Children’s minister Tim Loughton has rejected key recommendations made by his new adoption tsar Martin Narey, saying he disagrees that social workers should spend less time assessing friends and family carers.
Speaking exclusively to Community Care, Loughton said Narey’s recent report – which was commissioned by and published in The Times – will not become a “blueprint” on adoption reform, as the newspaper had claimed.
“It’s not my blueprint. I am very clear that Martin Narey’s report is not government policy and I do not agree with all of it,” he said. Narey’s recommendations were published in the same week that he was confirmed as ministerial adviser on adoption.
Loughton said he did not agree that social workers should spend less time assessing “unsuitable” family and friends carers before considering adoption, but suggested the proposal had been “slightly misinterpreted” in the media and among professionals.
Instead he urged social workers to consider “all possible family and friends carers”, recognising that kinship care offers “equally good outcomes for the right children”.
Loughton defended his decision to appoint Narey the government’s first adoption tsar, amid criticism from some social workers that the role should have gone to someone with direct adoption experience and expertise.
But Loughton insisted the outspoken former Barnardo’s chief is “iconoclastic” and “absolutely the right person for the job”.
“Adoption is seen as a peripheral option for children in this country. I want it to become a mainstream option,” Loughton said. “I need a high profile figure who understands the subject well and can bang the drum for why we need to improve our attitudes towards adoption.”
He said he was aware that Narey was “doing a lot of work on adoption” and had been asked by Kent Council to help promote adoption in the county. “I decided we needed a ministerial adviser on adoption and it became Narey was an obvious candidate”.
Loughton also defended his decision to appoint Narey ministerial adviser, despite his involvement with a recent News International adoption campaign.
Narey was preparing his report for The Times when Loughton approached him about the role for government.
Loughton said he had known that Narey was preparing the report prior to appointing him, but insisted the new tsar’s paid work for The Times presented “no conflict of interest”. Nor did it indicate that Narey’s report had been endorsed by government, he said.
He said the newspaper’s report was “completely independent and did not influence my decision”. He said its publication and the ministerial appointment were unrelated, but “complimentary”, adding that he had not seen the report prior to offering Narey the role.
The government will soon be publishing Narey’s terms of reference, which set out the remit of his ministerial role. This includes identifying good practice and supporting local authorities to improve their adoption rates and outcomes for children.
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care Sign up to our daily and weekly emails