The government is poised to launch a national adoption action plan which will reform the current “bloated” system, education secretary Michael Gove will announce today.
In a speech this morning, Gove will describe the current system of assessment in adoption as “bloated” and will say it needs to be “entirely replaced”.
Pre-adoption assessments need to be slimmed down, he will say, while adoption support needs to be beefed-up.
The reforms are also expected to outline controversial plans for performance indicators to help councils “measure how they’re performing against each other and improve”.
Ministers will back social workers when they intervene and take children into care, Gove will say, adding that there has been too much reluctance to remove children from “outright abuse and neglect”.
“We know there are far too many children who spend too long in homes where they are not receiving the care they need. When adults are neglecting, or abusing, children then we should intervene – early and energetically – to put things right.
“The welfare of a neglected or abused child is more important than the rights of their parents,” Gove will say.
The education secretary will also lament an apparent lack of progress on placing black children for adoption, claiming too few authorities have changed their practice.
“It is outrageous to deny a child the chance of adoption because of a misguided belief that race is more important than any other factor. And it is simply disgraceful that a black child is three times less likely to be adopted from care than a white child.
“Although the new guidance I issued to councils last year explicitly addressed this issue, evidence suggests that too many have failed to change their practice. I promise you I will not look away when the futures of black children in care continue to be damaged,” Gove will say.
The adoption action plan, due to be launched next month, has already sparked concern among social workers.
Nushra Mansuri, professional officer for the British Association of Social Workers, agreed there was room for improvement, but said performance indicators “immediately set off alarm bells”.
“This was tried under the Blair government and led to accusations of targets leading to perverse incentives [to place children for adoption],” she said.
“We need to recognise that it is an uneven playing field out there, so comparison between councils would not necessarily be like for like. This does not help us to move away from the ‘blame culture’, it is another stick with which to beat ‘failing’ local authorities,” she said.
Mansuri also accused the government of “regurgitating the same platitudes about adoption that we have already heard three times in the past four months”, which she said amounted to a, “demoralising assault on social workers and local authorities”.
Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, acknowledged the variation in local authority performance, and that the system “at times has been risk averse”, but said councils “want to work with government to change that and remove barriers that delay decisions, including tackling the significant delays in the family courts”.
“Ensuring a child is in the best possible long-term home cannot be tackled through a one-size fits-all approach. Adoption is right for some children, but for others long term stability might best be found with friends and family through special guardianship,” he added.
Gove urges social workers to act earlier to protect children