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Significant reforms to services for vulnerable children and additional support to help parents balance work and family life have been announced.

The Children and Families Bill, published today, includes reforms to adoption, family justice, provisions for children in care, the role of the Children’ Commissioner and an overhaul of Special Educational Needs and plans to introduce childminders agencies.

Family justice clauses in the Bill seek to remove delays and ensure that the children’s best interests are at the heart of decision-making by:

– tackling court delays in care cases, ensuring they focus on the essentials rather than unnecessary evidence or bureaucratic delay;

– sending a clear message to separated parents that courts will take account of the principle that both should be involved in their children’s lives where that is safe and consistent with the child’s welfare;

– introducing new ‘child arrangement orders’ which will focus parents on the child’s needs rather than their own ‘rights’ and making family mediation a requirement in many cases.

The Children and Families Bill is an important step in the reform of the the family justice system and implements commitments made by the Government in response to the Family Justice Review.