Welcome to the September 2017 edition of the Adoption Reform Update. This issue is full of information across the reform agenda which we hope you will find useful. We would like to draw your attention to the section on ‘Implementing the Children and Social Work Act 2017’, in particular the information on the commencement of sections 8 and 9 of the Act which will come into force on 31 October.
|Adoption Leadership Board (ALB) update: a message from Andrew Christie
The ALB had a busy summer with a Board meeting and a strategy away day in July. Many of you will have seen the note we circulated last month on the question of adopter sufficiency. It is important that during the transition to regionalisation, the sector does not lose sight of our supply of adopters. The ALB has been attempting to understand the supply and demand of adopters at a national level, and is working with regional adoption boards to use local projections to predict national recruitment patterns and adopter sufficiency for the coming year.
The Board is also working on delivering a programme of practice-sharing sessions for adoption decision-makers to explore the underlying causes of the variation in decisions for adoption across the country. We are currently planning three events in Coventry, Reading and York – the first of which will be taking place in November.
As always, I am grateful to all colleagues for their commitment to improving outcomes for children. While our sector is undergoing many changes, I am encouraged by the creative thinking put towards support for adopted children.
|Implementing The Children and Social Work Act 2017
Local authorities (LAs) have a wide range of duties to children they look after and to those leaving their care. The Children and Social Work Act (C&SW) looks to improve the quality of support, opportunities and outcomes for vulnerable children. Sections 1 to 7 of the Act make changes to the existing legislative framework for looked-after and previously looked-after children and care leavers.
§ Section 1 sets out a framework of corporate parenting principles that overlay existing responsibilities towards looked-after children and those leaving care to make clear what it means for the authority as a whole to act as a good parent.
§ Section 2 requires LAs to consult on and publish details of their support offer to young people leaving care and making the transition to adulthood.
§ Section 3 ensures that all care leavers have the support of a personal adviser up to the age of 25 (if they accept it). Prior to the Act, care leavers were required to be in education and training in order to obtain support from a personal adviser and get other help from the LA.
§ Sections 4 through 7 extend the existing duties of LAs and schools to promote the educational attainment of children so that these duties also cover children who have been adopted or placed in other long-term arrangements. The extension of duties include expanding the role of the Virtual School Head and designated teachers. More information on this is in the section below, ‘Consultation on Virtual School Head and Designated Teacher’.
Sections 8 and 9 of the Act are coming into force on 31 October.
Section 8 makes amendments to the definition of ‘permanence provisions’ laid out in section 31 of the Children Act 1989, adding to existing considerations to ensure that courts must also take into account care plan provisions which set out the child’s individual needs, current and future, including those arising from abuse or neglect, and consider how well the long-term plan for the child will meet those needs. Section 8 will require the courts to consider:
§ the impact on the child of any harm they have suffered (or were likely to suffer);
§ their current and future needs, including any needs arising from that impact; and
§ the way in which the proposed plan for their upbringing will meet those current and future needs.
Section 9 amends section 1(4) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 to require courts and adoption agencies to consider, when coming to a decision relating to the adoption of a child, the child’s relationship with their prospective adopters when the child has already been placed with them. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 currently requires courts and adoption agencies to have regard to the relationship the child has with their relatives and ‘any other person in relation to who the court or agency considers the relationship to be relevant’. This section explicitly adds prospective adopters with whom a child has been placed to this list.
We are aware that most LAs will already be taking account of these additional considerations as part of their standard practice. However, we ask that LAs take note of the above to ensure that any additional preparation is taken to avoid delays with cases, particularly for those which fall between current and new regulations.
|Consultation on Virtual School Head (VSH) and Designated Teacher (DT)
The government has launched a consultation seeking views on changes to two statutory guidance documents: Promoting the education of looked-after children and Roles and responsibilities of designated teachers for looked-after children.
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 expanded the role of both VSHs and DTs to include the provision of information and advice to certain previously looked-after children and their families. The guidance has been revised to reflect this change and new developments in policy, research and practice for these children and young people. We would like to have your views on the proposed changes.
