Ministers want tougher Ofsted scrutiny of adoption services

The government is looking to beef-up Ofsted's inspections of adoption services following its publication of updated guidance today.

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The government is looking to beef-up Ofsted’s inspections of adoption services following its publication of updated guidance today.

The move follows children’s minister Tim Loughton telling Community Care last month that he did not think current Ofsted inspection outcomes on local authority adoption services reflected the reality of on the ground.

“If one looks at the ratings of adoption services around the country, disproportionately they are rated good or outstanding compared to the underlying children’s services departments. Of course there are some good and outstanding adoption services, but I want to get under the skin of why a lot of our adoption services are rated so highly and yet the overall result nationally leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.

The Department for Education stated that as of January this year, 76% of local authority adoption agencies were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. Loughton will be “exploring with Ofsted the current inspection regime for local authority adoption agencies and whether this can be strengthened”.

A spokesperson for Ofsted said their current inspection arrangements were based on existing regulatory requirements and national minimum standards.

“As such we welcome the new minimum standards that will come into force from this April. They will support us in ensuring that inspection has a strong focus on quality and outcomes for children. We will continue to work closely with the government on developing our inspection systems in light of any future changes to regulation in this area.”

Other changes in the adoption guidance include:

● local authorities must not deny children a loving home with adoptive parents only because they don’t share the same ethnic or cultural background.

● adoption should be considered for children who may have been overlooked in the past- such as older children or those with disabilities.

● local authorities should be welcoming enquiries from those wanting to adopt and no person should be turned away on the grounds of race, age or social background/

● local authorities should be making full and effective use of the Adoption Register which helps to match adoptive parents with children.

●local authorities should be making more use of voluntary adoption agencies who have specialist expertise in finding families for difficult to place children such as older children, those with disabilities, sibling groups and black and ethnic minority children.

Education secretary Michael Gove, who launched the updated guidance and was adopted himself, said: “Edicts which say children have to be adopted by families with the same ethnic background and which prevent other families adopting because they don’t fit left-wing prescriptions are denying children the love they need”.

Loughton pointed out that some local authorities place just 2% of children in care for adoption compared with 16% in other parts of the country. “While there are many fantastic local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies, I want all the professionals involved in adoption to take note of the updated guidance. I want to see more children placed for adoption where this is in their best interests.”

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