The Adoption Agencies (Panel and Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2012 have just been published.
Even as a law geek, these are too dull to read (my pet-hate is legislation that simply consists of ‘remove the word ‘always’ from s271 (1) (b) (iv) of the Act, and replace with ‘under no circumstances whatsover’)
The nub of it is, in cases after 1st September 2012, there is no longer a requirement for the LA to present a child’s case to Adoption Panel to get permission to seek a Placement Order from the Court, or to present a care plan of adoption to the Court. In fact, not only is it no longer a requirement, from 1st September the LA is FORBIDDEN to place the child before Adoption Panel for that decision. (This doesn’t apply to cases where a baby is given up for adoption, or relinquished).
What’s not terribly clear is whether the cut-off date of 1st September applies to :-
(a) cases where the Court won’t be actively considering making the ORDER until after 1st September
(b) cases where the LA evidence is due before 1st September.
I suspect, in the absence of clear guidance to the contrary, it has to be assumed that (as the LA needed Panel permission to put in a care plan of Adoption, it would be (b). I suspect the Court might see a massive surge in directions which put the LA evidence due on 1st September or later, even when it could actually come in the week before.
If you really want to read the legislation (and I do warn you, that it bored even me, and I have a high tolerance level), here it is :-
Pending cases are dealt with in the transitional arrangements. Where the documents have been submitted to the panel but no decision has yet been made by 01.09 then they must be withdrawn. Given the regs relate to local authority procedure I think the only interpretation must be that after that date adoption agencies make a decision to apply for a placement order on their own without requiring panel involvement.
A good point, given that the decision is made by the Agency Decision Maker seven days after Panel, that sort of suggests that the last Panel date will be 24th August. So, if you have final evidence due on 25th August, can you dispense with Panel? I think you probably can, based on the transitional arrangements.
I’m already encountering cases where I could file by 17th August, but only if I skip going to Panel – but as I can’t skip going to Panel until 17th August, I instead can go to Panel and file by 7th September. But if I file on 7th September, I didn’t NEED to go to Panel. I’m not sure what this huge lead-in time (compared to the July nuke we’d all heard about on the grapevine) was intended to achieve. If the Government feel, in accordance with the FJR, that going to Panel for decisions about whether the LA can seek a placement order is unnecessary duplication and causes delay, then why wouldn’t you get rid of it pretty much as soon as you could find time to get the legislation in place.
Thank you for the comment Andrew, and thank you for reading. Much appreciated.