Thomas Bridge 18 May 2016

Queen's Speech 2016: Councils face fresh demands under ‘care covenant’

Proposals to speed up child adoption and raise council support for young people were outlined in the Queen’s Speech today.

Marking the state opening of Parliament, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II said the Government would ‘increase life chances for the most disadvantaged’ through a raft of measures designed to support young people receiving state support.

In her 65th speech, the monarch said the Government would work ‘to ensure children can be adopted by new families without delay’.

A Children and Social Work Bill will aim to deliver more rigorous professional standards from social workers, while a new specialist regulator will be tasked with scrutiny.

Legislation will include a ‘care leavers covenant’ to ensure councils detail what housing, employment and work young people leaving state support are entitled to.

The Bill will include new standards for how councils should act as a ‘corporate parent’ for children in care. Both schools and local authorities will face fresh duties on promoting educational achievement for adopted children and those in long-term care.

Changes will be made to considerations courts must take into account surrounding adoption, ‘tipping the balance’ in favour of permanent arrangements – the document detailed.

Legislation will work to ‘improve the standard of social work and opportunities for young people in care in England’, the Queen said.

Also announced were plans to introduce ‘indicators measuring life chances’ for communities across England as part of efforts to ‘tackle poverty and the causes of deprivation, including family instability, addiction and debt’.

Writing in The Sunday Times, David Cameron said he was ‘unashamedly pro-adoption’ and announced there would be ‘zero tolerance of state failure’ surrounding social care.

‘For too long, whether through misguided notions of what is right or sensitivities about not wanting to cause offence, we have let the most vulnerable in our country down. That needs to change,’ Mr Cameron wrote.

Commenting this weekend, the British Association of Social Workers said it was ‘concerned about the prime minister’s unequivocal statement of faith in adoption’ as this was ‘a complex area’ requiring a fine balance of support.

‘The majority of children and families facing adoption are relatively poor and we believe that the government should be looking to prevent the number of children coming into care and going into adoption proceedings in the first place. This would mean better preventive support and also engaging with and learning from families who have experienced the care system,’ it added.

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