Introduction

The Child and Social Work Bill was introduced into the House of Commons just before Christmas. The expectation was that there would be changes to Adoption law and these changes would reflect a pro adoption approach. In May 2016 David Cameron wrote in the Sunday Times “We will legislate to tip the balance in favour of permanent adoption where that is the right thing for the child – even when that means overriding family ties.”

There have been two notable changes: –

Clause 8: Reform of the Children Act 1989

Before making a Care or Supervision Order, the Court is required to consider ‘the long term plan for the upbringing of a child.’ (CA 1989 s31(3B)). The Child and Social Work Bill amends s31(3B) so that the Court is required to further consider: –
•”the impact on the child concerned of any harm that he or she suffered or was likely to suffer
•the current and future needs of the child (including needs arising out of that impact)
•the way in which the long-term plan for the upbringing of the child would meet those current and future needs”

It essentially adds further definition to what a long term plan is. It is arguable that this does not make any significant changes to the existing law, let alone pro adoption changes. The Courts should have considered these factors anyway.

Clause 9: Reform of the Adoption and Children Act 2002

Whenever a Court is making a decision relating to the adoption of a child, they must have regard to “the relationship which the child has with relatives, and with any other person in relation to whom the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant” (ACA 2002 s1(4)(f)). The Child and Social Work Bill amends s1(4)(f) so that in addition to ‘relatives’ and ‘any other person’ the Court must have regard to any ‘prospective adopter with whom the child is placed.’ Is this a significant change in the law? It is helpful to recognise the relationship between the child and prospective adopter. However, the Court is already expected to have regard to this.

Conclusion

Whilst there have been two amendments to important pieces of legislation, it remains to be seen whether this will have a practical impact on the Governments plans to increase adoption numbers.

If you would like to discuss any of this article with one of our team here at Jordan’s, based in Wakefield, Dewsbury and Leeds, please do not hesitate to get in contact on 033 0300 1103.


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