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Siblings, contact and the law: an overlooked relationship?

Study will provide a systematic focus on siblings in reviews of the law, cases and socio-legal research

Daniel Monk, reader in Birkbeck’s School of Law, has been awarded funding by the Nuffield Foundation to carry out the first UK study about siblings and the law. The study, which will run from April 2017 to October 2018, will draw on research emerging from a number of disciplines that has highlighted: the importance of siblings for children’s development, wellbeing and identity; the shifting nature of ‘siblinghood’ in family and kinship structures; the diversity of types and definitions of siblings; and, the effects of the separation of child siblings in the public care system.

Daniel Monk said: “There is an established principle that siblings should be placed together in the public care system, where it is in their ‘best interests’. But in practice, siblings are frequently separated, resulting in children having to manage life-long issues of attachment, identity and loss.

“To date there has been no systematic focus on siblings in reviews of the law, cases and socio-legal research. This project will fill this gap, and also use interviews with members of the judiciary, legal practitioners and guardians to enhance engagement with key stakeholders working in family justice.”

By identifying the impact of the shifting legal framework and practitioner and expert assumptions about siblings underpinning current legal decision-making, the research aims to provide a firm foundation for developing new materials to guide policy, and promote reflexive practice. A key feature of the research will be the involvement at all stages of young people themselves and this part of the project will be carried out in partnership with Cafcass' Family Justice Young People's Board. 

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