Government will legislate to prioritise adoption
The government will legislate to change adoption laws, it was announced in the Queen’s Speech today.
The move follows on from earlier pledges from the government in January that it would legislate to make it “crystal clear” that councils and courts should pursue adoption where it is in the child’s best interests rather than place children with carers “who can’t provide the support they need over the long term”.
In the Queen’s Speech it was confirmed: “A Bill will be introduced to ensure that children can be adopted by new families without delay, improve the standard of social work and opportunities for young people in care in England.”
“New legislation will be introduced to tackle some of the deepest social problems in society, and improve life chances.”
It follows the publication of an interview with David Cameron in the Sunday Times ahead of the Queen’s Speech where the prime minister admitted he was “unashamedly pro-adoption” and while foster parents do an amazing job for many, “I believe all children need a loving, permanent and stable home,” he said.
He told the Sunday Times: “Recently the courts and social workers have begun to favour less stable placements with distant relatives, such as great-aunts and uncles, rather than adoption by new families that would produce more permanent solutions and better outcomes.
“Adoption numbers have now almost halved in the past two years. I am not neutral about this; for me, a child’s happiness and future life chances will always come above everything else,” the prime minister added.
BASW raised concerns about “the Prime Minister’s unequivocal statement of faith in adoption”.
“Most children coming into care in the UK will not be adopted and would not be eligible for adoption. That is why the announcement about more post-care support is so important and to be welcomed. However, if the law is to be changed to give more priority to adoption as a preferred permanency solution, we foresee many legal, ethical and good practice problems arising which may not improve outcomes for children,” a statement from the Association said.
BASW has recently launched its own professional and independent enquiry into adoption – looking at the evidence for and against in different circumstances, and taking a very close look at what the social work role should be.
Meanwhile, the Queen’s Speech also included plans to tackle poverty and the causes of deprivation, including family instability, addiction and debt. The government will introduce new indicators for measuring life chances and legislation will be introduced to establish a soft drinks industry levy to help tackle childhood obesity.
A central plank of the announcement today were plans for the government to legislate to reform prisons and courts to give individuals a second chance.
“Prison Governors will be given unprecedented freedom and they will be able to ensure prisoners receive better education. Old and inefficient prisons will be closed and new institutions built where prisoners can be put more effectively to work,” said the Queen.
Action will also be taken to ensure better mental health provision for individuals in the criminal justice system, she added.
Local authorities will get to retain business rates, giving them more freedom to invest in local communities and the government will continue work to deliver NHS services over seven days of the week in England.