BAAF chief executive calls for rethink on inter-agency fees

BAAF chief executive David Holmes has called for a rethink on inter-agency adoption fees, suggesting that the fee could be replaced by a system in which money follows the child.

The head of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering told Barnardo’s annual conference yesterday that the structure of the fees and the distortion it created had caused uncertainty in the independent sector, leaving some agencies struggling to survive.

“If this continues to be a problem we must look at other options, such as an approach where the money allocated follows the child instead,” Holmes said. He also called for “more investment” in post-adoption support.

Holmes’s comments follow the news that a leading voluntary adoption agency, Manchester Adoption Society, is to shut next month, after 44 years. Director Rob Finney attributed its problems to a decrease in charitable donations and the structure of inter-agency adoption fees, which he claimed was deterring councils from using voluntary agencies.

Inter-agency fees are intended to allow organisations – voluntary adoption agencies or councils – to recoup the costs of recruiting and approving prospective adopters, when local authorities commission their services.

But Finney claims there is an “unrealistic discrepancy” between what councils charge each other and what voluntary organisations have to charge, “despite little difference in actual costs in providing adoptions between the two sectors”.

A report by Loughborough and Bristol universities, published in September, found the benchmark fees paid by councils in 2008 were £12,660 for an adoptive family approved by another council, and £19,889 for families from voluntary agencies, with an additional £3,315 to cover post-adoption services.

It found that councils excluded some expenses, including overheads, when calculating their costs, but these were included by charities. Julie Selwyn, one of the report’s authors, said this created a “disincentive” for local authorities to use voluntary groups. Selwyn said she expected to see more voluntary adoption agencies close if the problem was not addressed.

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