Our Advocates

I was concerned to learn of the large majority of children in care in the UK today are separated from their brothers and sisters simply because of the fact they are in care. I’m delighted to hear that Siblings Together is doing so much to address this issue, both by campaigning to get this rectified and through the marvellous projects and camps they organise to reunite siblings in care. I wish them every success with the anthology of work the young people have produced from their Arvon writing experience.

Dame Helen Mirren

I spent most of my adult life searching for my family: Mother father sister’s brother’s aunt’s uncle’s cousins and all . . . I found them. Siblings Together is a brilliant idea. Sometimes I think that the relationship to my siblings is the relationship my birth parents would have liked to have had with me. The siblings do not have as much “baggage” as the generation above them

Lemn Sissay. Writer in residence at South Bank

Since my own experience of being in care, and now professionally as CEO of National Voice I have been aware of the devastation of parting siblings. It still seems to me incredulous that this essential aspect of child care and good mental health, psychological identity and security has still gone by as an un-prioritized need which would leave the general public amazed. They would just trust that families are kept together and be rather shocked by this gap in provision. I rather feel this would also be the case for government too.

I am delighted as somebody with the actual experience of this, as opposed to just academia, you are striving so hard to highlight and remedy this issue. There is a huge amount still to be done. Some of my young people leaving care tell of the most harrowing account of not being able to see their other junior siblings in care as no arrangements have been made, or not seeing there brothers and sisters for over a year whilst matters went through CAFCASS and the family courts. It’s hard to believe this is 2009, as it sounds more like Charles Dickens.

I am also thrilled that you are for the second time bringing dozens and dozens of children together with their brothers and sisters to spend time at camp and get to know each other, forge contacts, have a sense of who they are, where they are from and contacts for life which most of us take for granted. I hope you will want to know that National Voice commends your work and efforts. Congratulations.

Maxine Wrigley, CEO National Voice

What greater gift can we give our children than the chance to be happy and carefree, to play together as brothers and sisters and even to fight. Siblings Together create families that many thousands of children around the world never had or could never have.  Where once there was sadness now there is great joy and unbridled happiness as children can do what children do best – HAVE FUN AND EXPERIENCE THE FREEDOM OF BEING AS FREE AS THE PROVERBIAL BUTTERFLY! Siblings Together is a haven of happiness for children irrespective of colour, class or creed.  Joy for everyone

Paddy Doyle, Author of the God Squad

Trauma, grief and loss are familiar elements of a life in care and are often supplemented by a burden of guilt and a misplaced sense of responsibility for the failings of adult caretakers and the break-up of the family. Added to these childhood burdens of loss and guilt, adolescence throws up the challenge of working out who you are in the world. The issue of identity and belonging is a tough one for children in care, and one which haunts many care leavers far into adulthood.

It is difficult to imagine the many emotions reported by children in care. Waking alone in the darkest hours of the night, no familiar sounds, smells or sense of reassurance from brothers or sisters sleeping soundly in the bed or bedroom next door. Feelings of emptiness, bewilderment, anger, fear, desperation or loneliness; wondering what terrible things they must have done to be punished by such separation.

Separation from parents is a necessary evil to protect children who come into care from harm. Separation from siblings usually happens casually, thoughtlessly, through drift and lack of priority rather than by plan or intention. Siblings are an intrinsic part of our growing selves and the benefits to children in care of being supported to maintain healthy, normal sibling relationships (as opposed to ‘contact’ which is far from normal) is something that is shamefully neglected in our current system. We can do much better and the Siblings Together camps offer an exciting opportunity to act now and begin to address this issue.

Janet Rich, National Care Association, Care Leavers Foundation

Siblings Together has a number of messages for us all. The making and sustaining of relationships is at the heart of positive residential child care. Siblings Together reminds us that even when they cannot be together theirs is a special bond and we must always work with the family ‘in mind’. Having cared for siblings together it is clear to me that in very trying circumstances it is often siblings who play a significant part in bringing hope and a belief in a positive future. When we bring parted siblings together too often it has been a case of sitting there when what was needed was to ‘do something’ together using head, heart and hands. Can we do this? Siblings Together shows us ‘Yes we can!

Jonathan Stanley; Manager National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care and Children’s Residential Network, National Children’s Bureau

It is often stated in that in looking after children in state care it is much preferred to keep siblings together in residential placements. However the reality is that often this is not possible. Children often gain in their resilience by keeping contact with their siblings, brothers and sisters that are able to go through the journey of life with them. Separation from siblings for looked after children in a life fraught with sad ending, discontinuity and separation from family and home is often one more desperate characteristic in an already fragmented life. What I find so exciting in this project is the implicit recognition of the above that is proactive. This project sets out the first steps of this challenge of bringing brothers and sisters together. It has exciting proposals in its design that cover essential family orientation work for siblings. It also lays out the foundations for keeping secure family ties that otherwise would get lost in the paper chase, isolation that bureaucratic childcare often leaves

Dr Peter McParlin, Child and Education Psychologist

This is an important initiative. It is also one which needs to be set in  the wider context of promoting positive family, kin and kinship networks  for vulnerable and looked after children and young people. However, what often can be overlooked in promoting these networks – in policy, practice  and research – is a ‘sibling’ perspective

Professor Mike Stein, University of York

The best most common sense idea in social work, the inspirational leadership of Delma Hughes and the vitality of young people coming back together at last. Every local authority should have a Siblings Together programme and every child in care should have the opportunity to take part

Hilton Dawson, Former Labour MP and CEO of the British Association of Social Workers

The best most common sense idea in social work, the inspirational leadership of Delma Hughes and the vitality of young people coming back together at last. Every local authority should have a Siblings Together programme and every child in care should have the opportunity to take part.

Dr Roger Morgan, Children’s Rights Director For England

I am glad to endorse your programme. This is a very promising new resource for young people in care and their siblings. It deserves whole hearted support and I much look forward to watching its future development. Children and carers have already spoken warmly of the benefits they have had from the first pilot last year.  It is an approach that has been well researched and carefully developed by its initiator, Delma Hughes.  It effectively addresses a neglected area which children in care consider very important, sibling contact.

The Earl of Listowel

If someone descended from another planet and found we separated siblings in need, they would think the human race was crazy. Delma Hughes’ initiative has that true revolutionary centre-point – implementing the obvious!

Prof. Juliet Mitchell, Director of the Expanded Doctoral School in Psychoanalytic Studies at UCL

Losing touch with your brothers and sisters is one of the worst things that can happen as a result of coming into care. For most of us our relationship with siblings is the longest in our lives and a source of comfort and support in times of trouble. Siblings Together is a wonderfully imaginative scheme which puts separated young people back in contact with each other in the context of highly enjoyable activities.  Many congratulations to Delma, for getting the project up and running and very best wishes for its future success

Professor Sonia Jackson OBE