Even though no amendments to the clause have been tabled, I should explain the purpose of clause 17 to the Committee.
Local authorities must already appoint an independent visitor for looked-after children who have no contact with their birth parents or those who have parental responsibility. In responding to the consultation on the Green Paper last year, children and young people made it clear that they wanted greater access to the support of an independent visitor. They have told us that they value having someone from outside the system to befriend them, to take them out, to be a source of advice and support, and independent visitors can potentially benefit a much wider group of looked-after children than currently have access to one.
Their potential in helping to support placement stability, enabling young people to build constructive relationships and encouraging aspirations and ambitions is considerable, and that is why we want to extend the opportunity to have an independent visitor to all looked-after children where they would benefit significantly from such a relationship. Clause 17 will place a duty on a local authority to appoint an independent visitor where it appears to them that it would be in the child’s best interest to do so, and where the child wants one. We want those who are currently eligible to maintain their right to an independent visitor and will use regulations to ensure under new section 23ZB subsection (1)(a) that these groups continue to be automatically eligible for an independent visitor on that basis.