The Secretary of State for Education (Gavin Williamson)
Every child should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Children thrive in loving, stable families. However, some face challenges which most of us can only imagine. They will often have experienced abuse and neglect. Where a child cannot live with their birth parents, the best alternative home will often be with other family members or within loving foster families. For some children, adoption is the best alternative.
We cannot overestimate how important a new family is to an adopted child. Their security comes from knowing that they are safe and cared for, that they will get the love and support they need and will be supported to make the most of life’s opportunities. That is why we published our new adoption strategy “Achieving Excellence Everywhere”. A copy of the strategy can be found at: www.gov.uk.
In 2015 the adoption system was highly fragmented, with around 180 agencies recruiting and matching adopters; most of these were operating at a very small scale. This caused delays in the recruitment of adopters and in the matching of children with approved adopters. Since then, we have moved successfully to a regionalised approach with 31 regional adoption agencies covering 145 local authorities across the country. Regional adoption agencies are delivering adoption services more effectively at a greater scale with the regional leaders collaborating to improve services and address challenges.
In 2015 we introduced the Adoption Support Fund to help children who have experienced abuse and neglect to get the therapeutic support they need. Since then, over 36,000 individual children have been supported and had their lives transformed.
We have reduced the number of children waiting from 5,000 in 2010 to 2,600 now, and children are moving in with adoptive families faster, with more families now getting the adoption support they need. This is good progress, but we need to do more. Two thousand six hundred children waiting is still too many. One thousand children are still waiting over 18 months to be matched; this is too long. This typically includes older children, children from ethnic minorities, sibling groups and children with additional needs. This is unacceptable.
Our strategy sets out a bold and ambitious vision which will see regional adoption agencies building on their collaborative approach to deliver a framework of national standards and working with other agencies across health, education, and justice so that high-quality provision is available everywhere across the country. This will help to ensure that adopted children and their families can access the services and support they need to flourish wherever they live.
A new framework of national standards will mean services delivered to the same high quality across the country. It means that best practice will drive services as part of a culture of continuous improvement.
The strategy will see us recruiting adopters from all communities and from all walks of life so that we recruit all those who are able to provide loving homes to the children who are waiting to be adopted—a service where children are matched seamlessly across organisational boundaries with families that can provide a loving home without unnecessary delay.
Our strategy sets out how we will radically improve adoption support from the moment a match with a family has been approved. This includes not only direct support in the home, but also by schools and local health services, and support which continues throughout their childhood whenever it is required.
Sector leaders will build on their collaborative approach to ensure that all services are delivered to the same high standards across the country, developing the new national standards. Where it is most effective, we will look to deliver services on a national scale, for example on adopter recruitment or some elements of support.
To ensure that the needs of adoptive families become a high priority for all, sector leaders will develop strong partnerships with local authority children’s services, voluntary adoption agencies, education, health, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, the judiciary and voluntary and community groups.
We are making significant investment in 2021-22 as part of the strategy:
£1 million for regional adoption agency leaders to collectively improve recruitment and the adopter approval process;
£500,000 to increase early permanence arrangements, whereby a child is placed with prospective adopters when first removed from their birth family;
£46 million to continue post adoption support for families through the Adoption Support Fund;
£500,000 to employ a national regional adoption agency strategic leader and a support team of two project workers to progress collaborative working on agreed priority areas;
£100,000 funding to commission research on outcomes of children who left care on an adoption or special guardianship order.
Our ambition is to deliver adoption swiftly and effectively when adoption is the right path for the child. They and their families deserve the very best services we can offer to help them thrive and to achieve the best possible outcomes. Our strategy will help them to do so.
A copy of the strategy will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.