Government unveils new adoption duty for local authorities

Ministers' plans to highlight adoption support are 'a step in the right direction' but don't go far enough, according to social workers and adoption experts

Minister says adoption passport will 'tackle misconceptions'

The government has unveiled its latest set of adoption reforms, including a new duty for local authorities and an ‘adoption passport’ showing adopters what support is available to them.

The passport sets out the support services families can expect from local authorities – including counselling and advice, paid adoption leave and priority access to social housing and school places – while councils will be expected to make this explicitly clear to potential adopters under a new ‘duty to inform’, set out in the children and families bill.

“The Bill will place a new duty of local authorities to inform adopters about the support available to them. Alongside the adoption passport this will tackle misconceptions which we know put off potential adopters,” said children’s minister Edward Timpson. 

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‘A certain irony to adoption passport plans’

However, charities have admitted there is a “certain irony” to the plans, which were published today alongside research detailing the huge disparity in adoption support available nationally.

Adoption UK chief Hugh Thornbery said: “There is a certain irony in this new initiative being called a passport to support when a number of adoptive families will still be denied a smooth course along their adoption journey. We know that families parenting some of the country’s most traumatised children are unable to access vital support.”

Consequently, the charity is now urging ministers to place a duty on local authorities to actually provide adequate adoption support, rather than just point to where support is available.

Social workers back statutory right to adoption support

Nushra Mansuri, professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers, agreed: “The passport is a step in the right direction, but we want to see post-adoption support become a statutory right at any point when it is needed by families.”

Andrew Webb, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, pointed out the number of children placed with adoptive families has risen by 45% in the last year. “By giving the reforms a chance to bed in, children waiting for adoption should see real changes in the system, allowing more of them to be matched and placed with a new adoptive family,” he said.

But he also raised concerns about access to support services. “The proposed adoption passport will both highlight the support services that are available and will ensure access to them. However the issue of access to specialist services such as Child and Adult Mental Health Services has yet to be resolved.”

Government responds to adoption and fostering consultation

Barnardo’s added that any progress was “nonsensical” in light of the government’s threats to prevent local authorities from recruiting adopters. Janet Grauberg, director of strategy, said: “Common sense dictates that prohibiting local authorities from sourcing adopters will not increase numbers of adoptive parents.”

The government has also published its response to the consultation on tackling delay in adoption and fostering, which outlines legal changes coming into force by the Summer. These include a two-stage approval process for adopters, a fast-track procedure for approved foster carers and previous adopters who wish to adopt and a legal obligation on all adoption agencies to refer prospective adopters to the national adoption register within three months of approval.

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