Adopting more children from care will save £310m, says government

An impact assessment on the Children and Social Work bill says government reforms will save more than £300 million over ten years

savings
Photo: Cultura/RexShutterhsock

The government claims its adoption reforms will save councils hundreds of millions of pounds over the next decade.

An impact assessment on the Children and Social Work Bill found as much as £310 million could be saved over the next 10 years through more looked-after children being adopted and fewer fostering placements being needed.

The shift will be helped by regional adoption mergers and speedier matches through the creation of a larger pool of prospective adopters, the document said.

A leading fostering charity questioned the savings claim and predicted the number of adopted children would remain “relatively static” despite the changes.

The Children and Social Work Bill, which is going through parliament, places a duty on social workers to consider how any potential placement for the child could meet current and future needs. It also puts prospective adopters on the same legal footing as birth family members in care proceedings.

It follows reforms under the Education and Adoption Act, which compelled local authorities to merge their adoption services into regional agencies.

The government has described its package of changes as a “fundamental” reform of adoption and Prime Minister David Cameron has described himself as “unashamedly pro-adoption”.

Current practice

However, adoption experts have said the measures in the Children and Social Work Bill reflect current practice rather than a fundamental overhaul. Concerns have also been raised by a fostering charity.

Responding to the impact assessments, a Fostering Network spokesperson said: “Regardless of government rhetoric, the vast majority of the rising number of children who will continue to come into care will not, nor should be, freed for adoption.”

“It must be recognised that in the drive to reduce the number of children in the care system that the largest single age group in care is those aged 10 years and above, and the fastest growing age group is adolescents. It is highly unlikely that adoption would be assessed as the best permanence option for these children and young people. While the proposals will speed up the process of adoption for those who it’s been considered to be in the best interest for, the number of children freed for adoption would likely remain relatively static,” the spokesperson added.

Short-termism

They added that an expected “upsurge” in the educational outcomes for adopted children was “naïve” without fully funded post-adoption support.

“The short-termism of not even acknowledging long-term foster care as a permanence option in the Bill must be mentioned. Savings aren’t just about the immediacy.”

The Department for Education also committed to funding its proposed reforms to care leaver support in the bill, which it said would cost £4 million in 2017-18, and £8 million a year until 2020.

Care leavers, if the bill passes, would have access to a personal adviser extended until they are 25, rather than 21 as it is currently. Local authorities would also have to publish a local offer for care leavers.

The Children and Social Work Bill would mean sweeping reforms to the social work profession, and the government has recently come under fire for treating parliament “with contempt”. Lords consider the legislation to be a skeleton bill that leaves a lot of the detail up to secondary legislation, and gives a lot of power to ministers.

6 Responses to Adopting more children from care will save £310m, says government

  1. CHUX June 17, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    So not really about the best interests of the child, rather whats best for the budget. Whilst adoption will continue to be a positive outcome for some children, to ignore Fostering and its benefits, not least the opportunity for the child to raise their own concerns about a placement, should not be overlooked. Adoption is forever – unless of course the adoptive parents change their minds….

  2. LongtimeSW June 17, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    So will HH Lord Mumby say anything? What about Courts (rightly) insisting that Adoption should only be when ‘nothing else will do’?

    Courts do not (currently anyway) accept limited financial resources as being sufficient in considering whether a less life changing option than Adoption as being a ‘best interests’ outcome.

    Will ther now be a Constitutional argument between the Judiciary and the Legislature as to how this will be enacted?

    Colleagues – get ready for more Case Law to be made.

  3. Fo5 June 17, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

    I wonder what proportion of those ‘increasing numbers of adolescents in care’ is made up of children that were adopted from care and are now back in care due to insufficient support services, inadequate and unsuitable schooling and support for the families that could have prevented such a breakdown.

    • Christine June 17, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

      You are exactly right. The minute an adopter signs that dotted line that’s it.

  4. HelenSparkles June 17, 2016 at 4:37 pm #

    The law hasn’t changed and the White Paper doesn’t change the law on adoption, so the courts will be doing exactly what they have been doing since Re B-S which is mentioning the matter of human rights which is seemingly minor to this government.

  5. Sharon June 18, 2016 at 8:20 am #

    States very clearly at point 19:

    “The proposals on proceedings of court are not intended to promote adoption over other permanence options, but to ensure the court takes all factors into account to make decisions in the best interests of the child. Courts will need to consider how to ensure the views of children and young people are respected and incorporated into decision-making about permanence options. The legislation will not affect other considerations the court must take into account, linked to Article 9, e.g. ensuring separation from parents only occurs when this is necessary for the best interests of the child, exploring options for other family members to care for the child, and ensuring family members can make their views known”.

    Of course the Impact Assessment considers cost. It does so in the context of extended provision from the Virtual School and how this will be offset.