Cautious welcome for adoption bill

Adoption legislation published last week has been widely
welcomed although there are concerns that insufficient resources
are being made available.

The government’s bill aims to speed up the adoption system and
increase the number of adoptions from care by 40 per cent.

But both the Association of Directors of Social Services and the
Local Government Association have highlighted the issue of funding
as crucial to the bill’s success.

The LGA said it was “disappointed” that the £66.5m over
three years to improve adoption services was not new money but had
already been announced as part of the Quality Protects programme
and had largely been allocated by local councils.

Rita Stringfellow, chairperson of the LGA’s social affairs and
health executive said: “While new grants have been given through
Quality Protects, this is against a historic background of
underfunding of social services. There are also competing demands
for the grant from other new legislation and improved

She added that the association was relieved that an adoption
bill had at last emerged after so many years of debate, but warned:
“We must balance the need to minimise delay with the time required
to allow safe assessments of families and preparation of

The ADSS particularly welcomed efforts to simplify the complex
status of intercountry adoption contained in the bill though it
warned that this and other aspects of the proposed legislation
needed close scrutiny.

ADSS president Moira Gibb commented: “Nothing should be
rushedÉ and we must also guard against the emotional cost of
raising too many people’s expectations too swiftly. There is still
a desperate shortage of suitable adoptive parents for those older,
highly vulnerable children who form the majority of children looked
after by local authorities.”

At a press conference last week announcing the publication of
the bill, health minister John Hutton said that although the
government wanted to see legislation passed before the general
election, or at the latest by the end of the year, there was no
question of cutting debate short.

“It is important to get the detail right so we are not going to
take any short cuts and we will not shut people out of the

The bill is due to receive its second reading next week.

Felicity Collier, chief executive of British Agencies for
Adoption and Fostering, welcomed the new proposals. “We applaud the
speed with which the government has acted and are delighted that
the minister has promised proper time for consultation and debate
around the measures.”

Liv O’Hanlon of the Adoption Forum said there were questions as
to how the proposals on raising standards, including taking over
from failing authorities, would be enforced.

Key adoption bill proposals

  • New national register for waiting children and prospective
  • New deadlines for deciding on the future of children in
  • An appeals process for rejected would-be adopters.
  • Post-adoption support for famalies.
  • Changes to court system to provide a more child-centred

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