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Legal insights & industry updates

| 2 minutes read

A different kind of Christmas advert

The much-awaited John Lewis Christmas advert has been released and the subject matter is one that perhaps isn’t often associated with Christmas: children in the care system.  The retailer's annual Christmas advert is always heart-warming and I’m sure brings a tear to many, with themes of love, giving and sharing.  However, never before has it touched on such an important and serious topic and it is a far cry from aliens, animated snowmen, and dragons.  It shows the efforts of a foster dad who is determined to become proficient at skateboarding so he can share his foster daughter’s passion. 

What’s behind this year's ad?  

John Lewis is raising awareness of those children in care across the UK, and this is cleverly done within a Christmas advert when we all have family at the forefront of everything we’re doing.  It is anticipated that there are 108,000 children in the care system in the UK this Christmas.  That number is staggering.

Who looks after these children?  In Scotland, children in care are looked after by the local authority and most will be subject to Compulsory Supervision Orders (a CSO).  This is an order made by a Children’s Hearing or Sheriff which will stipulate conditions on the child’s care such as where, and with whom, a child should live.  Where it is considered that a child cannot live with his or her parents for a time then it is likely that the local authority will find that child a foster placement and that placement will be one of the conditions of the CSO.  The CSO gives the local authority parental rights and responsibilities for the child for the duration of the CSO so allows them to make important decisions about the child.  A foster carer will be paid an allowance by the local authority to meet the child’s financial needs during the period of the placement.  

Many more children in Scotland are looked after by people other than their parents in private arrangements.  This is most commonly by grandparents or other relatives such as aunts or uncles. This is commonly known as a “kinship placement”.  Kinship placements can be informal arrangements organised by the family, or formal arrangements organised by the local authority, and it may be the first step in seeking help for a child before the child is considered for a foster placement.  Sometimes the local authority will pay a kinship allowance to carers to help them meet a child’s financial need.  Given the numbers of children in the care system there is a huge reliance placed on these kinship carers and the care they provide for children. 

If you find yourself caring for a child in a kinship arrangement, either formally or informally, then there are steps you can take to make the relationship between you and the child more formal.  You may wish to apply for parental rights and responsibilities for the child which will allow you to obtain medical information or medical treatment for the child, liaise with schools and childcare settings and take the child on holiday, for example.  In making such an order, consideration will need to be given as to whether it is appropriate that the relationship, and the parental rights and responsibilities, between the child and his or her natural parents be maintained or severed.  That will determine the procedure which will be necessary: whether it is an action for parental rights and responsibilities or an action for adoption.

If you have any queries about these issues, then we would be delighted to discuss them with you. 

The ad was put together with specialist advice from Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland and is intended to raise awareness of those living in and leaving care over Christmas.


family law