Adoption and Children Bill in Northern Ireland

Our response to the Adoption and Children (NI) Bill

Last week, Home for Good submitted a response to the consultation on the Adoption and Children (NI) Bill which is currently progressing in Northern Ireland. With existing legislation for vulnerable children in Northern Ireland more than 20 years old, the Bill seeks to modernise the legal framework in Northern Ireland and improve outcomes for children and families in need, children in care and those who have left care. It outlines a number of key reforms, including a mandatory assessment of support needs for adoptive families, an extension to the Going-the-Extra-Mile (GEM) scheme and the introduction of a special guardianship order, which provides a new permanence option for young people for whom adoption is not suitable. The wide-ranging reforms that it will bring about echo changes that were introduced many years ago in other parts of the UK; in 2002 for England and Wales and in 2007 for Scotland. Northern Ireland has been slow to implement such reforms due to the absence of a functioning Assembly for three years and, more recently, the reprioritising of work arising from the pandemic.

Introducing the Bill during National Adoption Week last year, Health Minister Robin Swann said:

The Adoption and Children Bill is a critical piece of legislation that will ensure children are put firmly at the centre of the adoption process. I want to cut unnecessary delays and uncertainty for children and improve support mechanisms for everyone involved in adoption. I am committed to making the adoption process as efficient and robust as possible.” [1]

Home for Good strongly welcomes this Bill. We believe that it holds the potential to make a significant difference in the lives of vulnerable children in Northern Ireland, and is long overdue. To ensure that this Bill is as effective as possible, we prepared a submission providing our feedback and suggested amendments to the Bill, based on our rich experience of working with families who care for vulnerable children.

Home for Good has been active in Northern Ireland since 2016 and has been working with the Southern Trust since 2019 to support them in the recruitment of foster carers. In 2021, we were delighted to secure an agreement with the Health and Social Care Board and now supports the recruitment of foster carers across all five Trust areas. Through our work, we raise awareness of the needs of vulnerable children and young people and inspire individuals and families to step forward to meet those needs whether through adoption, foster care or supported lodgings. Our work in journeying with individuals and families both in Northern Ireland and across the UK enables us to hear first-hand about the experiences of children and those caring for them and some of the biggest challenges to ensuring every child is in a home where they can thrive. It is these experiences that have informed and shaped our submission to this consultation.

Malini Colville, Home for Good’s Northern Ireland Lead commented:

We are so pleased to see the Adoption and Children’s Bill progressing and many of the important reforms it outlines that we know will make a huge difference in the lives of children and young people. The Bill marks an important moment in Northern Ireland, bringing it in line with the legislative bedrock that exists across the rest of the UK. We have made a number of recommendations to ensure that the Bill goes beyond setting out a minimum baseline of care and instead is ambitious in its provision for our nation’s most vulnerable children. It is their interests that must continue to be placed at the centre."

You can read our full submission here which set out aspects of the Bill that we welcome as well as a series of recommendations outlining where we would encourage the Bill to go further and be strengthened. The Bill and feedback gathered through this consultation will now be considered in depth by a committee. Home for Good will continue to monitor the development of this legislation and stand ready to support the Committee in providing further evidence as necessary to ensure that the Bill works for every child.

For further information about our work in Northern Ireland, please click here.

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[1] Northern Ireland Executive. 'Progress on the Adoption and Children Bill', Available online.

Author:
Home for Good


Date published:
14 October 2021


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