Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson Alan Chambers MLA has warned that a key piece of Stormont legislation – the Adoption and Children Bill – is at risk of falling due to repeated failed attempts to have it considered at an Executive meeting.
Alan Chambers MLA, a member of Stormont’s Health Committee, said:
“This is an incredibly important piece of overdue legislation which if implemented would deliver desperately needed reforms to our adoption system. The Bill would significantly improve the framework for adoption in Northern Ireland, mirroring changes that were already introduced for England and Wales almost two decades ago in 2002 and for Scotland in 2007.
“I received confirmation from the Health Minister almost two months ago that the issue was ready to go to the Executive – the necessary first step in the process towards the Bill actually being introduced to the Assembly and examined in detail by the Health Committee and MLAs.
“It has now come to light to some adoption charities however that despite repeated requests by Robin Swann, the Bill has yet to be formally agreed to progress to the Assembly. In fact I believe it has been repeatedly blocked from even making it on to an Executive meeting agenda.
“Time is running out – it’s essential this large, but hugely significant bill is introduced to the Assembly this side of the upcoming recess in order to allow the Health Committee to use the summer months to gather evidence, before the Bill then makes its way through the legislative cycle ahead of the end of the mandate early next year.
“It would be shameful if any further delays were to see this legislation fall simply due to sufficient time not being available. If the Bill falls it is a matter of fact that vulnerable children and young people in Northern Ireland would continue to receive less favourable treatment than those in the rest of the United Kingdom. It would be shameful if posturing from the Executive Office were to result in the blocking of these genuine reforms.’