Council spending on special guardianship orders is set to increase massively this year, sparking concerns it is at the expense of adoption support.
Despite the government’s drive to increase the number of adoptions, the figures, which reveal overall council budget spending on children’s social care for 2011-12, show that spending on special guardianship orders is set to rise by 61%, compared with just a 3% increase for adoption from last year’s figures.
Adoption UK’s chief executive, Jonathan Pearce, said, although any increase in council spending was welcome, he was worried that the figures failed to match the government’s stated priorities in regard to adoption.
“Both forms of placement need to be supported more than currently, but expenditure needs to be balanced appropriately and fairly for the families that need it and in line with relevant placement trends,” he said.
John Simmonds, policy director of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, said many SGOs were made to family and friends carers.
“It is likely that a substantial number of them will require financial support because the socio-economic status of these families is more disadvantageous than is the case with stranger carers – adopters in particular,” he said.
He added that the direct costs to local authorities of supporting these placements were challenging. “Recognition by central government of this is essential. The most important issue is that the secure and lasting placement of a vulnerable child is secured by whatever order is made. But there is no avoiding the fact that this is a serious challenge to local authorities in having to find the money in very difficult times.”
A spokesperson for the College of Social Work also warned that some authorities might be using special guardianship as a way of saving money compared with long-term fostering.
The figures also confirm recent fears that, compared with fostering, residential care is missing out.
Councils are intending to cut spending on placements on children’s homes by 2% compared with a 6% expected increase in fostering budgets. Spending on kinship care placements is set to rise by just 1%.
Community Care is running a conference on Special Guardianship Orders on 24th November in Birmingham
Special reports on children’s services spending
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