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Adoption and Children Act (Northern Ireland) 2022

Section 5: Assessments etc. for adoption support services

An adoption authority must, under section 5, carry out an assessment of the needs for adoption support services of any of the persons mentioned in section 4(1) (that is, children who may be adopted, their parents and guardians; persons wishing to adopt a child; and adopted persons, their parents, natural parents and former guardians) or any other person of a prescribed description, at that person's request.

The assessment will provide a mechanism to assist in accessing adoption support services. It is intended that the assessment will provide a means of facilitating the provision of a planned and co-ordinated support package. It will link with other HSC trusts’ functions, including other health services, and services provided by the Education Authority, where the needs for such services are identified, with the aim of identifying a co-ordinated package of support to help adoptions succeed.

Regulations made under subsection (8)(a) may set out the circumstances in which the categories of person prescribed in the regulations made under subsection (1)(b) are to have a right to request and receive an assessment. An adoption authority may also carry out an assessment of the needs of any other person for adoption support services (subsection (2)). Adoption authorities may call upon the expertise of an appropriate voluntary organisation, a voluntary organisation, or persons prescribed in the regulations made under section 4(4)(b) to assist them in carrying out an assessment (subsection (3)).

Under subsection (5), where a person's needs for adoption support services are identified in an assessment, the adoption authority must provide them to the following categories of persons: a child who may be adopted, a parent or guardian of a child who may be adopted, a person wishing to adopt a child, an adopted person, a parent, natural parent or former guardian of an adopted person, or a person who is within a prescribed description. In all other cases, it must decide whether to provide the services assessed as needed (subsection (4)). Where an adoption authority decides to provide services, or it is under a duty to do so, the adoption authority will be required, in prescribed circumstances, to prepare a plan for the provision of services and keep the plan under review (subsection (6)). It is intended that a plan will be required where a number of different adoption support services are being provided, in order to co-ordinate the provision of those services.

Subsections (7) and (8) provide a power to make provision in regulations about the carrying out of assessments, including considerations to be taken into account during the assessment, preparing and reviewing plans, the provision of services in accordance with plans and reviewing the provision of adoption support services. These regulations will underpin the delivery of the new framework for adoption support including financial support. Regulations under subsection (8)(b) may set out the type of assessment which is to be carried out for each of the categories of person mentioned in section 4(1) and anyone else who receives an assessment for adoption support services. Regulations under subsections (8)(f) and (g) may set out the circumstances in which adoption support services may be provided subject to conditions and the consequences of failure to comply with any such conditions. It is anticipated that regulations could, for example, be used to enable an adoption authority to specify that financial support must be spent on specified items or services and that sums given may be recouped where they are not spent accordingly. This may be appropriate where a one-off grant is being paid for a specific purpose, but is unlikely to be appropriate for a regular adoption allowance. Regulations made under subsection (8)(h) may set out where the responsibility for carrying out an assessment and the provision of any adoption support services lies in cases where a child is placed with an adoptive family living in a different HSC trust area, together with funding arrangements. This is intended to ensure that it is clear which HSC trust is to provide adoption support services where a child is placed across HSC trust boundaries.

An assessment for adoption support under this provision may be carried out at the same time as an assessment of that person's needs under any other statutory provision (subsection (9)). This provision clarifies that an assessment for adoption support services may link with other statutory assessments of an individual's needs. If at any time during the assessment it appears to the adoption authority that the person may need services which are provided by another health and social care body or by the Education Authority, the adoption authority must notify the body or the Education Authority. Subsections (9) and (10) are intended to promote the joined up provision of public services in support of adoption.

Subsections (11) and (12) impose a duty on public bodies to co-operate in the exercise of functions under this section if it is consistent with the exercise of their functions more generally.

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Text created by the Northern Ireland Assembly department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes accompany all Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly.


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