§ Mr. Hayes
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he will make a report to Parliament on the operation of the Children Act 1975 in accordance with section 105 of the Act.
§ Mr. Fowler
I have today published the second report to Parliament on the operation of the Children Act 1975. (House of Commons Paper No. 20.) The Act represents a major landmark in children's legislation because of the way in which it safeguards and promotes the welfare and interests of children who need adoptive families and children in care. Substantial progress has been made in implementing the Act since the last report to Parliament in 1979. Part I of the Act provides a framework for professional adoption services centred on the welfare needs of children. This part is now largely in force and we are discussing with the local authority associations our intention to bring in the only unimplemented sections, namely those requiring every local authority to provide an adoption service in its area. Most authorities already do so. We plan to bring part II of the Act into force next spring. This will enable foster parents and relatives who have looked after a child for some time to apply for a custodianship order. The whole of part III which introduced new rights and safeguards for children in care and for both children and parents in court proceedings, is now in force.
The report also describes the benefits which are already flowing from the Children Act. For example, many 237W children who were once thought to be unsuitable for adoption—because they are handicapped or of school-age or need to find a home together with brothers and sisters—are now being found new families in which to grow up.
The adoption allowance schemes which have been introduced will mean that more children will be able to find security in families which would otherwise be unable to afford to adopt.