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Government to legislate to improve family justice system

The Government has announced its intention to introduce a Children and Families Bill, which would deliver better support for families by reducing delays in the family justice and adoption systems, and ensuring vulnerable children get the provision and help they need.

The Bill would speed up care proceedings in family courts so children do not face long and unnecessary hold ups in finding permanent, loving and stable homes – with the introduction of a new six-month time limit on cases and other reforms. Children currently wait an average of 55 weeks for court decisions.

It would include legislation to stop damaging delays by social workers in matching parents to ethnic minority children - black children already take 50% longer to be adopted than white children or those of other ethnicities.

The Bill would also strengthen the law to ensure children have a relationship with both their parents after family separation, where that is safe and in the child's best interests. The Government believes that this will encourage more separated parents to resolve their disputes out of court and agree care arrangements that fully involve both parents.

The Government will consult shortly on how the legislation can be framed to ensure that a meaningful relationship is not about an equal division of time but the quality of time that a child spends with each parent.

The Children and Families Bill is expected to be introduced early in 2013 and carry over into the third session of this Parliament for Royal Assent.

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