The Law

Read up on acts of parliament, secondary legislation, and case law affecting fostering & adoption in the UK.

Some of the documents linked to on this page are in the pdf format.

On this page:

> Drafts
> Primary Legislation / Acts of Parliament
> Secondary Legislation / Statutory Instruments
Statutory Guidance
Case Law
> Other sources of legal information

 

Drafts

Children and Families Bill 2012-13

The Bill seeks to reform legislation relating to adoption and children in care, aspects of the family justice system, children and young people with special educational needs, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England, statutory rights to leave and pay for parents and adopters, time off work for ante-natal care and the right to request flexible working. Find out more on Parliament's website.

Read BAAF's written evidence - House of Commons (PDF opens in new window).

If you have any comments please contact BAAF's Policy and Research Officer by email: Margaret.Grant@baaf.org.uk

Acts of Parliament

Listed in this section (in date order, most recent first) are the main Acts and Orders affecting adoption and the public care of children in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Children and Young Persons Act 2008

Applies to England and Wales

The Children and Young Persons Bill received Royal Assent on 13th November 2008. The Act is intended to reform the statutory framework for the care system in England and Wales, and to make provisions in relation to well–being of children and young people, private fostering, child death notification to Local Safeguarding Children Boards and appropriate national authorities.
The full text of the Act is available on the Legislation.gov.uk website

Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007

Applies to Scotland

The Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Bill received Royal Assent on 18th April 2007. The Act introduces provisions that will bar certain individuals from working with children or certain adults, and require the Scottish Ministers to keep lists of those individuals.
The full text of the Act is available on the Legislation.gov.uk website.

 

Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007

Applies to Scotland

The Adoption and Children (Scotland) Bill was introduced by the Scottish Executive as part of the legislative programme for 2005 and received Royal Assent on 15th January 2007. The Act introduces provisions that will modernise and improve the legal framework for adoption and permanence planning, and is based on the work carried out by the Adoption Policy Review Group.
View the Scottish government website for The Review Group’s reports and the Scottish Executive’s consultation on the proposals. The full text of the Act is available on the Legislation.gov.uk website

 

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006

Applies to England and Wales
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill received Royal Assent on 8th November 2006. The Act introduces a number of provisions relating to the protection of children and vulnerable adults, including barring lists and an Independent Barring Board. The full text of the Act is available on the Legislation.gov.uk website.

 

Children and Adoption Act 2006

Applies to England and Wales

The Children and Adoption Bill received Royal Assent on 20th June 2006. The Act will give courts a wider range of powers to use in dealing with contact disputes after parents separate, and also contains measures on intercountry adoption, including a statutory framework for the suspension of adoptions from countries where there are concerns about practices in connection with the adoption of children in that country, and provision for the Secretary of State to charge for the administration of intercountry adoption casework. There is more about the provisions of the new Act and its progress through Parliament on this website. The full text of the Act is available on the Legislation.gov.uk website.

Children Act 2004

Applies to England and Wales

The Children Act 2004 received Royal Assent on 15th November 2004. The Act provides the legislative spine for the government's strategy for improving children's lives through the Every Child Matters agenda. Key provisions include the creation of the post of Children's Commissioner for England, closer joint working and information sharing between agencies involved with children, the introduction of Local Safeguaring Children's Boards and a duty on local authorities to promote the educational achievement of looked after children. The full text of the Act is available on the Legislation.gov.uk website.

See more information and BAAF briefings.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People (Northern Ireland) Order 2003

Applies to Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Executive announced its intention to create a Commissioner for Children and Young People for Northern Ireland in January 2001. This Order sets out the functions and power of the Commissioner. The full text of the Order is available on the Legislation.gov.uk website.

Commissioner for Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2003

Applies to Scotland

This Act created a new post with the aim of promoting and safeguarding the rights of Children and Young People.
Click through to www.scotland-legislation.hmso.gov.uk

Health and Social Care Bill (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003

Applies to the UK

The full text of the act is available at: www.legislation.gov.uk

The Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults (Northern Ireland) Order 2003

Applies to Northern Ireland

This Order strengthens the existing arrangements under which checks must be carried out on people wishing to work with children or vulnerable adults.
Click through to http://www.legislation.gov.uk

Protection of Children (Scotland) Act 2003

Applies to Scotland

This Act provided for the creation of a list of persons deemed unsuitable to work with children.

