The government is to reintroduce its Adoption and Children Bill
the Queen announced in her speech to parliament outlining the
legislative programme for the next 18 months, writes
Bill Jacobs

As it has all party support, Westminster insiders expect the
bill to be one of the first measures to be introduced and fast
tracked through parliament. Amendments introduced in the House of
Commons before the bill ran out of time before the general election
have been incorporated in the new proposals.

Government sources said the bill would tackle the problems
highlighted by the prime minister’s review of adoption services
including long delays for looked after children being placed for
adoption, poor outcomes for young people in care and inconsistent

The bill will promote greater use of adoption aiming to increase
by between 40 and 50 per cent the number of looked after children

Main points in bill:

* put the needs of the child at the centre of the adoption
process by aligning adoption law with the Children Act 1989 to make
the child’s welfare the paramount concern in all decisions to do
with adoption;

* encourage more people to adopt looked after children by
helping to ensure the support they need; place a duty on local
authorities to provide an adoption support service, and give a new
right to an assessment for new adoptive families;

* support the government’s efforts to build confidence in the
adoption process and encourage more people to come forward by
enabling the health secretary to create an independent review
mechanism for applicants who believe they had been turned down

* and help reduce delays in the adoption process through a
national adoption register for adopters and children waiting to be
matched, and through measures requiring the courts to draw up
timetables for adoption cases.

The Scottish Parliament has consented to devolved matters to be
dealt with at Westminster as part of a UK-wide bill.

Felicity Collier, chief executive of British Agencies for
Adoption and Fostering, said: “BAAF welcomes the commitment given
by the new government to re-introducing the Adoption and Children
Bill to parliament this session.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to reform adoption
law, and the bill represents a huge step forward in modernising the
law to ensure that the welfare of looked after children comes
first,” she said.

Also in the Queen’s Speech were major welfare reforms merging
existing benefits and tax credits for families with children into a
single tax credit. There will also be a new pension credit
providing a higher minimum income guarantee and protecting modest
savings and second pensions from benefit clawback. These measures
are aimed to take effect from April 2003.

There will also be measures to require benefit claimants to
attend work-focused interviews, and help more disabled people into
employment through employment zones. Incapacity benefit will be
reformed so that those who do go back to work do not lose out, and
to give those who cannot work more cash and help.

All men and women will get the right to concessionary travel at

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