A number of changes to the law relating to families were announced in the Queen's Speech for this session of Parliament. Consultation will take place on proposals to be included in a Children and Families Bill, likely to be introduced in 2013.
Many of the changes are in response to the major Family Justice Review published at the end of 2011. The stated aim is to 'deliver better support for families – legislating to break down barriers, bureaucracy and delays which stop vulnerable children getting the provision and help they need.'
Some of the key areas of proposed change relate to shared parenting, adoption and care cases. Specific proposals include:
- that on separation or divorce the principle that children should 'retain a continuing relationship with both parents if it is in the children's best interests' be inserted into the legislation;
- that adoption rules should change to prioritise finding a child a placement over attempting to match the child and adoptive parents' race; and
- that to reduce delay in child care cases a six month deadline should be imposed in which any case should be completed.
The powers of the Children’s Commissioner to 'champion children’s rights and hold government to account for legislation and policy' are to be strengthened, although there was no mention of the Government's previous commitment to same-sex marriage.