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Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force on 24 April 2020. The regulations temporarily amend ten sets of regulations relating to children's social care in England. The Government in the associated Explanatory Memorandum said the changes are intended to help local authorities to "prioritise the needs of children, whilst relaxing some administrative and procedural obligations…but maintaining appropriate safeguards" during the coronavirus outbreak.

The regulations provide for the amendments to be in place until 25 September 2020. In a written statement of 14 July 2020, the Minister, Vicky Ford, said that, subject to a short consultation, "the overwhelming majority of these regulations will expire as planned on 25 September". The statement also noted that the regulations had been "rarely used and only in response to coronavirus".

The Government has, however, said it seeks, subject to consultation, to extend the temporary regulations in certain areas (in relation to virtual visits, the frequency of Ofsted inspections, and medical reports during the adoptions process). The Government has said that any extensions would be made via a new Statutory Instrument which will be laid before the House 21 days before it comes into effect.

The High Court considered a judicial review brought by the charity Article 39 against the Regulations in July 2020, finding that Department for Education did not act unlawfully by introducing the changes.

The House of Commons Library has updated its briefing which describes the laying of the Statutory Instrument, its content, and reaction from the sector. It includes commentary from the Association of Directors of Children's Services, the Children's Commissioner for England, and charity organisations.

The briefing also references reports from the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Committee and the Joint Select Committee on Statutory Instruments. The Joint Committee sought to draw "the special attention of both Houses to these Regulations on the grounds that they require elucidation in three respects and are defectively drafted in one respect" and the House of Lords Committee expressed "regrets that the Children's Commissioner, amongst others, was not consulted and that guidance was not published earlier" on the regulations.

For the briefing, click here.

20/8/20