Click through to www.legislation.gov.uk
A Scottish Executive Education Department Information Note explains the requirements introduced by the Act: www.scotland.gov.uk

Adoption and Children Act 2002

Applies to England and Wales, although some sections apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland

The Adoption and Children Act 2002 received Royal Assent in November 2002 and modernises the whole existing legal framework for domestic and intercountry adoption. It also introduces a new legal order, special guardianship, which offers legal permanence for children for whom adoption is not suitable.

The Act was fully implemented on 30 December 2005. The full text of the Act is available on the Legislation.gov.uk website.

See more about the implementation of the Act and associated regulations and guidance >>

Children (Leaving Care) Act (Northern Ireland) 2002

Applies to Northern Ireland

This Act is intended to improve the life chances of young people leaving the care of Health and Social Services Trusts by introducing duties to offer them care and support until the age of twenty-one.
Click through to
www.legislation.gov.uk

Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act (Northern Ireland) 2001

Applies to Northern Ireland

This Act amends the Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 and enables the ratification of the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption. www.legislation.gov.uk

Children's Commissioner for Wales Act 2001

Applies to Wales

Sets out the functions for the office of the Children's Commissioner that was originally established under the Care Standards Act 2000. www.legislation.gov.uk

Family Law Act (Northern Ireland) 2001

Applies to Northern Ireland

This Act changed the law to give parental responsibility to fathers of children jointly registered after 15th April 2002.
www.legislation.gov.uk

Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001

Applies to Scotland

This Act introduces structures for the regulation of care services in Scotland, including registration and inspection.
www.legislation.gov.uk
A list of subordinate legislation made since this Act was passed can be found at:
www.scotland.gov.uk

Care Standards Act 2000

Applies to England and Wales

This Act establishes regulatory bodies for social care in England and Wales, and provisions for registration and standards in social care work and training.
www.legislation.gov.uk

Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

Applies to England and Wales

This Act amends the Children Act 1989 and places duties on local authorities to assess and meet the needs of young people leaving care.
www.legislation.gov.uk

Adoption (Intercountry Aspects) Act 1999

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

This Act amended the Adoption Act 1976 and the Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978 in respect of intercountry adoption and enabled the UK to ratify the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Intercountry Adoption.
www.legislation.gov.uk

Protection of Children Act 1999

Applies to the UK

This Act created a system for identifying people unsuitable to working with children and introduced the checking of criminal records of people who want to work with children or young people.
www.legislation.gov.uk

Family Law Act 1996

Applies to England and Wales

This Act emphasised the need to consider the welfare of children in cases of divorce and separation. www.legislation.gov.uk

Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995

Applies to Northern Ireland

This Order in Council defines parental responsibility and rights, makes the welfare of the child paramount and imposes duties on Health and Social Services Boards and Health and Social Services trusts towards looked after children and children in need.
http://www.legislation.gov.uk

Children (Scotland) Act 1995

Applies to Scotland

This Act defines parental responsibility and rights, and sets out the duties on local authorities to promote the welfare of children.

The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption 1993

Applies to the UK

Provides a framework for the process of intercountry adoption, and sets out minimum standards and requirements for countries of origin. www.hcch.net/e/conventions

Children Act 1989

Applies to England and Wales; some sections affect Northern Ireland and Scotland

This Act introduces major reforms to legislation for children, including introducing the concept of parental responsibility and giving powers to local authorities to provide service for children in need.

Adoption (Northern Ireland) Order 1987

Applies to Northern Ireland

This Order establishes the arrangements necessary for adoption, and the care and protection of children waiting to be adopted.
http://www.legislation.gov.uk

Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984

Introduced provisions for foster care in Scotland. The full Act is availabe on the legislation.gov.uk website.

Adoption (Scotland) Act 1978

Applies to Scotland

Introduced provisions for adoption in Scotland. The full Act is availabe on the legislation.gov.uk website.

Adoption Act 1976

Applies to England and Wales

This Act established the arrangements necessary for adoption, and the care and protection of children waiting to be adopted. The full Act is availabe on the legislation.gov.uk website.

European Convention on the Adoption of Children 1967

Applies to the UK

Contains a list of provisions on adoption practice that must be incorporated into legislation by member states. It was ratified by the UK in 1968.
http://conventions.coe.int

Secondary Legislation/Statutory Instruments

Secondary legislation allows the provisions in an Act of Parliament to be implemented and changed as required.

The different types of secondary legislation and the Parliamentary procedure for making statutory instruments are explained in the House of Commons Information Website

Our fortnightly E-bulletin explains new statutory instruments as they happen. Access archives and subscribe to the bulletin (this service is for BAAF members only - join BAAF).