The consultation will run from first week of October so do look out for it on Gov.UK consultations page: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications?publication_filter_option=consultations
|The Council for Disabled Children (CDC)
The CDC is seeking examples of good practice in supporting families with children aged 0-5 who have disabilities or complex needs and are adopted or in early permanence placements. Specifically, we are interested in children whose needs only become fully apparent to parents/carers after the child's placement with them. This might be because needs have not yet emerged, were previously unidentified or not fully understood. Examples may refer to any relevant support delivered or commissioned by a LA statutory service, including post-adoption support and the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) Local Offer.
Why is CDC seeking practice examples?
This call is part of a project aiming to identify and share good practice in local areas where partnership working ensures that young children’s additional needs are recognised and addressed post-adoption.
The Children and Families Act 2014 introduced new duties upon agencies to work together to support families of children with SEND. Statutory guidance on Promoting the health and wellbeing of looked-after children sets out how the health of children placed for adoption should be protected and promoted. We have so far identified limited recent evidence on how such duties are realised to reduce the risk of adoption disruption for families in the circumstances described.
Who is this call for?
§ Managers, social workers and medical advisers in LA adoption services or voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) across England
§ Independent reviewing officers (IROs)
§ Managers or social workers in disabled children’s teams and SEN teams
§ Relevant health professionals
How will the information I give be used?
Selected examples will be described in a briefing aimed at informing policy and service development. If we include information about your work, you will be asked to review and approve it on behalf of all agencies involved.
We will also work within several LA areas to reflect on and showcase practice more fully via interviews with professionals involved in partnership working.
Please contact Emily Hamblin at email@example.com
The honours system recognises people who have made achievements in public life and committed themselves to serving and helping Britain. They will usually have made life better for other people or be outstanding at what they do.
Anyone can nominate someone for an honour. We encourage you to nominate individuals who have made a significant contribution to improving outcomes for the most vulnerable children and young people for an Honour through the 2019 New Year round. However, nominations are gratefully received any time.
Details on the forms and where to send them found here: https://www.gov.uk/honours/nominate-someone-in-the-uk
|Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs) Update
The government is continuing to establish RAAs with the aim of making further improvements to recruitment, matching and support, as set out in Regionalising Adoption
The first four RAAs have now launched:
There are a further 14 ongoing projects to develop RAAs and an invitation has now been issued to launch a second round of project proposals to meet the government’s commitment for all LAs to be part of an RAA.
|Inspection of Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs)
Following work with Ofsted, we have agreed that RAAs will be inspected through the LA lens as part of LA inspections. We will be reviewing this alongside the broader review of the new inspection of local authority children's services (ILACS) framework in due course to determine how this arrangement is working, and whether to continue or change to something different in the longer term.
We have now published the 2013-16 Adoption Scorecards.
We are in the process of reviewing the Adoption Scorecards to ensure that they remain a useful tool for the sector, and are considering how best to reflect the existence of RAAs.
|Research on the inter-agency fee
In August, the DfE published research on the subsidy of the inter-agency fee. This research looked at the impact of the government’s decision to pay the inter-agency fee for a fixed term and both the barriers and enablers that affect adoption opportunities for harder-to-place children. It also highlights a range of effective practice identified during the course of the research.
|Future of the National Adoption Register
With the National Adoption Register contract ending next September, we are looking at what is needed in the future. To help make that decision, we are undertaking a discovery phase to look in detail at user needs and how adoption agencies and prospective adopters use the national matching tools available to them. As part of this, we will be speaking to users in LAs, VAAs and RAAs as well as prospective adopters from pilot areas who have conducted searches using the Register.
If you would like to know more, please contact Sheila.Shuttlewood@education.gov.uk
|Adoption Contact Register
The Registrar General runs the Adoption Contact Register which puts adopted people and their adult birth relatives in touch with each other - if that is what they both want. The onus remains on the adopted person to take the first steps to make actual contact.
We would be grateful if all adoption agencies could ensure that they make birth parents and adopted adults aware of the Adoption Contact Register.
Birth relatives and adopted adults, aged 18 or over, can add their details to the Adoption Contact Register at the General Register Office. Adopted people and birth relatives can use the Adoption Contact Register to say that they do not want to be contacted by registering a veto.
There are two types of veto:
an absolute veto means that an intermediary agency cannot approach you under any circumstances, although your adoption agency can still pass on information to you (e.g. about a hereditary medical condition or details of an inheritance); and
a qualified veto, which means that you can say when you would be prepared to be contacted, e.g. you could say that an approach on behalf of your birth parent would not be acceptable, but an approach by a sibling would.
