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Thursday, 19 May 2016

Adoption rules reforms aimed at reducing delays unveiled

Written by The Press Association

A shake-up of adoption rules has been unveiled to try and move more children more quickly from the care system into family life.

The Children And Social Work Bill, unveiled in the Queen's Speech, is aimed at reducing delays in placing children with new adoptive parents.

The new law is also intended to improve social care standards across England.

Ministers insist the Bill will: "Tip the balance in favour of permanent adoption where that is the right thing for the child.

"And drive improvements in the social work profession by introducing more demanding professional standards, and setting-up a specialist regulator for the profession."

The legislation is intended to give people leaving the care system more help via a new covenant to ensure local authorities act as a better "corporate parent" to help them when they make the transition into adulthood and independent living.

Care leavers will get the right to a personal adviser up to the age of 25 to help them move into adulthood as part of the overhaul.

Court and local councils will have to "take better account" of a child's need for stability when making adoption decisions as part of the changes.

A specialist regulator for social work will also be established to improve standards and training.

The Government says reform is needed because one in four people in prison have been in care.

And a third of people in care become homeless within two years of exiting the system, with 70% of Britain's sex workers having spent part of their childhood in council-run homes or foster situations.

The number of children being looked after by the state rose to nearly 70,000 last year.

With 10,000 children leaving residential or foster care each year, by the age of 19-21, 39% are not in employment, education or training.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children's Society, said: "We know that the life chances and outcomes for care leavers are significantly worse than for those who have not grown up in care.

"The Government must address the problem of children in care being uprooted and moved miles away from their communities.

"It must also make sure care leavers get priority and consistent access to mental health support to tackle the significant disadvantages faced by those growing up in care."

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, welcomed the proposal for a care leavers' covenant, saying: "Young people have too often been forced out of care before they're ready - our research shows that one in four homeless people have been in care as children."

But he said the speech failed to address the "urgent" need for a change in the law to tackle homelessness through properly funded prevention and early intervention schemes.

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