The College of Social Work has become the latest body to condemn Ofsted’s 12-month adoption target and advise the watchdog to scrap the proposal.
Yesterday Ofsted announced that, under its new inspection framework, only adoption services that place children for adoption within 12 months will be rated outstanding.
In a statement today, the College warned that children will suffer if social workers’ judgement is “hemmed in by an ideological commitment to adoption above all else.”
“We are concerned that Ofsted’s new inspection regime, which will deny the top rating to any council that takes longer than a year to place children for adoption, will skew local authority priorities and cause them to give less attention to other permanence options which may be in the best interests of the children concerned.
“Social workers’ first duty is to the child’s best interests. The best interests of many children will not always be served by adoptive placements, particularly older children and those for whom there is a clear benefit in maintaining relationships with their birth parents.”
Social workers must be free to use their professional judgement when trying to achieve good outcomes for children, the statement continued.
“If social workers’ judgement is hemmed in by an ideological commitment to adoption above all else, children will suffer as a consequence,” the College said.
Professor Corinne May-Chahal, interim co-chair of the College, added: “We support adoptive placements wherever these are best for a child and any unnecessary bureaucracy should be cleared out of the way. But Ofsted’s decision risks putting dogma before the interests of children and we are therefore strongly opposed to it.
“Ofsted’s announcement runs contrary to the principles of the Munro review which said that timeliness should be paramount in social work decision-making rather than prescribed timescales.
“Timescales are partly in the hands of lawyers, birth parents and the courts rather than local authorities and social workers. It is wrong to inspect local authorities on matters beyond their control.”
The Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the British Association of Social Workers have already hit out at the move, claiming it is counter-productive and could actually reduce the number of children placed for adoption.
- ADCS president Matt Dunkley will deliver a keynote address at our conference on March 29: Adoption Reform: Establishing stable, secure and supportive family environments
Adoption inspections to get tougher, Ofsted warns