Fears ‘reckless’ government reforms could destroy adoption system

Removing councils from the process of recruiting and assessing adopters would be a "reckless gamble that risks jeopardising significant progress", says LGA

Children's bill contains new powers for the secretary of state

The government’s ‘reckless’ and ‘draconian’ adoption reforms, contained in the children and families bill, could lead to the collapse of the entire adoption system, councils warned today.

The warning, issued by the Local Government Association (LGA) and Barnardo’s, comes as MPs prepare to discuss measures in the bill that would give ministers the power to remove councils from the process of recruiting and assessing adopters.

Under the plans, central government could force councils to outsource these processes to a voluntary agency. Ministers could demand this of individual councils, councils that fail against certain criteria or to every local authority in England.

‘Confusing, disjointed system’

In a briefing today, the LGA and Barnardo’s warned removing councils – which currently recruit and assess four in every five adopters – from this stage would jeopardise recent improvements and create a “confusing, disjointed system”.

Instead, the government should allow its recently introduced reforms, including the Adoption Gateway and the fostering for adoption scheme, to take effect, along with councils’ own improvement plans.

Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Removing councils from the process of recruiting adopters at this crucial time would be a reckless gamble that risks jeopardising the significant progress being made.”

“Only a minority of adopters are currently recruited by voluntary agencies, with the remaining 80% recruited by councils. A situation in which voluntary agencies are unable to recruit more adopters and councils are no longer allowed to would be extremely bad for the children and parents that the adoption system is there to help,” Simmonds said.

Plans ‘could reduce the total number of adopters’

Puja Darbari, Barnardo’s UK Strategy Director, said the charity and other voluntary agencies, play a vital role in recruiting adopters. But any blanket move to forcibly remove local authorities from this process is, “deeply worrying and could lead to a reduction the total number of adopters”, she added.

“The best way to increase numbers of adoptive parents would be to remove clause 3 from the children and families bill, enabling voluntary agencies and local authorities to continue to work in tandem with each other, not in competition,” she said.

Local authorities – through the LGA, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives – have set out plans to speed up adoption and half the shortfall of 3,000 adopters within the next year.

These include closer working between councils to match adopters with children and targeted support for children who have spent the longest time in care.

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