In a moving blog for the Stand up for Siblings campaign group, Helen Sharon Johnston wrote about her childhood.

She says while life in a poverty-stricken family with a father who would frequently ‘target’ one or more of his five children to bear the brunt of his rages was “in many ways torture”, one thing made life bearable.

“I always knew that whatever happened I’d face it with those four other little people whom I hated and loved all in the same breath...

“Through the most difficult moments of our lives at home I took great comfort in the knowledge that no matter how much I fought with my little sisters and big brothers, if I put my hand out into the darkness there would be four other little hands waiting to clasp mine and remind me that no matter what, we had each other.”

I sit on the children’s panel in Glasgow. This explanation of the importance of brothers and sisters to children who are facing problems, regardless of the normal sibling friction, seems blindingly obvious. Even more so when a child affected by neglect, abuse or by issues such as drug abuse or domestic violence is taken into residential care.

And yet it is not unusual for decisions about contact with siblings to be made as something of an afterthought, once contact with parents has been discussed. Sometimes it is not even considered.

If siblings are living away from their normal home, in separate foster families for example, their situation is likely to come before a children’s hearing at least once a year. But they will not be invited routinely to each other’s hearings.

If a decision is made which affects them – a reduction in contact with a brother or sister, say – they have no right of appeal.

Panel members, a child’s social worker and everyone else in the care system is supposed to take the needs of siblings into account. But child law experts say in practice it can be almost impossible for siblings to participate fully.

A legal dispute over this will be decided by the Supreme Court following hearings today. Previously at the Court of Session Lady Wise ruled that the current system for deciding who gets to participate in a children’s hearing was insufficient.

A subsequent hearing at the Inner House overturned this, deciding there was enough flexibility in the existing rules to ensure the views of siblings are taken into account. Now the Supreme Court will settle the matter.

It seems to me there is good reason to doubt the current system is good enough.

Full rights of appeal, the requirement to attend hearings and receive paperwork are only given to so called ‘relevant persons’.

Birth parents are automatically ‘relevant’ in law. Anyone else - a foster or adoptive parent, say, or a grandparent – must seek that status. It depends on being able to prove a significant and recent involvement in the upbringing of a child, such as arranging health appointments, attending school meetings, making key decisions.

I can only remember one occasion in ten years as a children’s panel member when I have been involved in awarding that status to a sibling.

But, as Helen’s account above suggests, you don’t need to have been raised by a brother or sister for them to be crucial to your emotional wellbeing or your sense of self.

Clan Childlaw has taken the case of ABC all the way to the country’s top court. BC was a 14 year old when he was denied the opportunity to participate in decisions made about his brother.

Lucy Frazer, solicitor for the teenager, now 16, says contact between siblings is a very serious issue. “currently brothers and sisters do not have a right to be told when a hearing of a sibling is due to take place, nor to receive any written information or to appeal the decision, despite decisions being taken about how often they can see each other.”

As Clan’s Principal Solicitor Alison Reid points out, the Scottish Child Abuse inquiry has heard from a number of adults who lost touch with siblings when they went into care – some removed at a young age were not even told they had siblings.

But today it remains a key issue for young clients of Clan Childlaw, Reid says. And the independent Care Review has found that it is a problem for a large number of young people in care.

At our recent Herald Society Awards, judges gave the partnership award to Stand Up for Siblings. Our experts were unanimous that it was an important and overdue campaign.

It might be challenging for organisations that run the system such as Children’s Hearings Scotland and the Scottish Children’s Reporters Administration to give siblings the right to attend their brother’s or sister’s hearing. CHS says hearings should always take an inclusive approach which protects a child’s important relationships, and that family members can be given the legal status of ‘relevant persons’ if appropriate.

I would have thought giving siblings more say could risk more delays and lead to more appeals. But the alternative is the status quo. Too many children, like Helen – already traumatised, scared, or confused, denied even that trusted hand to hold in the dark, and not knowing when they will see its owner again.