Parent support changes withdrawn

Amendments which would have made it a duty for
local authorities to provide suitable services needed by adoptive
parents were withdrawn by Conservative MPs during the Adoption and
Children Bill’s final stages in the House of Commons last week.

Despite remaining unconvinced by the
government’s arguments, Canterbury MP Julian Brazier withdrew the
amendments in the “spirit of [Conservative] support for the bill”
and in the interests of time.

Clause 4 of the bill provides a duty for
councils to assess the needs for adoption support services of
adopted children, their parents or guardians, but it makes no
provision for providing those services once a need is

The Conservatives claimed that unless the bill
was amended, adoptive parents of a child with complex needs might
be left without any real entitlement to support, and that support
was vital to promoting successful adoptions, preventing breakdowns
and encouraging new adopters.

But health minister Jacqui Smith defended the
bill as it stood. Although she admitted that the present “provision
of adoption support services across the country is patchy and
inconsistent”, she said the bill’s provisions would “tackle that

Smith said clause 3 of the bill – requiring
councils to maintain an adoption service – placed “for the first
time a clear duty on local authorities to make and participate in
arrangements to provide adoption support services, which will
include financial support”.

But as it stands, she added, the bill allowed
councils to retain discretion as to how they provide services once
need has been assessed, with the assessment acting as a “gateway to
the provision of services”.

The duty to assess would allow a proper
approach to providing services in a joined-up way, claimed Smith.
This in turn was supported by extra government investment in the
adoption service.

Two further days of debate on other amendments
to the bill are due to take place after Easter.

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