s point was a good point well made.

I cannot contribute to the debate without referring to section 10, which relates to looked-after children. Section 10 provides that a local authority must

“take such steps to promote, on a regular basis, personal relations and direct contact” between siblings

“as appear ... to be ... both practicable and appropriate.”

The context for that was the extraordinary testimony that I referred to earlier, in which Oisín King told the committee that he had looked after his sister for a total period of five years, starting when he was seven and she was six months old. He said:

“When I was taken into the care system, I was separated from my sister ... We did not see each other again until 18 months later. I took the separation as a loss; it was something like a death.”—[

Official Report

,

Justice Committee

, 21 January 2020; c 14.]

That testimony was extraordinarily powerful.

Earlier, Neil Findlay highlighted what CELCIS said. He will know that the committee heard from Duncan Dunlop of Who Cares? Scotland, who told us that the word “practicable” as a caveat to section 10 “should not be there.” Dr Hill of CELCIS stated:

“The caveat could be interpreted in such a way that it was used to inhibit children’s rights to see their brothers and sisters.”—[

Official Report

,

Justice Committee

, 21 January 2020; c 26.]

In written evidence, Stand Up For Siblings explained that there was a risk of

“conflating the two issues of whether contact is ‘appropriate’ and ‘practicable’”.

It went on to say:

“Without the removal of ‘practicable’ there is a high risk that decisions will continue to be led by resourcing issues and the proposed legal changes will be ... ineffective.”