Children (Scotland) Bill passes final stage
Date: 4th September 2020
Category: Basic Health and Welfare
The Bill was passed unanimously by Scottish Parliament on Tuesday the 25th of August, meaning it will soon become law. Amendments in relation to the voice of the child, promotion of sibling contact and child welfare reporters were successful.
The Bill introduces legal duties on local authorities to promote sibling contact and ascertain the views of siblings, and a duty on children's hearings to consider sibling contact. This means care experienced children who are not living with their siblings must be supported to maintain those relationships.
The Bill amends parts of the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, enabling an individual to participate in a children’s hearing when they are not a “relevant person” but meet criteria as a qualifying sibling or relative. These provisions will allow such individuals the right to be notified of a hearing, to be provided with paperwork that is relevant to them and to be able to attend, be represented and seek review.
The Bill assumes that children of all ages are capable of forming a view - removing the current presumption that only children aged 12 years or older are mature enough to do so. Instead, the Bill places a duty on professionals and judges to ascertain if the child is capable of having their views heard. Removing this presumption is designed to improve the experiences of children in court proceedings and bring Scots law more in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
Victims of domestic abuse, and their children, will also get greater protections under the changes.
The passage of the Children (Scotland) Bill is the result of years of campaigning by children and young people, families and organisations. The ‘Stand Up For Siblings’ coalition has successfully worked tirelessly to draw attention to these issue and seek changes to law, policy and practice, these efforts have led to a Bill which will enter into force on a date decided by Scottish Ministers in regulations.