Adoption services are to receive an £8m boost from government this year, new children’s minister Edward Timpson (pictured) announced today as he launched a consultation on proposals to speed up the adoption assessment process.
Timpson is seeking views on a range of proposals to reform fostering and adoption, including a two-stage approval process for prospective adopters and fast-track procedure for approved foster carers and previous adopters.
The reforms are designed to build on the adoption action plan published by education secretary Michael Gove in March, which, among proposals to tackle delays in the system, introduced controversial local authority adoption scorecards.
Social workers have until 7 December to give their views on the additional proposals, which include:
- Introducing measures to ensure foster carers are able to take everyday decisions about the children in their care.
- Improving the sharing of case records between fostering services and adoption agencies.
- Reviewing timescales for referring looked-after children and prospective adopters to the adoption register.
- Restricting the size of adoption and fostering panels.
Timpson, whose parents are fosters carers and who has two adopted siblings, said: “Sadly I have come across too many potential adopters who have given up, frustrated by the system and foster carers exasperated by the bureaucracy required for every day tasks.
“I want the process to be as hassle-free as possible. Vital safeguards will remain, but no one benefits from pointless paperwork.”
The government will publish its response to the consultation in spring 2013 ahead of publishing revised statutory adoption and fostering guidance. The changes will be implemented next summer.
David Holmes, chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, welcomed the consultation, which he said “focuses on getting the right balance between safeguards and speed, between necessary checks and unnecessary bureaucracy”.
Government advisor on adoption, Martin Narey, added: “We urgently need enough adopters to offer loving homes to the worryingly high number of children in care, approved for adoption, but with nowhere to go. I believe the changes trailed in the document will begin to change that.”
David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “Any reforms designed to reduce unnecessary delay in the adoption process and cut the time children spend waiting to be placed in a loving family home are to be welcomed. The ability to fast-track assessments for foster carers who want to adopt is a particularly positive move.
“It is encouraging that the Government has recognised the need for additional funding to help councils build on the work they are already doing to improve the adoption system. However, councils understand best the difficulties they face locally, so it should be for them to decide how to spend the money to achieve improvements rather than this being dictated from the centre.
“Social workers still face significant challenges when it comes to finding a loving permanent home for the children in their care. They are working with a system that has five times more children waiting for adoption than we have adopters.”