The Children and Families Bill takes forward the Coalition Government’s commitments to improve services for vulnerable children and support strong families. It underpins wider reforms to ensure that all children and young people can succeed, no matter what their background. The bill will reform the systems for adoption, looked after children, family justice and special educational needs. It will encourage growth in the childcare sector, introduce a new system of shared parental leave and ensure children in England have a strong advocate for their rights.

Main provisions

Adoption and virtual school head (VSH)

The government wants to see more children being adopted by loving families with less delay. Children wait an average of almost 2 years between entering care and moving in with an adoptive family. The bill supports the reforms set out in 'An action plan for adoption: tackling delay' including by promoting fostering for adoption and improving support for adoptive families.

The government is committed to improving life chances for all looked after children. Their educational attainment, while improving, is not doing so fast enough. We know that a virtual school head (VSH) can have a positive impact on the educational progress of looked after children and so the bill will require every local authority to have a virtual school head to champion the education of children in the authority’s care, as if they all attended the same school.

Family justice system

The government is reforming the family justice system so that it can deliver better for children and families who go to court after family separation or where children may be taken into care. The reform programme is tackling delays and ensuring that children’s best interests are at the heart of decision making. The bill will implement commitments the government made in response to the Family Justice Review including by introducing a time limit of 26 weeks when courts are considering whether a child should be taken into care and making sure more families have the opportunity to try mediation before applying to court.

Special educational needs (SEN)

The government is transforming the system for children and young people with special educational needs (SEN), including those who are disabled, so that services consistently support the best outcomes for them. 

The bill will extend the SEN system from birth to 25, giving children, young people and their parents greater control and choice in decisions and ensuring needs are properly met. It takes forward the reform programme set out in 'Support and aspiration: a new approach to special education needs and disability - progress and next steps' including by:

  • replacing old statements with a new birth- to-25 education, health and care plan
  • offering families personal budgets
  • improving cooperation between all the services that support children and their families, particularly requiring local authorities and health authorities to work together

Childcare

The government is reforming childcare to ensure the whole system focuses on providing safe, high-quality care and early education for children. The enabling measures in the bill support wider reforms to substantially increase the supply of high quality, affordable and available childcare and include introducing childminder agencies to help more childminders into the market and offer greater support and quality assurance and removing bureaucracy so that it is easier for schools to offer wrap-around care.

Office of the Children’s Commissioner (OCC)

The government wants to make sure that the Children’s Commissioner can act as a strong advocate for children, helping to embed a culture where children’s interests are put first. The bill will help improve the Children’s Commissioner’s effectiveness, taking forward recommendations in John Dunford’s 'Review of the Office of the Children's Commissioner (England)' including giving the commissioner a statutory remit to promote and protect children’s rights.

Shared parental leave and flexible working

The government is committed to encouraging the full involvement of both parents from the earliest stages of pregnancy, including by promoting a system of shared parental leave, and to extending the right to request flexible working to all employees. The bill will implement the commitments in the government’s response (November 2012) to the modern workplaces consultation.

For more information please see the links and documents on this page. You can view the Children and Families Bill in full and download a copy of the command paper which provides further contextual information about the bill and our formal responses to pre-legislative scrutiny.

In addition, you can access the adoption review: summary of feedback and the government’s response to the call for views and proposals on enforcing court-ordered child arrangements: summary of consultation responses and the government’s response.

If you require any further information please contact the Children and Families Bill team using the contact details on this page.

Contact details

Children and Families Bill team
Email: TheBillTeam.MAILBOX@education.gsi.gov.uk