This is not a tracing service - for a connection to be made between people, they must both be on the Adoption Contact Register.
Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/adoption-records/the-adoption-contact-register
|Adoption Support Fund (ASF) Latest Figures
£55 million has been committed to deliver therapeutic services for adoptive children and families since May 2015, supporting over 19,000 families in total.
‘Therapeutic Parenting’ remains the most applied for service via the ASF (27% of total share) with ‘Psychotherapy’ as the second most applied for service (23% of total share).
77% of main child recipients of the Fund are between the ages of 6 and 15.
‘Improved family life and social relationships’ remains the most common outcome of the therapeutic service provided (58% of outcomes).
|Adoption Support Fund evaluation
On 2 August, the DfE published an independent evaluation of the ASF.
The report shows high levels of satisfaction amongst parents (84% believed that the Fund had helped their child), and found evidence of improved behaviour and mental health in the children supported.
We have asked the author, The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, to conduct a third wave of the longitudinal survey of parents to improve our knowledge further.
|Practice and Improvement Fund (PIF)
Further to a second bidding round, we have awarded grants to 16 projects through the PIF. Projects funded through the Fund aim to improve adoption services at regional and national level.
Funded projects in round two are:
§ Clifton Children’s Society: Working with the South West Adoption Consortium to improve and standardise matching. The proposal will be delivered in partnership with Adoption West RAA.
§ Barnardos: Working with three RAAs to co-ordinate a single adoption support offer across the Yorkshire and Humber Region.
§ Barnardos: To create a multi-dimensional early permanence offer across 15 LAs in the Yorkshire and Humber region. The proposal will be developed in partnership with One Adoption RAA.
§ After Adoption: Whole scale improvement of methods used to assess prospective adopters (PAR) and the needs of looked-after children. The proposal will be delivered in partnership with Adoption Central England RAA.
§ After Adoption: To create a framework for early permanence planning across the northeast region. The proposal will be delivered in partnership with Adopt North East RAA.
§ Caritas Care: To create FLAG, a tool to assist early identification, assessment and matching of children waiting for adoption. The proposal will be delivered in partnership with three RAAs: Together for Adoption, Adoption Counts and Adoption in Merseyside.
§ Caritas Care: To replicate successful concurrency planning service from the North West into Staffordshire and Stoke.
§ Caritas Care: To develop a new route to permanence for older children. Dually approve carers and provide specialist support and training. The proposal will be delivered in partnership with two RAAs: Adoption Counts and Together for Adoption.
§ Coram: To develop a pan-London approach to engage all LAs and VAAs to expedite matching process by non-sequential family finding and agency neutral matching. The proposal will be delivered in partnership with the London RAA.
§ Coram: Cross-regional recruitment of dual approved carers and support for dually approved carers. Enhancing permanence planning capability across London.
§ Adoption Counts RAA / Adopt East RAA / One Adoption RAA: Have all been awarded grants to establish a Centre of Excellence for Adoption Support which brings together relevant partners (social care, health and education) to provide a co-ordinated assessment, treatment and therapeutic support offer to adopted children and their families.
§ Adopt South West RAA / Adoption Counts RAA / One Adoption RAA: Have all been awarded grants to pilot the regionalisation of the ASF.
|Statistical first release (SFR) Children looked after in England (including adoption): year ending 31 March 2017
Published on 28 September, the figures show that the number of adoption orders for 2016-2017 was 4,350.
For further information on the data, please follow this link:
|Keeping you in touch
We are sending this update to those we have contact details for and look to you to disseminate this bulletin more widely among your colleagues with an interest.
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If any of your colleagues would like to be added to our circulation list, they should send their contact details (name, email address and job title) to adoption.REFORM@education.gov.uk
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If you have any suggestions as to how we might make these updates more useful to you – or items you would like to see – please let us know by contacting the email address above.
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@RachaelMaskell and @TulipSiddiq both call for a commitment to long-term investment in the Adoption Support Fund: "I would really ask that we meet [this demand for support] to give these [adoptive] families the best chance they have of being successful."
APPG Chair @RachaelMaskell speaking: "Covid-19 has highlighted the fragility of many children in adoptive families and again reminds us all of the importance of the Adoption Support Fund, in funding supportive and psychological services."
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