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The Government announced in the Queen’s Speech delivered on 18 May 2016 that a bill would be introduced in the 2016–17 session 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”. The Children and Social Work Bill had its first reading in the House of Lords the next day, on 19 May 2016, and is scheduled to receive its second reading on 14 June 2016.

A short overview of the Bill, published by the Government Whips’ Office in the House of Lords, states that the Bill would build on the “huge steps” already taken to “enable children in care to stay with their former foster families after they turn 18, to deliver a world-class adoption system and to support high quality training and development of social workers”. It adds that new measures in the Bill include:

  • A new set of principles clarifying how local authorities can promote and defend the interests of all looked-after children and care leavers.
  • A new requirement for local authorities to consult on and publish a local offer setting out the support available for care leavers in that area, and to ensure that all care leavers have access to a personal adviser up to age 25.
  • More support for adopted children and children in long-term care at local authority and school level through extending the role of virtual schools heads and designated teachers.
  • Provisions to ensure that the needs of children are paramount in court decisions about their adoption or long-term care, which should take into account any harm they have suffered, the long-term plan for their upbringing, and their relationship with their prospective adopter.
  • A new arrangement to enable local authorities to develop and trial more effective ways of delivering children’s social care.
  • A new central panel to review child safeguarding cases which raise issues that may lead to learning of national importance.
  • Provision to enable the creation of a new body to regulate and improve the quality of the social work profession.

This Library briefing examines the Bill, the background to it, and summarises reaction to date on the measures it proposes.

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