HC Deb 16 December 1983 vol 50 cc628-30W
Mr. Patrick Thompson

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he expects to publish the code of practice on access to children in care; and if he will indicate his present intentions for the implementation of other current plans relating to child care legislation.

Mr. Newton

The code of practice on access by parents and other relatives to children in care has been laid before the House today. It sets out the basic principles on which local authorities and other agencies should operate in promoting and sustaining access and in handling decisions to restrict or terminate access where that becomes necessary.

At the same time we have made a commencement order to bring in on 30 January 1984 the provisions of the Health and Social Services and Social Security Adjudications Act 1983 which give parents a right of appeal to the courts against a decision to terminate access, and the order prescribing the statutory forms of notice of termination or refusal of access.

A circular of guidance on the new access provision is being sent with initial copies of the code to local authorities, the courts and others. Copies of the circular have been placed in the Library of the House.

We shall shortly be making the commencement orders for separate representation in care proceedings, with legal aid for parents and the appointment of a guardian ad litem for the child, and for "freeing for adoption"; the regulations providing for panels of guardians ad litem; and the revised adoption agencies regulations. Early in the new year circulars of guidance on all these will be despatched to local authorities and others. Copies of the circulars will be placed in the Library of the House. In response to strong representations from the local authority associations and the voluntary sector that more time is needed for the preparatory work entailed, and particularly for the establishment of adoption panels and panels of guardians ad litem, it is now proposed to implement this group of new provisions on 27 May., instead of 1 April as I had announced earlier in my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Gillingham (Mr. Couchman).—[Vol. 48, c. 255–56.] Meanwhile, however, assistance by way of representation will continue to be available to parents in care proceedings, and we shall issue guidance on practice in relation to parental rights resolutions.

It remains our intention to introduce custodianship, under part II of the Children Act 1975, by the end of 1984.