Adoption and cohabiting

Some of the confusion surrounding the
stability of non-married couples – and therefore their suitability
to adopt (news analysis, 16 May) -Êcan be clarified by looking
in more detail at what statistics tell us.

Research has shown that while cohabiting
couples as a group are more likely to break up than married
couples, this is because within the cohabiting population there is
an over-representation of people with a previous history of
relationships, either cohabiting or married. Those with such a
history are more likely to see their current relationship break
down even if it becomes a marriage.

But another type of cohabitation – where the
relationship is the first such partnership for both partners – is
seemingly as stable, in general, as marriage. What social workers
need to be looking at, therefore, in assessing any couple for
adoption, is the previous relationship history of the partners. If
there has been a sequence of marriages and cohabitations then the
lights should at least go to amber.

Lorraine Harding
University of Leeds

Skills gaps and housing

Anna Coote (Perspectives, 16 May) is right to
question the government’s wider agenda. But her argument that there
is a lack of qualified nurses is certainly not true in central
London and much of the south east.

The reason we have staff shortages here is
that qualified nurses, doctors and ancillary workers cannot afford
to live within commuting distance of their work.

The ability of housing associations to build
key-worker housing is limited by shortage of space and financial
constraints arising from high property prices.

Pressure is acute on all housing providers to
prioritise allocations for vulnerable and homeless people. Until
the urgent need for affordable housing for those in work moves
higher up the government agenda staff shortages in the public
sector will remain unresolved. This can only lead to a lack of
services and longer waiting times.

Jane Turner
Chairperson, Inkerman Housing Association,

Councils’ fees must rise

Our organisation, an independent child care
provider, is experiencing severe problems in providing our services
to local authorities.

First, we are experiencing great difficulty in
obtaining payment of our invoices. This appears to be getting
worse. Despite the government setting targets that invoices should
be paid within 30 days of receipt, we continually have to chase
these invoices. This chasing is expensive and this month for the
first time we have applied an administration charge to late
invoices as we can no longer continue to subsidise local
authorities in this way.

In addition to the cost of additional
administration time and increased phone bills we also find
ourselves having to pay increased bank charges because of the
negative effect of late payment on cash flow.

Local authorities need to realise that we too
have to pay our suppliers and we struggle to pay on time owing to a
large part of our income regularly being paid late.

Late payment is not our only problem. We also
have to contend with councils who ignore our fee increases and
write back stating what they will pay – an amount that bears no
relation to what it costs us to provide the standard of care they
want for the children placed with us.

We may not be able to afford to stay on
approved provider lists of authorities in cases where realistic
requests for increases in fees are rejected.

It has always been our preference to work in
partnership with local authorities and consequently we joined the
pan-London contracting process. However, we have had to fight to
obtain fee levels that cover our costs. We have now been successful
but the process has been time-consuming and expensive.

I appreciate that local authorities struggle
to make their budgets balance but there appears to be reluctance on
their part to acknowledge that we too have rising costs. The
national shortage of people wishing to work in the social care
field has affected independent sector recruitment and retention
costs in the same way as it has for local authorities. The rising
cost of registration standards has added to these costs along with
the introduction of minimum national training standards.

I am aware of a recent case in the adult care
market that resulted in a successful court action against a local
authority who were not willing to pay the level of fees set by the
care provider. I am sure that all providers of children’s
residential care have noted this development with interest, as I

Carol Lander
Managing Director,
Five Rivers Holdings Ltd

Fathers and donors

Your editorial comment (23 May) on sperm
donation indicated reserved support for the child’s right to access
the donor’s identity.

It seems indisputable that it is detrimental
to a child if their parents deliberately withhold the truth of
their origins. A minimal step towards greater honesty would be a
legal requirement to enter “donor” on the birth certificate to
indicate parenthood.

At the other end of the spectrum for
consideration is the problem of paternal obligations and the
definition of “fathering” when sperm can be inserted without the
man’s consent. Cases in the news have identified DNA testing
without knowledge, sperm being used (frozen) from a deceased person
and allegations of sperm from oral sex being used for artificial

Serious attention must be given to the legal
issues of paternal responsibility and the verification of

Neil Leighton


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