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Adoption and Children Act (Northern Ireland) 2022

Section 135: Contact: children in care of authority

Article 53 of the Children Order (parental contact etc. with children in care) provides that where a child is in the care of an authority the authority must allow the child reasonable contact with their parents or guardians, or certain other persons specified in Article 53(1). Authorities are also required, under Article 29 (Promotion and maintenance of contact between the child and family) of that Order, to endeavour to promote contact between all looked after children and those persons listed in paragraph (1) including the child's parents and other relatives of the child.

Subsection (2) amends Article 53(1) to make it clear that the authority's duty to allow reasonable contact between a child in the care of the authority and those people listed in Article 53(1)(a) to (d) is subject to the authority's duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of looked after children under Article 26(1)(a) of the Children Order ((General duty of authority). If allowing contact with any of those persons would not safeguard and promote the welfare of the child, the authority should not allow the contact.

Subsection (3) inserts a new paragraph (6A) into Article 53 to provide that where an authority is refusing contact under Article 53(6) with any of the persons listed in Article 29(1)(a) to (c) , or where an authority has obtained a court order under Article 53(4) authorising them to refuse contact with any of those persons, the duty in Article 29(1) to endeavour to promote contact no longer applies.

Subsection (4) inserts new sub-paragraph (za) into Article 53(8) to provide that regulations made under Article 53(8) may prescribe the matters that the authority must have regard to when determining whether contact between the child and any of the people mentioned in Article 53(1)(a) to (d) is consistent with safeguarding and promoting the child's welfare.

Article 53(11) provides that, before making a care order with respect to any child, the court has to consider the contact arrangements that the authority has made or proposes to make and invite the parties to the proceedings to comment on those arrangements. Subsection (5) amends that paragraph to provide that the court's duties also apply before the court makes, varies or discharges an order under Article 53.

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