The government has unveiled a package of family law reforms in a newly published draft bill.
The Children and Families Bill includes plans to allow parents to share leave from work following a birth. They will be able to ‘mix and match’ leave, taking it in turns or together, as long as they do not take more than 52 weeks in total.
This would, said the Department for Education, allow:
“…allow fathers to play a greater role in raising their child, help mothers to go back to work at a time that’s right for them, returning a pool of talent to the workforce. It will also create more flexible workplaces to boost the economy.”
Other plans include reforms to adoption law, allowing children to be adopted more quickly. This would be accomplished by changes to the Children Act 1989 and the Children And Adoption Act 2002.Changes to provisions for children in care would include a requirement that every council appoint an new ‘virtual school head’ to look after the educational interests of children in care.
In addition, changes to the family justice system are, says the Department, “designed to remove delays and ensure that the children’s best interests are at the heart of decision making”. A new limit of 26 weeks for care proceedings is proposed. Additional changes to the Children Act 1989 include, in section 11, the introduction of a presumption in favour of shared parenting.
Speaking ahead of the bill’s official launch, Edward Timpson, the Children and Families Minister, said:
“I am determined that every young person should be able to fulfil their potential regardless of their background. For this to happen we must tackle the disadvantages faced by our most vulnerable children and families. Our measures in the Children and Families Bill do just that.
“In this Bill we will overhaul adoption – breaking down barriers for adopters and provide more support to children. We will reform family justice – tackling appalling delays and focussing on the needs of the child. And we will improve services for vulnerable young people…and better protecting children’s rights.”
Business Minister Jo Swinson added:
“Current workplace arrangements are old-fashioned and rigid. The Children and Families Bill will bring the way mums and dads balance their lives at work and at home into the 21st century.”