Nick de Bois is a Secretary of the 1922 Committee and MP for Enfield North.
The descendants of many thousands of people in the UK are faced with a potential problem that many of us will never even consider. This is because these people are the descendants of deceased adopted people. This group of people will routinely be denied or prevented access to vital information about their biological, rather than adopted families.
The child of a deceased adopted adult will often find it entirely impossible to locate any information about their biological grandparents. This difficulty is heightened when the deceased adopted person has not sought out their biological parents before they die.
It is not over-dramatic to claim that the information about the biological relatives of a deceased can be fundamentally important – especially in relation to medical conditions. If a deceased adopted person has died suddenly, those left behind will find it impossible to trace whether or not it was because of an hereditary condition.
There is a multitude of conditions in which a relative’s medical history can prove invaluable: one of these is breast cancer. When a number of women in one family have had breast cancer, their relatives are empowered to take the necessary precautions and ensure their health is monitored. However, those who are unable to trace their biological relatives are left unable to make such provisions – potentially leaving them with a biological ticking time bomb.
I have always been an advocate for everyone taking responsibility for their own health and well-being; however, the descendants of deceased adopted people are prevented from doing this because of needless procedural barriers. These barriers prevent biological time bombs from being defused.
This problem has been diligently highlighted by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering, alongside the Descendants of Deceased Adopted Persons group – who recognise that there are many people desperate to take the appropriate actions to safeguard their own health, but are refused help by the state.
There is a simple solution to this quandary – but, as my three and a half years in Parliament has already, demonstrated this does not always mean a change in law is easily done! My ten minute rule bill, presented last month, required a minuscule amendment to the Adoption and Children Act 2002 – a small amendment, with huge and welcome consequences.
Prior to it, there had been the usual parliamentary questions, debates, probing amendments to legislation and meetings with Ministers – none of which seemed to be generating the momentum to change the law. There had even been considerations by the Law Commission – all to no avail.
But now, after years of asking, the descendants of deceased adopted people are far closer than ever before to being granted their wish. Through concerted efforts both in the Commons and Lords ( Lady Hamwee, Lady Butler-Sloss ), alongside those from officials from the Department for Education, an amendment has been tabled by the Government to the Children and Families Bill, presently in the House of Lords.
This small amendment begins the journey that the descendants of deceased adopted people want to make – agreeing a consultation on how a system granting them access to their descendants information will work. No longer will the descendants of deceased adopted people be prevented from accessing information to which they should have always been entitled. No longer will they be prevented from making the best decisions about their healthcare.
While this amendment doesn’t sound groundbreaking, and I doubt it will take up too many column inches, for some people it will be life-changing.