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Legislation for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

Legislation for fostering varies across the UK and it is important that you know what applies to the country in which you live. Listed below is the relevant legislation, regulations and guidance for each of the 4 UK countries.


1.Legislation for England

The Law and Fostering
Most of the law relating to the safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is contained within the Children Act 1989, Guidance and Regulations Volume 4 Fostering Services, the Care Standards Act 2000, the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and the Children Act 2004.

Children Act 1989: care planning, placement and case review
On Monday 06 July, the Department for Education published an updated and revised version of the Children Act 1989 guidance and regulations volume 2: care planning, placements and case review, setting out what you must do to comply with the law.

You can access this document here

This statutory guidance applies to LAs, children’s services directors, social workers, front-line managers and service commissioners for looked-after children; and is also relevant to Children’s Trust partner agencies and looked-after children service providers, including private, voluntary and public sector providers and foster carers. The document consolidates a number of separate documents previously published, including ‘Delegation of authority to foster carers’.

There are regulations contained within the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 and associated  National Minimum Standards that provide a clear framework for Fostering Service Providers, Foster Carers and associated staff.
The legal framework is complex and you are not expected to know all of it! It is important, however, that Foster Carers understand the general principles contained in the legislation, the implications of any court orders that apply to children and young people that are in foster care, and the expectations placed upon Foster Carers under the law.

There are lots of new words that you will hear if or when you start fostering. We have set out the basics here. And if you want to find out more about the legal framework there are plenty of books and websites available.

The Children Act 1989 – General Principles
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Court Orders
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The main Court Orders are:

Emergency Protection Order (EPO)
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Child Assessment Order
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Interim Care Order
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Care Order
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The role of the Family Court Adviser
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Contact Order
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Residence Order
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Prohibited Steps Order
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Specific Issue Order
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Other orders that you might come across:
• Supervision Order
• Family Assistance Order
• Guardianship or Special Guardianship Order
• Wardship
• orders made in matrimonial proceedings
• orders made in criminal proceedings e.g. supervision order, community service.

Fostering Services Regulations and National Minimum Standards 2011
The above named regulations and standards are published under the Care Standards Act 2000.
The regulations are mandatory and fostering service providers must abide by them. The inspectors working for Ofsted take account of how well the fostering service providers meet the national minimum standards under the five Every Child Matters Outcomes, and how well the service is managed. The inspection reports for each fostering service provider are available either from the providers themselves or via the Ofsted website.

Download the National Minimum Standards here

There are 31 fostering standards which are encompassed under two main headings:

Standards 1 to 12 – Child Focused Standards
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Standards 13 to 31 – Standards of the Fostering Service
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Other relevant Legislation
The Children and Families Act 2014
Children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and disability support needs
The Children and Families Act 2014 requires changes to practice to enable improved outcomes for CYP (0-25) with SEN and/or disabilities by providing integrated and outcome-focused intervention from across education, health and social care.

The SEN and disability support changes  came into force on 1 September 2014.  A very useful document, ‘SEN and disabilities: a guide for parents and carers’, which also explains the system, particularly from the perspective of foster carers and looked-after children, is available to download at:
It also includes, as an annex, a note on transitional arrangements from the old to the new system.

The young people materials to the SEN and disability reforms consist of four leaflets with corresponding videos and posters. These are available to download at

The ‘Changes to the SEN and disability support system: easy-read guide for children and young people’ can be accessed at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/send-support-easy-read-guide-for-children-and-young-people

The Contact a Family website link might also be helpful at: http://www.cafamily.org.uk


2.Legislation for Wales

The main legislative body in Wales is the National Assembly for Wales.

Local authorities have a key role in providing social care for both adults and children, and support to carers.  Their functions extend to providing care for those with mental health needs, for disabled persons and for children who need to be taken into local authority care.  Local authorities are also responsible for providing adoption services, and for investigating and intervening to protect children from abuse and neglect.

In addition to their general powers,  Welsh Ministers have some specific grant-making powers in the field of social care. They may pay grants to organisations providing training in social care work or to those undertaking such training (section 76(4) of the Care Standards Act 2000). The Welsh Ministers may provide grants to any person to promote the welfare of children and their parents, to support parenting (section 14 of the Education Act 2002) and to provide accommodation in children’s homes (section 82 of the Children Act 1989).

A Welsh Minister is usually appointed to be responsible for social care alongside health matters and he or she is served by the Welsh Government Department for Health and Social Services.

The laws on social care will change in Wales on 1 April 2016. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 will make important changes to the way social services are delivered, primarily through promoting people’s independence to give them stronger voice and control. The Act will put greater onus on local authorities to provide preventative services which will delay, reduce or prevent needs for care and support. The Act gives local authorities an updated set of duties and functions in relation to improving the well-being of people who need care and support and carers who need support.
The Welsh Government has also introduced the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Bill into the National Assembly. If passed, it will reform the regulatory regime for care and support services in Wales, and also reform the system of regulation of those who work in the sector and provide care for vulnerable adults or children.

Current legislation:

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Other Statutory Guidance:

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3. Legislation for Scotland

The main legislative body in Scotland is the Scottish Parliament and what follows below is a summary of the main points of the law as it affects fostering in Scotland.

The devolved Government for Scotland is responsible for most of the issues of day-to-day concern to the people of Scotland, including health, education, justice, rural affairs, and transport.

The Scottish Government was known as the Scottish Executive when it was established in 1999 following the first elections to the Scottish Parliament. The current administration was formed after elections in May 2011.

Current Legislation

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4. Legislation for Northern Ireland

The main legislative body in Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland Assembly and what follows below is a summary of the main points of the law as it affects fostering in Northern Ireland.

If you are interested in foster care in Northern Ireland, or are currently a foster care in Northern Ireland, you can contact the Regional Adoption and Fostering Service:  http://www.adoptionandfostering.hscni.net/

Individual Health and Social Care Trusts may also provide publications tailored to aspects of foster care.

Guidance and regulations

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Primary legislation

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Principles of the Children Order

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Principles to be followed

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Departmental Guidance

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