Department for Education
Adoption Reform Update – August 2016

Policy Paper Published
On Monday 4 July, the government published ‘Putting Children First: delivering our vision for excellent children’s social care’.  The paper sets out the government’s reform programme for children’s social care in England over the next five years, creating the conditions to enable government, local authorities (and their local partners), social workers and other professionals (e.g. foster carers) to provide consistently excellent children’s social care.  The paper outlines that, by 2020, the government wants all vulnerable children, no matter where they live, to receive the same high quality of care and support.

The paper can be accessed at:

Knowledge and skills consultation
As part of delivering this vision, the government has launched a consultation on a draft knowledge and skills statement for child and family social workers involved in permanence planning for looked-after children or those on the edge of care.  The statement sets out what social workers need to know and be able to do in order to successfully undertake the assessment, analysis and decision-making required of them, and progress permanence plans with urgency and skill.  Following this, we will be producing a new voluntary continuous professional development programme for achieving permanence for children in order to support social workers to build upon the knowledge and skills set out in the statement, which will be used to inform the content of the programme.

The consultation, which is open until 9 September, seeks views on the content of this statement, and can be found at:

New expert group
In June a new expert group was set up to advise the Department for Education (DfE) and Department of Health (DoH) ministers on new care pathways and models of care for looked-after children and those permanently placed, after being looked-after, through adoption, special guardianship or child arrangement orders.  Alison O’Sullivan, former president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, and Prof Peter Fonagy, psychologist and medical researcher, have been appointed as the co-chairs.  The group will bring together a wide range of experts from across the health, social care and education sectors, drawing on evidence from children, young people, carers and families with experience of the care system, in order to consider how to improve access to mental health and wellbeing services for these children.

The group will also consider the most appropriate models of care for these groups with the aim of recommending care pathways and a quality standard for them. Children and young people will be involved throughout, helping decide what will be offered, how it will be provided, how they and their family will be involved in decision-making, and how different professionals should work together.

This work is based on the recommendations of Future in Mind, which identified the need for appropriate, new and evidence-based models of care to make sure that the country’s most vulnerable children get the mental health support that they need.  The DoH, DfE, NHS England, Health Education England and colleagues from ADCS and LGA are working together to bring this about.  The first meeting of the group took place on 11 July at the Social Care Institute for Excellence.

Adoption Support Fund
Since its launch in May 2015, the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) has approved over 5,800 applications for therapeutic support to families and children, with an average funding level of nearly £5,000 per application.  Over 8,000 families and 8,800 children have benefitted from the funding.

Since the extension of the scope of the Fund in April 2016, it has supported over 55 special guardianship orders and 14 inter-country adoption applications, covering 79 families and 87 children.

To read more about the experience of families and children who have received support and the difference it is making to their lives, please access the report (‘The adoption support fund – the first year’) at:

Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs)
The DfE has completed a process of assessment of Regional Adoption Agencies’ transition plans.  The plans set out key steps to implementation from June 2016, with RAAs going live at different stages over the next two years.  Following this process, we continue to support 19 proposed RAAs.  Five RAA projects have been identified as “demonstration projects” to help define what a great RAA will look like.  These projects showed the most potential and have been chosen to reflect a diversity of size, models and approaches.  We will work with these projects to provide models that other projects can learn from.

The projects are: Adopt Central England, Adopt Wessex, Central East, Cheshire East and Greater Manchester, and Yorkshire and Humber.

Practice and improvement fund
In April 2016, the DfE invited bids to the Practice and Improvement Fund from voluntary adoption agencies and organisations in the voluntary sector.  The Fund, which is £14 million over 2016-18, seeks to enable new ideas in adoption services to be developed and tested, and existing excellent practice to be spread to new areas. There was a good level of interest and a number of organisations will be receiving support for proposals, which primarily focused on the three themes: adoption support, adoption recruitment and matching - and other cross cutting areas.  More information will follow once grant agreements have been finalised.

Adoption Leadership Board (ALB) update: a message from Andrew Christie

“As many of you will know, I have been appointed as the new Chair of the ALB, following Sir Martin Narey’s departure from the role in April.

I am delighted to have stepped into this role; having retired from being the Tri-Borough Executive Director of Children’s Services.  I have spent 40 years in social work, working with children and families; and I am privileged to continue to work with you all on ensuring that every child for whom adoption is the right decision finds a loving, supportive adoptive family without delay; and receives the support they need for a happy and healthy future.

I believe a collaborative approach is essential to get the most out of the government reforms to adoption, and to ensure that those reforms reflect the voices of those working in the adoption sector.  During a time of significant change, my vision is of an independent, sector-led Board which provides effective and coherent leadership.  Regional Adoption Boards will be an essential part of this, and I will work hard to build and maintain strong communication links with those Boards.

In July, I chaired my second ALB meeting. We discussed:

  • The increased role of data in adoption, and the benefits of seeing this data in the context of wider permanence.  The Board is increasingly focussed on seeing permanency in the round, to ensure that our understanding takes into account all relevant factors.
  • The ongoing and essential role of Regional Adoption Boards (RABs), especially in the context of the development of Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs). But the development of RAAs is by no means the only concern for RABs. I will be working closely with RAB Chairs to help them work out the most effective role for their individual region.
  • My appointment of Mark Owers a Professional Adviser to the ALB.  Mark will work primarily with the five RAA “demonstration projects” to help ensure the programme achieves real improvements in practice, and that lessons being learned are shared across the Sector.
  • The governance of the ALB.  Three sub-groups currently report to the Board.  These are: The Expert Advisory Group on Adoption Support, chaired by Hugh Thornberry; The National Recruitment Forum, chaired by Carol Homden; and the RAA Change and Practice Board, chaired by Mark Owers.

Much has already been achieved. I have been very pleased to see the energy and commitment with which those working in adoption approach their important work and I know that without this, progress would not be possible. I look forward to working with you over the coming months and years.

If you have any comments please contact me at

Best wishes,

Andrew Christie”

Family justice review: how care applications vary in different local authorities
DfE recently published the third and final report in a series, following research by the Research in Practice team.  Phase 1 and 2 summary reports were published in August 2015, and a qualitative case file analysis was published in December 2015.  This most recent study builds on previous research projects, with its aim being to explore the range of factors which may contribute to variation in the average care case duration of individual local authorities (LAs).  The report outlines findings around LA practice, practice in the court arena and accounting for LA variation.

The final report and each of the previous reports and qualitative analysis can be found at:

Honours List 2017-18
We would like to encourage adoption services to consider whether they know individuals that they feel deserve to be recognised for their commitment to adoption and their contribution to their communities through the honours system. We are would like to see nominations from all parts of our diverse workforce.

The British honours system is one of the oldest in the world and has evolved over 650 years to the system we use today.  Honours are awarded to people from all sections of society and walks of life.  Those that are awarded honours are exceptional people who have made a significant difference, have demonstrated exemplary or selfless service, earned the respect of their peers or improved the lives of those less able to help themselves.

More information about the honours system can be found at:


Keeping you in touch
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Adoption Reform Team
Department for Education
August 2016