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TACT concerned at sharp rise in special guardianship orders

Charity believes that record adoption figures are concentrated on younger children

TACT, the UK's largest charity specialist provider of fostering and adoption services, has expressed concern at the further sharp rises in the use of special guardianship orders revealed by the Department for Education's latest statistics concerning children in care in England.

Those statistics show that the use of SGOs in England has risen 20.2 per cent from 2,770 to 3,330. Between 2010 and 2014 the figure has increased 158 per cent (in 2010 there were 1,290 SGOs).

TACT has been a strong supporter of the use of SGOs which can give children who have been in care the security and stability they need to thrive. Once an SGO is made the child will no longer be looked after. However, this sharp rise might indicate that the use of orders is extending beyond the original intentions.

TACT CEO Andy Elvin said:

"SGOs were introduced to allow young people stability and permanence. We are, however, worried that this dramatic rise indicates that they are being increasingly used inappropriately. TACT is aware of foster carers being asked to consider special guardianship shortly after a placement is made, or placements being made only on condition that an SGO is part of the care plan. SGOs should only be considered when the time is right for carers and the young person."

The statistics also show an increase of 26 per cent to 5,050 in the number of children adopted (2013: 4,010). However, this growth is almost entirely due to the numbers of one to four year olds adopted (76 per cent of all adoptions). Numbers for children older than this have remained static. This demonstrates that the government's adoption reforms are having an impact, but only for younger children.

Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, said of the increased adoption rate:

"Today's figures show a significant and sustained rise in the number of adoptions - an increase of 26% in the last 12 months. This means thousands more of our most vulnerable children are finding the loving and permanent homes they so desperately need.

"We also promised to remove delay and frustration from the process for both children and adopters. Today's figures show that we are delivering on that promise. The system is working more quickly, as well as providing more support to families after an adoption has taken place."

Children are spending less time in care waiting to be adopted, with the average length of time between a child coming into care and being placed with their new family down by 2 months.

TACT is concerned that 38 per cent of care leavers are not in education, training or employment (NEET). This underlines the importance of the recently introduced staying put scheme, allowing care leavers to remain with their former foster carers until they are 21.