A new Children and Families Bill will be one of the major pieces of legislation for the next year to be announced in the Queen's Speech at the state opening of Parliament today.
Mothers will not only be able to return to work earlier, but they will also be able to transfer their maternity leave to their partners. At the moment, women can transfer only the second half of their year's leave to fathers, but under new measures the leave may now be extended to nine months.
This move is thought to be most beneficial to families where the mother is the higher earner, as the family will be better off if the lower-earning father moves onto the statutory maternity pay.
The Coalition is also looking to offer more opportunities for flexible working, which parents can request throughout their son or daughter's childhood.
Other measures in the Bill will include:
• Legal requirements to ensure that most children will have a relationship with their father if their parents divorce. Judges will have to ensure children enjoy a "meaningful" relationship with their father if possible.
• Tighter controls on music videos and computer games to stop unsuitable material being seen by children as part of new laws to enact recommendations from an official review of child sexualisation.
• A speeding-up of the adoption process, particularly for ethnic minority children. Councils will have to prioritise cutting the time to find parents for children ahead of considering their ethnicity. The family justice system will also be reformed so that cases involving children being placed into care must be completed within six months.
• A system to assess and give assistance to children with special educational needs. A simple assessment process will be introduced and local councils will have to liaise with doctors and the NHS to ensure that children with special needs are properly cared for and educated.
A Downing Street source said: "Dealing with the deficit and getting the economy growing remains the Coalition's top priority. The Prime Minister is passionate about making sure that these children get the best start in life that they can, and this Bill will help us to do that."
Posted by Penny Hosie