Department for Education
Adoption Reform Update – November 2014
Welcome to our November update and, because this is our first update this autumn, it is a bumper issue.
We open with some important news about the publication by the National Adoption Leadership Board of a ‘myth buster’ guide on the impact of court judgements on adoption. Also included is Edward Timpson’s open letter to all adopters, thanking them for their commitment to adoption. This update also includes information about the latest adoption statistics from the Statistical First Release and the Adoption Leadership Board Analysis. There is much more to read about but, before signing this welcome off, we would like to take this opportunity to recognise the hard work that many of you put into National Adoption Week. We hope all this work paid off and that you had an enjoyable and successful National Adoption Week.
Impact of Court Judgements on Adoption: What the judgements do and do not say
On 11 November, the National Adoption Leadership Board published a guide in response to recent court judgements on adoption. The guide has been developed with support from an experienced Queen's counsel to clarify the meaning of key court judgments relating to adoption (in particular Re B-S).
The guide can be accessed through the websites of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies (CVAA) and First for Adoption.
Please ensure that members of adoption services and legal teams read this document.
Edward Timpson’s letter to all adoptive parents
Adoptive parents across the country have received a personal letter of thanks from the Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson. In his letter, the Minister thanks them for their love and commitment in caring for some of the country’s most vulnerable children.
Writing to adopters during National Adoption Week, the Minister paid tribute to the endless dedication and compassion shown by adoptive parents in caring for their children, and set out the support available to them.
We would like the letter to reach as many adopters as possible, so please include it in any local adoption bulletins or newsletters that you manage.
Adoption Support Fund
As you know, we have been developing a new Adoption Support Fund to help adoptive families access the support services they and their children need. The Fund is being established because many families will need some kind of support for their child or family following adoption, and too many families have struggled to get this help in the past.
Edward Timpson, Children’s Minister, announced on 15 November, that the Adoption Support Fund will be available nationally from May 2015.
The Fund will be available for children up to, and including, the age of 18 (or 25 with a SEN statement), who have been adopted from local authority care in England, or who have been adopted from Wales but are living in England. The Fund will support services after the Adoption Order; however, LAs will be able to submit applications for funding before the Order so that they can provide a continuous package of support from the time of placement. Local authorities, independent providers (Ofsted registered) and NHS providers (offering services within the scope of the ASF) will all be able to provide services through the ASF.
The Fund will provide money for a range of therapeutic services. The full scope will be set out before May, but will include therapeutic parenting training, creative therapies, psychotherapy, and play therapy.
The government will fully fund the ASF in the first year. In future years the pot is likely to be jointly funded by councils and government.
For further information, please visit:
The 2014 Statistical First Release: Children Looked After in England, including adoption
The latest Statistical First Release on children looked after in England, including adoption was published on 30 September. The latest data shows the following:
Adoptions: 5,050 looked after children were adopted during the year ending 31 March 2014, an increase of 26% from 4,010 in 2013 (and 63% since 2011). This is the highest number since the start of the current data collection in 1992.
Children with a placement order: 9,260 looked after children had a placement order at 31 March 2014. This is a decrease of 5% from 9,740 in 2013 following three years of increases. The proportion of looked after children with a placement order at 31 March 2014 was 13%, a fall from 14% in 2013.
Children placed for adoption: 3,580 looked after children were placed for adoption at 31 March 2014. This is a very small decrease from 3,590 in 2013.
Timeliness: For children who were adopted during 2014, the average time between entry into care and adoption order is two years and four months, an improvement of two months since 2013. But there was a big variation between children who entered care before their first birthday (two years and one month) and those who entered care aged six (tree years and seven months)
The full Statistical First Release can be found here:
The DfE Press Release covering the adoption statistics can be found here:
Adoption Leadership Board Analysis
On 4 November, the Quarter 1 2014-15 Adoption Leadership Board analysis was published. This is available here:
Key headlines from the report are:
- Child timeliness has improved. The average time between a child entering care and moving in with their adopted family in 2013-14 was 586 days. This is an improvement from 658 days in 2012-13, but is still 39 days above the 2011-14 scorecard threshold. A revised estimate using annual data will be published in the Adoption Scorecards later in the year.
- Adopter timeliness has improved. The proportion of applications approved within six months in quarter 1 of 2014-15 was 31%. This compares to 27% of decisions being made within six months of applications in 2012-13. However, quarterly data suggests there has been a decrease since quarter 2 of 2013-14 when around a half of approvals were being made within six months of application.
- The number of new decisions has continued to fall from 1,830 in quarter 2 of 2013-14 to 960 in quarter 1 of 2014-15, a decrease of 47%
- New placement orders have fallen from 1,550 in quarter 2 of 2013-14 to 760 in quarter 1 of 2014-14, a decrease of 51%
- There were 4,680 children waiting with a placement order not yet placed with an adoptive family as at 31 March 2014. There was a further 17% decrease to 3,890 as at 30 June 2014.
Recruitment Marketing Resources
During September, a two-week pilot took place in the North East and East of England to test the effectiveness of the marketing materials. During the pilot, First4Adoption saw a 34% increase in phone calls to their information line, a 23% increase in ‘likes’ on Facebook, and 40 regional newspapers, websites and radio stations covered the need for adopters and launch of materials. BBC Norfolk, amongst others, broadcast a supportive interview with a local counsellor which you can listen to here (skip to 1h 22m).
Following the evaluation of the pilot, the marketing materials have been developed, with additional resources created in preparation for their national roll-out in National Adoption Week. The materials, which include press adverts, posters, radio adverts, social media posts and more, are now available on the First4Adoption website for agencies to download.
