Clause 98 - Right of officers of the service to have

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 6:00 pm ar 4 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Parliamentary Secretary (Lord Chancellor's Department) 6:00, 4 Rhagfyr 2001

As the hon. Gentleman said, clause 98 clarifies the powers of a CAFCASS officer to examine and take copies of an adoption agency's records relating to a proposed or actual application in respect of the child concerned. Obviously, it is essential to ensure that CAFCASS officers have all the relevant information about a child's circumstances in reporting to the court. Subsections (2) and (3) allow for the admissibility in evidence of a copy of any record that a CAFCASS officer is entitled to examine under the clause in any report to court in the particular proceedings or in evidence in the context of those proceedings.

I am afraid that I may have to disappoint the hon. Gentleman; the amendment is not necessary, because current provisions already provide for what he proposes. Schedule 2 to the Adoption Rules 1984 prescribes what an adoption agency or local authority must cover in its report. That includes 16 points of information, such as the needs of the child, the suitability of the parents and any historical information relevant to the child's needs. A CAFCASS officer can ask the court for leave to inspect other relevant documents under rule 10.20. That may include prior court proceedings involving the child. Regulation 15 of the Adoption Agencies Regulations 1983 also obliges adoption agencies to disclose information from their records to reporting officers and children's guardians.

As Opposition Members will appreciate, one aim of the Bill is to ensure that there is no undue delay in proceedings. It is important that there are safeguards to ensure access to other documents, but it is also important for CAFCASS officers to be able to focus on information that is relevant to the adoption proceedings only.