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Adoption

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

3. If she will review the adequacy of the leave entitlements of those about to adopt children. (228317)

The Government have a strong record on supporting working families, including those looking to adopt children. I am pleased to say that since April 2003 couples and individuals who are adopting children have had the right to take up to 52 weeks’ adoption leave provided that they give their employers sufficient notice. This is equivalent to the rights to maternity leave.

I welcome the Minister to her place. I accept her answer, but is she aware that couples who are adopting are given approximately only 50 per cent. of the paid leave available for couples who have their own children? I have encountered two cases in which that has happened. Does she agree that given that those children often need more support, their adoptive parents should be able to have the same amount of maternity or paternity leave as is given to other couples? That would be a big help.

The hon. Gentleman will have to talk to me outside about individual cases, which I am happy to take up on his behalf. Women who have given birth are required by law to take time off—a minimum of two weeks if they work in an office or four weeks if they work in a factory. Maternity pay for the first six weeks after a mother has given birth is now 90 per cent. of her pay. He may be referring to the fact that that is different for those who are adopting. If I have got that wrong, I am happy to talk to him about the precise circumstances of his constituents and try to provide him with an answer. He will recall that until April 2003, those adopting children had no right to any leave or pay for that purpose. I hope that he therefore accepts that this is an advance.

I welcome the Minister to her place. Given the change in the law, what monitoring are the Government doing to ensure that same-sex couples are not excluded from adoption, particularly by religious agencies and particularly in light of recent reports that the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster) is openly trying to dodge that new law?

The law relating to that issue applies equally to all adoption agencies. There was a 20-month transitional period, as the hon. Lady may recall, for the Catholic adoption agencies, which had particular concerns, to adjust their policies and procedures to comply with the law. That is due to end on 31 December 2008. It would be unacceptable to have an exception in the law for any agencies that were offering publicly funded services in respect of regulations designed to prevent discrimination. Statistics are collected about adoptions, and I can assure my hon. Friend that it will be possible to use them to check whether any discrimination is taking place.