Children and Families Bill becomes law after receiving royal assent

Children's directors welcome 'significantly improved' Act, but warn more work is needed to ensure it supports workers on the frontline

Queen Elizabeth
Picture credit: Rex Features

Children in care, prospective adopters and young carers can look forward to greater government support after the Children and Families Act today received royal assent.

Under the Act, looked-after children will be able to stay with their foster families until they turn 21, while care proceedings will be subject to a controversial 26-week time limit – intended to reduce delays for children and adopters – and young carers will have the right to much clearer support from their local authorities.

Major changes in the Act:

• children in care have choice to stay with their foster families until they turn 21
• young carers’ and parent carers’ have clearer rights to support from councils
• reforms to children’s residential care to make sure homes are safe and secure

• expert evidence in family cases concerning children will be permitted only when necessary to resolve case justly
• 26-week time limit for completing care and supervision proceedings, with possibility of extending to eight weeks in some cases

“The Act is all about reforming services for vulnerable children – reflecting this government’s deep determination to give every child, whatever their start in life, an equal chance to make the best of themselves,” said children’s minister Edward Timpson.

“Our adoption reforms will help the 6000 children who need loving homes to be adopted. Our reforms to Special Educational Needs will see a system introduced, which is designed around the needs of children and will support them up to the age of 25.

“For children coming into the care system, the new 26 week time limit for care proceedings will reduce unnecessary delays.”

Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), said the Children and Families Act had changed “significantly for the better” since the original Bill drafts.

“ADCS, through its members, has been working with the government and partners to try to shape the Act and plan for its successful implementation.

Local authorities have been trialling ways to turn the legislation into positive changes for children especially in the two key areas of Special Educational Needs and Adoption and Family Justice,” Webb said.

“We welcome these reforms and we think they are more likely to succeed because they have been grounded in our daily work.”

But he warned there is a lot more work to do to make sure the whole Act, including some of the newer amendments, is developed through regulations and guidance to support those on the front line to implement them.

Simon Parkinson, board member of the campaign group Every Disabled Child Matters, said: “The Act is the culmination of over two years work aimed at improving the support system for disabled children and those with special educational needs.

“However, many families are yet to be persuaded that the battles for support will end, and there is undoubtedly more work to be done to ensure that the practice guidance contained in the new Code of Practice is fit for purpose.”

The government is consulting on a series of adoption regulation changes, and guidance for social workers on how to navigate the new system. The Children and Families Act will come into force over the coming months.

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4 Responses to Children and Families Bill becomes law after receiving royal assent

  1. Louie March 13, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    I tried locating this new Act of Parliament on – http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ – but I couldn’t locate it, Could only locate the Children and Families Bill. Wondering when would the Act be published for the public to view?

  2. kaye March 17, 2014 at 3:14 am #

    I am on the flip side of the coin I feel my two youngest have been stolen I and my other three children have felt the harsh reality of losing our babies torture the word used to describe what we are suffering after asking for assistance with my elder teenagers resulted in my two little ones taken on the basis of in future maybees which don’t exist .I have one child who has behavoual problems instead of giving help and support they used this as an excuse to remove our babies whom we truly love and adore the hell has been going on three years .my sons behaviour has worsened has he blames me and has received no help what so ever this is the reality of today’s society .I was told after trying to fight against lies told against me although the social worker admitted what was in the documents was wrong still allowed it to go through numerous other workers hands and courts my solicitor was on first name terms didn’t represent us properly and legal guardian made one fiffeteen minute visit and made her decision based upon it .the social worker didn’t even know us she would call for two minutes once per week .I kept every contact and now I haven’t seen my kids since September they were placed with potential adopters and I was told by solicitor I would have to wait until they put application in to adopt I could challenge this .this is all wrong during this time my eldest has become terminally I’ll Ibbelieve the trauma of this has caused this he has a right as do his brothers to see each other .I have a right ad their loving mother I never neglected my children they were safe and loved .yet this is the reality of what is going on .aparantly these adopters have never had children in there care yet they’ve been led to believe they can have mine well am afraid I’ve been patient for too long thinking all will be resolved .what about us where do we go from here I intend to bring my babies home Haydenlangman eElijah langman mummy does love you and she does want you home they left me with no issues this is how I’d like them returning sooner rather than later .

  3. Cherie March 26, 2014 at 11:07 am #

    I am very interested in the finer details of the support for young carers by local authorities.
    I would realy appriciate any help as I am trying to put the recomendations into practice ASAP.