Martin Narey’s plans for adoption reform have come under fire from critics who claim the former Barnardo’s chief is misleading the public and alienating social workers.
The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has criticised Narey – who was confirmed as the ministerial adviser on adoption this week – for encouraging a “target-driven blame culture” within social work.
BASW said this was “the very thing that the recent Munro Report into child protection identifies as debilitating good practice”.
Although pleased the government was looking to improve the adoption system, BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri said Narey’s report showed a lack of understanding about adoption and social work.
“He suggests social workers are somehow anti-adoption but that’s a simplistic and inflammatory view,” she said. “He is alienating social workers by stereotyping them in this way and is not taking the profession with him.
“It takes us to a closed debate about adoption which is not helpful or contextual. Adoption is just one option and he is ruling out equally good options like kinship care. It’s all very old school.”
Narey, whose report on adoption reform was commissioned by The Times and published in the newspaper this week, has called for the system to be overhauled. Among his recommendations are that social workers should make earlier and quicker adoption decisions and waste less time assessing unsuitable family and friends carers.
Local authorities would be ranked on the basis of their adoption rates, with the least improved named and shamed. If there was no across-the-board improvement, a national adoption agency would be set up to oversee the process.
Children’s minister Tim Loughton said adoption was a “top priority for this government”.
“We want more children benefiting from adoption where it’s in their best interests, and we want more families who come forward interested in adopting welcomed with open arms by local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies,” he said.
“We will be looking closely at Mr Narey’s report and recommendations over the coming weeks.”
But a letter sent to The Times this week from the Fostering Network, the Family Rights Group, the Kinship Care Alliance and Grandparents Plus also criticised Narey’s proposals.
“Martin Narey’s description of local authorities wasting time searching for relatives is misleading,” the organisations wrote. “The evidence is that it is relatives who come forward. Moreover, there are ways, such as via the use of family group conferences, that local authorities can speedily seek out potential family carers.”
They added that Narey was wrong to regard kinship carers as “a ‘different branch of an essentially dysfunctional family or indicate they are likely to place the children at risk, when the evidence tells us a very different story”.
One social worker told Community Care: “Adoption offers the very best outcomes for some children, but it is not a panacea and we mustn’t forget that.
“I’m glad Narey is raising the profile of adoption but he must reach out to social workers and support them, not alienate them.”
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