§ Mr. O'Hara
To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will seek to make changes in the law to allow access for grandparents to grandchildren who have been taken into care.
§ Mrs. Virginia Bottomley
The Children Act 1989, which will be implemented on 14 October 1991, makes new provisions regarding contact with children who are the subject of a care order. The Act provides that any person who has obtained the leave of the court to do so may apply for an order determining the contact which is to be allowed between the child and that person.
This provision enables people with whom the child has previously had a close relationship to keep in touch with that child while he is in the care of the local authority. If the grandparent was the beneficiary of a residence order made under section 8 of the Act immediately prior to the care order being made, he will be one of those automatically entitled to reasonable contact.
Where a child is being looked after by a local authority on a voluntary basis, contact is a matter for agreement between parents, foster parents and the authority. Authorities will have a duty to promote reasonable contact between the child and his relatives—including a grandparent—where this is consistent with the child's welfare.