Sibling contact for looked after children

Part of Children and Social Work Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:45 am ar 12 Ionawr 2017.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Edward Timpson Edward Timpson Minister of State (Education) 11:45, 12 Ionawr 2017

Again, I thank the hon. Lady for her amendment. I have a lot of sympathy for what she said and welcome many of the points she raised. Like her, I have extensive experience of situations in which decisions are being made about brothers or sisters’ futures together. Those are often difficult decisions, not only because of the circumstances in which those children happen to be, but often because of their complex family relationships.

The hon. Lady raised practical points about finding placements for them that meet all those children’s needs. I was chair of the all-party parliamentary group on looked-after children and care leavers before becoming a Minister, and I heard at almost every meeting of the need to listen to children who value their relationship with their sibling. I hope that most of us know from our own lives that it is our brothers and sisters who provide us with the most enduring relationships throughout our whole lives. Sibling contact can provide continuity and stability for a child—particularly those who are vulnerable at a time of uncertainty and, possibly, great change. It can help a child to maintain their identity in what could be an unfamiliar environment for them, and it can help to promote their self-esteem and provide them with additional emotional support.

I do not disagree with much of what the hon. Lady said. It is a matter of making sure that we have the balance right in legislation, so that those who are making those difficult decisions are able to do so against a backdrop of understanding the importance of those relationships for those children, but always in those children’s best interests. The new clause seeks to add an express duty to the Children Act 1989 for local authorities to allow a looked-after child reasonable contact with his or her siblings, which is absolutely right when it is in the best interests of the child.