New laws to give fathers more leave for childcare

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THE UK government has unveiled plans to allow parents to choose how they share up to a year’s leave to look after their newborn children.

The proposed reforms will give parents greater flexibility about how they “mix and match” the care of their child in the first year after birth.

They may take the leave in turns or take it together, provided they have no more than 52 weeks combined in total.

The Children and Families Bill, published yesterday, also includes reforms to adoption, family justice, the special educational needs (SEN) system, and plans to introduce childminders agencies. It also extends the right to request flexible working to all employees.

The changes in parental leave are designed to allow fathers to play a greater role in raising their child and help mothers go back to work at a time that is right for them, returning a pool of talent to the workforce.

On adoption, the government said it wants to see more children being adopted by loving families with less delay. Children wait an average of almost two years between entering care and moving in with an adoptive family.

The bill seeks to improve support for the families, and ensure that a search for a perfect or partial ethnic match does not become a barrier to finding a child a parent.

On family justice, the bill seeks to introduce a time limit of 26 weeks when courts are considering whether a child should be taken into care.

It will also bring in new “child arrangement orders” designed to focus parents on the child’s needs rather than their own “rights” and to make sure more families have the opportunity to try mediation before applying to court.

The bill aims to extend the SEN system from birth to 25, giving children, young people and their parents greater choice in decisions and ensuring needs are properly met.