The government has pressed ahead with the second publication of its “useless, irrelevant and out-of-date” adoption heat maps.
The maps, supposed to show prospective adopters which areas have the most looked-after children waiting to be adopted have been heavily criticised by social workers, managers and charities.
Andrew Webb, President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) said they had repeatedly warned the government that the maps were “crude, pointless and actively misleading in their current form”.
“It is regrettable that the department has continued to publish them, and we can only wonder at the reason for doing so. The ADCS will shortly be publishing its own comprehensive survey of up to date information and forward projections for numbers of adopters and children waiting in local authorities. This will portray a very different and more positive picture from the maps and provide adopters with more useful and current data about their local area.”
The data in the maps are based on local authority data collected by the government and Ofsted. While they contain information on children going through the adoption process and adopters recruited by local authorities, they do not include information on those recruited by voluntary adoption agencies.
Since local authorities are increasingly working in consortia with VAA’s or contracting work out to them, they will often have access to a number of adopters that will not be reflected by the maps. Webb said there was also evidence that councils interpreted the data being asked for by Ofsted in very different ways.
The DfE admitted the data was 12 months old but said they had published the maps as a “visual aid” to prompt people to either call the advice line or go to the new website First4Adoption.
ADCS research, due to be published in full next week, will show that the number of children placed for adoption, but awaiting a family has fallen 23% between March 2012 and March 2013.
Webb said: “The maps issued today by the Department for Education are useless, irrelevant and out of date. They tell prospective adopters little that is helpful…they take no account of the size of different local authorities, their populations or their relationship to each other.”
He added the new Adoption Gateway would give adopters much more useful current information. “We would advise anyone wishing to know more about adoption to ignore the maps completely and contact ‘First4Adoption’ instead.”
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