Children & Families Act 2014

The Children and Families Act received Royal Assent in April 2014.

The act is intended to give greater protection to vulnerable children, better support for children whose parents are separating, a new system to help children with special educational needs and disabilities, and help for parents to balance work and family life.

The act also ensures vital changes to the adoption system can be put into practice, meaning more children who need loving homes are placed faster. Reforms for children in care can be implemented including giving them the choice to stay with their foster families until their 21st birthday.

The act includes a number of new measures to protect the welfare of children, including:

  • changes to the law to give children in care the choice to stay with their foster families until they turn 21
  • a new legal duty on schools to support children at school with medical conditions better
  • making young carers’ and parent carers’ rights to support from councils much clearer
  • reforms to children’s residential care to make sure homes are safe and secure, and to improve the quality of care vulnerable children receive
  • a requirement on all state-funded schools - including academies - to provide free school lunches on request for all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2
  • amendments to the law to protect children in cars from the dangers of second-hand smoke

The act is also intended to help people to better balance their work and home life with the following measures:

  • from April 2015, mothers, fathers and adopters can opt to share parental leave around their child’s birth or placement. This gives families more choice over taking leave in the first year - dads and mothers’ partners can take up to a year, or parents can take several months at the same time
  • from 1 October 2014, prospective fathers or a mother’s partner can take time off to attend up to 2 antenatal appointments
  • adoption leave and pay will reflect entitlements available to birth parents from April 2015 - no qualifying period for leave; enhanced pay to 90% of salary for the first 6 weeks; and time off to attend introductory appointments. Intended parents in surrogacy and ‘foster to adopt’ arrangements will also qualify for adoption leave and pay
  • extending the right to request flexible working to all employees from 30 June 2014
  • replacing the current statutory procedure, through which employers consider flexible working requests, with a duty on employers to consider with requests in a ‘reasonable’ manner

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Section 3: SEND

Section 3 of the Act is concerned with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) and was implemented in September 2014.

Part 3 of the act contains provisions following the green paper: ‘Support and aspiration: a new approach to special educational needs and disability’ published by the Department for Education on 18 March 2011 and the follow up white paper, ‘Progress and next steps’ published 15 May 2012.

The Act has a number of regulations (see below) as well as the "meat on the bones": The SEND Code of Practice. The CoP contains the law as well as guidance on how and when a child or young person will need additional support.

The CFA 2014 marked the introduction of statutory Education, Health and Care plans, replacing the previous Statements of special educational needs. Read all our posts about SEN reform from 2011 to the present here.

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