Paul Sutton from First4Adoption talks about the materials here: http://www.first4adoption.org.uk/professionals/
and the materials can be seen and downloaded here http://www.first4adoption.org.uk/professionals/marketing/
We would encourage all agencies across England to use the marketing materials to complement their own marketing efforts. They have been tried and tested and are free to use.
The pupil premium and children adopted from care in local authority funded alternative provision
From April 2015, all children in local authority funded alternative provision (AP), who have been adopted from care or who left care under a special guardianship order or residence / child arrangements order, will also attract the Pupil Premium Plus, currently worth £1,900 per pupil. Local authorities will record eligible pupils in the January AP Census based on information provided by alternative education settings on census day.
Parents will need to show their child’s education provider evidence of their child’s status, e.g. a copy of the adoption order.
Guidance for local authorities can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/alternative-provision-census
Intermediary Services extended to descendants and other relatives of adopted adults
As promised during the passage of the Children and Families Act, and following a consultation earlier this year, we have changed the law to allow a wider range of relatives of adopted people to access intermediary services.
The Adoption Information and Intermediary Services (Pre-Commencement Adoptions) Regulations 2014 have been amended and came into force on 31 October 2014. The changes make provision for a wide category of relatives of an adopted person, including but not limited to the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of adopted persons to access intermediary services to assist with tracing and facilitating contact with biological relatives.
On 25 September, the Government published its response to the consultation: Intermediary Services for Descendants-Relatives of Adopted People, which outlines details of the change The response is available on GOV.UK’s website at:
BAAF Training Update
The Department for Education has contracted BAAF to run free seminars to support the adoption reform programme. A limited number of places will be available at each of these sessions to all registered adoption agencies and registered adoption support agencies in England.
The final and fourth tranche of training started in September, will run until November 2014 and focuses on Offering an Effective Adoption Support Service. Early sessions have been well received and promoted some interesting discussions and sharing of practice and resources. There has been great interest in the new assessment framework.
- Explore the adoption support framework, its implementation and its further development in policy and law.
- Consider the:
- principles for assessment for, and the provision of, adoption support services (including an introduction to newly developed Adoption Support Assessment toolkit);
- social workers’ roles in engaging with the family to develop a perspective on their primary issues of concern; and,
- process for the formulation of the adoption support plan and provision of services.
- Share best practice and identify an action plan for the development of local adoption support services.
Seminar Four (Dates below):
Thursday, 20 November 2014 – CCS Adoption, Bristol
Thursday, 27 November 2014 – The Heatons, Manchester
Numbers on the seminars are limited depending on the venue and bookings will be made on a first come first serve basis. You can book a place by completing the registration form and sending it to email@example.com.
Confirmation emails are sent one week prior to the seminar, therefore, if you have not received an email but think you have a place booked, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm your booking.
First4Adoption seeking volunteers
Please spread the word to your contacts that First4Adoption (F4A) is looking for volunteers to start this Autumn.
If you have a post adoption group within reasonable travelling distance of London please tell them that F4A is looking for Information Line volunteers with personal experience of adoption (ideally through adopting a child) who can offer a 3-4 hour shift each week in their central London office (48 Mecklenburgh Square, London WC1N 2QA). This role involves responding to telephone calls, emails and providing information and encouragement to members of the public interested in adoption. F4A will offer full training, travel expenses, regular support and supervision. They are also happy to visit and speak with groups if members would like to know more about volunteering with First4Adoption.
F4A are also looking for ‘mystery shopper’ volunteers who can be based anywhere in the country and available on either an occasional or regular basis. This role involves contacting adoption agencies that have requested the mystery shopping service and providing written feedback to First4Adoption.
More information about both roles is available on First4Adoption website here: http://www.first4adoption.org.uk/about-us/volunteer-with-us/
An adoptive family meets the Prime Minister
Over the summer, an adoptive family found themselves meeting the Prime Minister and having their story told as part of his ‘Focus on Families‘ speech on 18 August (link here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/david-cameron-on-families). Their story has been told by their social worker for publication on the BAAF website, and both BAAF and the family have given their permission for us to include this in our update here.
Sefton’s adoption improvement journey: a case study
We have attached a case study which outlines how improvements were achieved in Sefton’s adoption service, including the main steps involved in the improvement journey, lessons learned and the impact of change. The overall journey needed strong leadership, effective political support and financial investment. Independent adoption health checks ensured a restructure that would focus on children’s interests as central to all services. Clarity of accountability, a systems approach to permanence and a focus on reducing delay were key steps to successful restructure and cultural change. Integral to the management of change was a culture that understood and embraced the strapline ‘The right intervention, at the right time with the least changes of workers’.
Impact of Family Justice reforms – research into local authority practice
In January, the DfE is planning to visit between six to eight local authorities to ask a range of professionals about the impact of the Family Justice reforms on their processes and practice in relation to delivery of children’s services. Drawing on anecdotal evidence and related research, e.g. the review of the Public Law Outline which is currently being undertaken, we hope to be able to identify good practice models that can be disseminated more widely, confirm any particular trends and gather information about any potentially negative consequences of the reforms that should be addressed. The research in due to be published at the end of March 2015.
For further information, please contact Patrick Towgood
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 and members. If you do not wish to receive this update please reply to this email and we will ensure your details are removed before any further updates are circulated. If any of your colleagues would like to be added to our circulation list, they should send their name, email address, job title and contact details to adoption.REFORM@education.gsi.gov.uk.
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.
Adoption Reform Team
Department for Education