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8 February 2018

Clan Childlaw

Using law and human rights to tackle discrimination and disadvantage faced by vulnerable children and young people in Scotland.
Strengthening Civil Society

About the project

Clan Childlaw is undertaking a three-year project to use the law and human rights based approaches to tackle disadvantage faced by vulnerable children and young people in Scotland. The project focuses on:

  • sibling contact for children in care. Siblings often provide our longest lasting relationships, but for children in care, maintaining contact with brothers and sisters is often overlooked.
  • legal aid for children. Eligibility is currently contingent on parents’/carers’ resources which makes it hard for children to access support independently and confidentially.
  • supporting others to use law and human rights based approaches.

This grant is one of several we have given to organisations to use legal and human rights based approaches to challenge local or national government practice, and to identify and pursue opportunities for strategic legal initiatives to change law and policy.

Janet Cormack

Clan Childlaw

In 2011, the law changed in Scotland making it easier for voluntary sector organisations to bring judicial review proceedings. At Clan Childlaw we see this as a significant opportunity for the voluntary sector as a whole to use legal interventions, currently rarely used, to advance policy to tackle some of the issues that vulnerable children and young people face, including but not only looked-after children.

A one-year grant from the Baring Foundation in 2016 helped us to facilitate a Children’s Rights Strategic Litigation Group. The Group provides a forum for exchanging views, knowledge and experience. It connects lawyers and voluntary sector organisations with an interest in using the law, legal processes and human rights to advance policy, and facilitates collaboration on issues of common concern.

Our new three-year grant allows us to build on this momentum and the interest we have created. This new project started in mid-2017 and has three main goals:

  • To achieve a change to the law, through new legislation or the courts, to make it easier for children to keep in contact with their siblings. We are calling for local authorities to have a duty to promote sibling contact when making decisions about the future and welfare of children when their families are separated.
  • To improve access to independent and confidential legal aid for children when they need it. Under current Scottish legal aid rules children’s access to legal aid in most civil cases is dependent on the resources of parents (or others liable to support children) being taken into account when assessment is made of the child’s financial eligibility, unless it would be “unjust or inequitable” to do so. This results in many children finding it impossible to access confidential and independent legal advice and representation.
  • To enable and support others to use law and human rights based approaches through, for example, the Children’s Rights Strategic Litigation Group, and by creating strong networks of solicitors, advocates and voluntary sector organisations to work together to promote children’s rights in Scotland.

In our first year of the three-year project we’re focusing on sibling contact and are encouraged by the growing momentum in Scotland on this issue. Our work combines policy, communications and legal representation and is embedded in the human rights protection of the right to family life. Together with multi-sectoral partners, we are raising awareness of the difficulties children in care can face when separated from siblings without proper arrangements for seeing each other regularly.

There is much support for tackling this injustice, and hopefully soon the law will reflect this.

Participant feedback

“From my point of view, as a non-lawyer who is nonetheless deeply involved in children’s rights, I find the insights I have gained into law in practice on behalf of children very illuminating and useful.”

Strategic Litigation Group member