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Organisations oppose plans to remove adoption recruitment from local authorities

Doubts expressed about the effectiveness of the Government's plans

A variety of organisations involved in the provision of adoption services have responded to the Government's plans to legislate so that it can require local authorities, which it considers to be failing in their adoption recruitment and approval services to outsource them.

British Association for Adoption and Fostering
David Holmes, Chief Executive of BAAF commented:

"The proposals announced today to use legislation to give Government the option of removing the recruitment and assessment functions from all local authorities would be a very blunt way to address a complex problem. We know that there is some excellent local authority recruitment practice.  Indeed, we are aware that some authorities have increased their recruitment and approval of prospective adopters by up to 50% in the last year. A blanket approach across more than 150 local authority adoption agencies is unlikely to have as much positive impact as a more targeted and differentiated approach where the current system is not working well. A blanket approach risks destabilising the sector and devaluing the professional expertise, commitment and resources that have been built up over time in adoption teams in local authorities across the country.

"We do not doubt the Government's tremendous commitment to adoption but the introduction of significant uncertainty and the potential for major organisational change is not what is needed now. Instead, our collective focus needs to be on making the adoption reform programme deliver to its full potential.

"As such we hope that the Government will focus more on incentivising the adoption market to both grow in capacity and improve its functioning including addressing issues of economies of scale where this is currently not happening."

Association of Directors of Children's Services
Commenting on the new strategy, Debbie Jones, President of the Association of Directors of Children's Services said:

"Taking the power away from the largest current supplier of adopters is ill thought through, and the paper presents no evidence that it will have the effect Government intends. ADCS members have been a driving force behind adoption reform, and this threat is heavy handed and unnecessary. Local Authorities should be encouraged to recruit as many suitable adopters as possible, and not do this difficult task with a Ministerial "Sword of Damocles" hanging over them. It will be confusing and demoralising for prospective adopters and local authority adoption staff alike.

"We believe equalisation of fees between Voluntary Adoption Agencies and Local Authorities will further bolster the existing reforms and will encourage those Local Authorities that can recruit more adopters to do so and contribute to addressing the national shortage. No prospective adopter in one area should be turned away from a local authority when there are a significant number of children in all areas waiting to find families.

"We acknowledge that having 150 Local Authorities all doing their own adopter recruitment may not be sustainable in the long term, and some of them may be too small to operate effectively on their own. We will work with our members and the local government sector to explore the possibility of consortia and partnerships to scale up the provision where this is the case. Economies of scale can be achieved particularly in marketing, recruitment, assessment and approval of adopters."

British Association of Social Workers
Bridget Robb, Acting Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), responded:

"At a time when voluntary and private agencies are strapped for cash to deliver existing services, it is madness to put the lives of children in care on hold through a politically driven policy change to take the recruitment of adopting parents out of local authorities.

"This is a divisive tactic for the world of adoption provision, which is already a mix of local authority and voluntary sector organisations.

"Voluntary and private agencies have no better track record of recruiting and supporting adopting parents than local authorities.

"Such a move contributes nothing to solving the current problems of cuts in provision of services, and is clearly not in the best interests of vulnerable children.

"The government is being too interventionist in its adoption policies, and dismissing evidence bases that don't fit with their ideology.

"BASW, however, is interested in working with social workers who are running and working in adoption services in local authorities, voluntary and private agencies to explore more effective ways of recruiting and supporting adoptive parents. Let's not get so troubled about the legal structures, but focus on providing the best services possible to the public."

Local Government Association
Councillor David Simmonds, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said:

"Recent figures show councils have twice the success rate of independent adoption agencies. Removing councils from the process of recruiting and screening potential adopters could adversely impact on the very children and potential adoptive parents the Government is trying to protect and should only be considered as a very last resort.

"Parents tell us they value the consistent support that a council social worker offers throughout process, with many continuing to offer assistance long after the adoption has taken place. This move risks creating a disjointed and confusing system which could see potential adopters passed from pillar to post as different agencies become responsible for different parts of the process. With the national shortage of potential adopters we are currently facing, the last thing we want to do is put potential mums and dads off making such a life changing decision.

"Local authorities acknowledge that there is variation in performance across the country but we are committed to tackling this. Currently, only one in five adopters are recruited by voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) and there is a real danger that they won't be able to expand their operations to meet the demands that would be placed on them.

"Councils are getting on with their part of the job by approving more children for adoption, with 12 per cent more children adopted in 2012 than 2011, the highest figure since 2007. Government now needs to play its part by finally reducing the heavy legal burden of care proceedings and ridiculous bureaucracy which causes huge delays that can put some people off adopting altogether."