The government has missed its key targets on adoption, despite making them a priority area for action for councils more than three years ago.
The government’s overarching target, included in the Priorities and Planning Framework 2003-6, was to increase adoptions by 50% by 2006 from 1999 levels.
However, the latest figures show that just 3,700 children were adopted in the year ending 31 March 2006 – a 34 per cent increase since 1999 and a 3 per cent fall on last year’s figures.
A second target on placing looked-after children for adoption as quickly as possible once it has been decided adoption is in their best interests has also been missed. The government wanted 95 per cent of these children to be placed within 12 months, up from 81 per cent in 2000. Instead, the 2006 figures reveal a 4 per cent fall to 77 per cent.
The Department for Education and Skills statistics also reveal there is a long way to go to achieve the government’s 2008 target on placement stability.
By that time, the government wants 80 per cent of children who have been in care for at least two and a half years to have been in the same placement for at least two years or placed for adoption. However, the 2006 figure is 65 per cent – just 1 per cent higher than in 2003.
Where progress for children in care has been made, campaigners said it was still not enough and there was much more to be done.
NCH chief executive Clare Tickell said the situation for children in care was “still dire”, despite a 2 per cent fall on 2004-5 figures for the proportion of children leaving care aged 16 (down to 26 per cent) and a 2 per cent increase in the proportion of children leaving care with at least one GCSE or GNVQ (up to 43 per cent).
“The small improvements that have been made are simply not enough,” Tickell said. “There is still a long way to go and the government need to be doing so much more. For children in care there is no time to lose.”
Contact the author: Lauren Revans