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.
- disclosure of criminal records acquired in childhood. The current system of disclosure of criminal records does not sufficiently allow for childhood “offending” behaviour to be treated differently to adult offending behaviour and is also overly complicated.
- 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.
In 2011, the law changed in Scotland making it easier for voluntary sector organisations to bring judicial review proceedings. At Clan Childlaw we saw this as a significant opportunity for the voluntary sector to better use the law to advance policy to tackle some of the issues that vulnerable children and young people face.
We have also taken the opportunity to intervene in the public interest in several court cases affecting children’s rights. With third party interventions being rare in Scotland, we are helping change the culture around strategic litigation as we do so.
A one-year grant from the Baring Foundation in 2016 helped us to facilitate a Children’s Rights Strategic Litigation Group. This Group continues to be a cornerstone of the work we are doing in our three-year project which started in 2017. 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.
Working to enable and support others to use law and human rights based approaches in Scotland is one of three project goals. The other two are:
- 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 achieve a change to the law, through new legislation or the courts, to ensure the system of disclosure of childhood offending behaviour is proportionate and respects children’s rights. The law must allow for childhood “offending” behaviour to be treated differently to adult offending behaviour and be simplified to enable children and young people to regulate their behaviour.
We are now in our third year of the project and are greatly encouraged by progress in relation to all three of our goals.
- On sibling contact, the Scottish Government has committed to strengthening the law in relation to keeping brothers and sisters together when they are placed in local authority care and placing a duty on local authorities to take steps to promote personal relations and contact between brothers and sisters in care. We also recently learned that the UK Supreme Court has granted permission to appeal our client’s case concerning sibling rights in the children’s hearing system. We continue to advocate for change, working with the Stand up for Siblings coalition and the Independent Care Review.
- Significant changes are underway to the system of disclosure of childhood offending in Scotland – legislation in relation to children under 12 was recently passed and a far-reaching proposal to change the approach to disclosure of convictions of children aged 12-17 is now before the Scottish Parliament. The overall approach is a re-balancing of the law to allow children and young people to move on from past offences where appropriate, so we are very hopeful for positive change and continue to advocate for children’s rights to be respected in all new legislation and statutory guidance. We also intervened in successful cases in the Supreme Court involving the disclosure system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and have set up a Strategic Litigation Working Group to identify further legal opportunities to move this forward.
“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