UK Statutory Instruments

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi

Northern Ireland Statutory Instruments

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/nisr

Scotland Statutory Instruments

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ssi

Wales Statutory Instruments

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/wsi

 

Statutory Guidance

The Department for Education has published revised statutory guidance on a range of legislation for particular audiences.

http://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/statutory

 

Case Law / Court Rulings

Court Service in England and Wales - Judgments Database
www.courtservice.gov.uk

Northern Ireland Court Service
www.courtsni.gov.uk

The Scottish Courts - Court Opinions
www.scotcourts.gov.uk

British and Irish Legal Information Institute
Access to Freely Available British and Irish Public Legal Information
www.bailii.org

European Court of Human Rights - Judgments and Decisions
www.echr.coe.int

Key cases are reported on in the Legal Notes section of our journal Adoption & Fostering

Other sources of information

Online sources of legislation

UK
Full text of all Public and Local Acts of the UK Parliament, the Explanatory Notes to Public Acts, Statutory Instruments and Draft Statutory Instruments; and Measures of the General Synod of the Church of England.
www.legislation.gov.uk

Northern Ireland
Full text of Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Explanatory Notes to the Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Statutory Rules of Northern Ireland. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/browse/ni

Scotland
Full text of all Acts of the Scottish Parliament, the Explanatory Notes to the Acts of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Statutory Instruments available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/browse/scotland

Wales
Full text of all Statutory Instruments made by the National Assembly for Wales. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/browse/wales

Legislation in Progress

The 4 National Child Policy Network offers summaries and updates on legislation passing through UK Parliaments and Assemblies.
www.childpolicy.org.uk

A list of Bills passing through the Scottish Parliament and a summary of the stages of a Bill are provided at www.scottish.parliament.uk

Legislative Process

The House of Commons Information Office has published a series of factsheets explaining the legislative process in the UK.

Factsheet L1: Parliamentary Stages of a Government Bill
www.parliament.uk (pdf)

Factsheet L8: Northern Ireland Business and Legislation
www.parliament.uk (pdf)

Factsheet P8: Scottish and Welsh Business
www.parliament.uk (pdf)

The legislative process for Public Bills in the Northern Ireland Assembly is described in this factsheet.
www.niassembly.gov.uk (pdf)

Detailed information on the Stages of Bills in the Scottish Parliament
www.scottish.parliament.uk (pdf)

Information about the roles and responsibilities of the Welsh Assembly
http://www.assemblywales.org

Official Reports of Proceedings

UK Parliament - House of Commons and the House of Lords www.parliament.uk/hansard

Northern Ireland Assembly
NB The Assembly was suspended from midnight on 14 October 2002.
www.niassembly.gov.uk/record/hansard

The Scottish Parliament
www.scottish.parliament.uk/business/officialReports/

National Assembly for Wales www.wales.gov.uk

Law Reform Organisations

Government bodies appointed to recommend reforms to improve, simplify and update the law.

England and Wales
Law Commission www.lawcom.gov.uk

Northern Ireland
Office of Law Reform www.olrni.gov.uk

Scotland
Scottish Law Commission www.scotlawcom.gov.uk

Other Organsations

Association of Lawyers for Children
An organisation which promotes justice for children and young people within the legal system in England and Wales www.alc.org.uk

CAFCASS
Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service
www.cafcass.gov.uk

The Professional Association for Children's Guardians and Children and Family Reporters
www.nagalro.com

Information and Advice

Sources of Information and Advice on Law Relating to Children, Young People and Families

Department for Education and Skills Adoption Site
A good source of information on legislation relating to the welfare of children is the
DfES site on adoption

LAWLINKS
Legal Information on the Internet A well organised catalogue of legal sites compiled by Sarah Carter, Law Librarian at the University of Kent.
http://library.kent.ac.uk

The AIRE Centre
An organisation providing information and advice on human rights, throughout Europe
www.airecentre.org

Carelaw
An information site for children and young people in care in England & Wales
www.carelaw.co.uk

Coram Children's Legal Centre
Operates a free and confidential legal advice and information service covering all aspects of child, family and education law in England.
www.childrenslegalcentre.com

CompactLaw
Concise and independent legal information for consumers and business customers
www.compactlaw.co.uk

Scottish Child Law Centre
A source of advice on the law and children's rights in Scotland.
www.sclc.org.uk