Children and Families Bill

Status of the bill: Awaiting publication

Main purpose of the bill: To break down barriers stopping parents and carers getting the support they need – making it easier for parents to share caring responsibilities; giving families more choice and control over specialist special educational needs care; and supporting the most vulnerable children, including those in care or whose parents have separated

Main points of the bill:

SEN: -

Replaces SEN statements and Learning Difficulty Assessments (for 16-25 year olds) with a single, simpler 0-25 assessment process and Education, Health and Care Plan from 2014.

Provides statutory protections comparable to those currently associated with a statement of SEN to up to 25 in further education – instead of being cut off at 16.

Requires that local authorities and health services jointly plan and commission the services that children, young people and families need.

Gives parents or young people the right to a personal budget for their support.

Adoption: -

Stops local authorities delaying an adoption to find the perfect match if there are suitable adopters available. The ethnicity of a child and prospective adopters will come second, in most cases, to the speed of placing a child in a permanent home.

Family Law: -

Creates a time limit of six months by which care cases must be completed.

Makes it explicit that case management decisions should be made only after impacts on the child, their needs and timetable have been considered.

Focuses the court on those issues which are essential to deciding whether to make a care order.

Gets rid of unnecessary processes in family proceedings by removing the requirement for interim care and supervision orders to be renewed every month by the judge and instead allowing the judge to set the length and renewal requirements of interim orders for a period which he or she considers appropriate, up to the expected time limit.

Requires courts to have regard to the impact of delay on the child when commissioning expert evidence and whether the court can obtain information from parties already involved.

Strengthens the law to ensure that, where it is safe, and in the child's best interests, children have a relationship with both their parents after family separation. The Government will consult on legal options shortly.

Flexible Parental Leave: -

Legislates to give parents access to flexible parental leave; so that where they want to, mothers and fathers can share caring responsibilities in a way which best fits their needs.

Office of the Children’s Commissioner: -

Strengthens the role and impact of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. It will have more powers to promote and protect children’s rights and take on functions carried out by the Children’s Rights Director, which is currently part of Ofsted. It will have more independence from ministers and the power to carry out assessments of the impact of policies and legislation on children.

Progress of the bill:

The Children and Families Bill was announced in the Queen's Speech on 9th May 2012.

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