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New Clause 15

Review of cases of looked after children


'(1) In section 26 of the 1989 Act (review of cases of looked after children, etc.), in subsection (2) (regulations as to reviews)—


(a) in paragraph (e), "to consider" is omitted and after "their care" there is inserted—


"(i) to keep the section 31A plan for the child under review and, if they are of the opinion that some change is required, to revise the plan, or make a new plan, accordingly,


(ii) to consider",


(b) in paragraph (f), "to consider" is omitted and after the second mention of "the authority" there is inserted—


"(i) if there is no plan for the future care of the child, to prepare one,


(ii) if there is such a plan for the child, to keep it under review and, if they are of the opinion that some change is required, to revise the plan or make a new plan, accordingly,


(iii) to consider".


(c) after paragraph (j) there is inserted—


"(k) for the authority to appoint a person in respect of each case to carry out in the prescribed manner the functions mentioned in subsection (2A) and any prescribed function".


(2) After that subsection there is inserted—


"(2A) The functions referred to in subsection (2)(k) are—


(a) participating in the review of the case in question,


(b) monitoring the performance of the authority's functions in respect of the review,


(c) referring the case to an officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, if the person appointed under subsection (2)(k) considers it appropriate to do so.


(2B) A person appointed under subsection (2)(k) must be a person of a prescribed description.


(2C) In relation to children whose cases are referred to officers under subsection (2A)(c), the Lord Chancellor may by regulations—


(a) extend any functions of the officers in respect of family proceedings (within the meaning of section 12 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000) to other proceedings,


(b) require any functions of the officers to be performed in the manner prescribed by the regulations"'.—[Jacqui Smith.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

20 May 2002 : Column 63

New Clause 6

Meaning of "harm" in the 1989 Act


'In section 31 of the 1989 Act (care and supervision orders), at the end of the definition of "harm" in subsection (9) there is inserted "including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another".'.—[Jacqui Smith.]

Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.

Clause 107

Parental responsibility of unmarried father


Amendment made: No. 93, in page 55, line 38, after "18(1)", insert—

', and sections 18(2)(b) and 20(1)(a),'.—[Jacqui Smith.]

Clause 111

Special guardianship


Amendments made: No. 94, in page 58, line 12, at end insert—

'(d) a local authority foster parent with whom the child has lived for a period of at least one year immediately preceding the application.'.
No. 293, in page 58, line 45, at end insert—

'( ) This section is subject to section 28(3B) and (3C) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.'.
No. 95, in page 59, line 3, after first "made", insert—

'(a)'.
No. 96, in page 59, line 4, at end insert—

'and

(b) any section 8 order in force with respect to the child should be varied or discharged.'.
No. 97, in page 59, line 14, leave out "later order made" and insert—

'other order in force with respect to the child'.
No. 294, in page 59, line 39, at end insert—

'( ) This section is subject to section 28(3D) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002.'.
No. 98, in page 60, line 2, at end insert—

'(ca) any individual not falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (c) who has, or immediately before the making of the special guardianship order had, parental responsibility for the child;'.
No. 278, in page 60,, leave out lines 11 and 12 and insert—

'(3) The following must obtain the leave of the court before making an application under subsection (1)—

(a) the child;

(b) any parent or guardian of his;

(c) any step-parent of his who has acquired, and has not lost, parental responsibility for him by virtue of section 4A;

(d) any individual falling within subsection (1)(ca) who immediately before the making of the special guardianship order had, but no longer has, parental responsibility for him.'.
No. 279, in page 60, line 17, leave out—

'parent or guardian of the child'
and insert—

'person falling within subsection (3)(b), (c) or (d)'.
No. 231, in page 60, line 18, leave out "of" and insert "in".

20 May 2002 : Column 64


No. 101, in page 60, leave out lines 20 to 22.
No. 102, in page 61, line 5, leave out—

'A local authority may, and in prescribed cases must,'.
No. 103, in page 61, line 9, at end insert—

'(c) any other person who falls within a prescribed description,'.
No. 104, in page 61, leave out lines 10 and 11 and insert—

'a local authority may carry out an assessment of that person's needs for special guardianship support services (but, if the Secretary of State so provides in regulations, they must do so if he is a person of a prescribed description, or if his case falls within a prescribed description, or if both he and his case fall within prescribed descriptions).

( ) A local authority may, at the request of any other person, carry out an assessment of that person's needs for special guardianship support services.'.
No. 105, in page 62, leave out lines 20 to 22 and insert—

'any person to whom they may provide special guardianship support services'.—[Jacqui Smith.]

Clause 113

Care plans

Jacqui Smith: I beg to move amendment No. 259, in page 64, line 2, leave out from "a" to end of line 3 and insert "section 31A plan"".

Madam Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments Nos. 260 to 263.

Jacqui Smith: This group of amendments is consequential on new clause 15, which we have just debated. They are minor amendments that are required to adjust the existing legislation because of the introduction of the new clause.

As I have explained, clause 113 inserts new section 31A into the Children Act 1989. It sets out the requirement that a court may not make a care order until a care plan has been prepared by the local authority and considered by the court. A care plan prepared under that provision is to be known as a section 31A plan.

We have developed that requirement through new clause 15, and this group of amendments is designed to establish a robust system that includes the process for reviewing care plans, and set down how recourse to court may be sought where the care plan is not being properly implemented. The requirement will apply both to children who are subject to care orders and to those who are accommodated by the local authority.

Mr. Brazier: Can the Minister clarify how the amendments will affect, if at all, the frequent complaint from family division judges that the court makes a ruling on a care plan and then, because there is no requirement to come back to court, there is no way of determining whether the local authority has completely ignored that ruling?

Jacqui Smith: These amendments, together with new clause 15, set in place a system to ensure that that does not happen. In summary, the court would consider the care plan

20 May 2002 : Column 65

and the order that it was due to make. Ongoing scrutiny would then be undertaken not by the court but by the independent reviewing officer to ensure that the care plan was being implemented in the way that had been agreed.

Of course, we hope that that scrutiny and independent review would ensure that the care plan was implemented as it should be. In extreme cases, the independent reviewing officer could take the view that that was not happening and that, for example, a child's human rights might necessitate returning to the court for consideration of the fact that the care plan was not being implemented. At that point, the independent reviewing officer could refer the case to the CAFCASS officer, who could then, so to speak, exercise that child's rights.

The case to which I referred earlier raised the concern that sometimes a child does not have a guardian or anyone else who can take up their case. At present there would then be no one who could enforce that child's rights in relation to the care plan. The system that we are putting in place ensures that in the very few cases in which the reviewing function has not worked and the care plan is not being implemented, there is a route back to court to ensure that that child's rights are protected.


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