Press release

Last chance for local authorities to attract more adopters

Details on government's plans to tackle the weaknesses in the adoption system.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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£150 million to tackle backlog of over 4,000 children waiting to be adopted.

£1 million for voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) to recruit more adopters.

A new national-level strategy to tackle the chronic shortage of adopters and the systemic failings in the way they are recruited will be set out by government later today.

We are determined to address a situation where adopters are coming forward to adopt and are being told they are not wanted, when across the country there is a shortage of prospective adopters.

Currently there are significant weaknesses in the way local authorities bring in more adopters. The government is not prepared to see these children miss out because the adoption recruitment system is failing.

In March 2012:

  • 4,600 children were waiting to be adopted.
  • More than 600 additional adopters are needed each year to keep up with the growing number of children waiting to be adopted.
  • A further 3,000 adopters are needed to tackle the backlog.

Today’s announcement is the last chance for local authorities to demonstrate that they can take convincing action to put a plan in place for the long term and recruit the adopters children need now nationally. If this fails to happen we will use the new power that we will legislate for at the earliest opportunity, to require local authorities to outsource their adoption recruitment and approval services.

Local authorities have a responsibility to their own children and therefore no incentive to recruit adopters to meet the national shortage - this is why systemic change is necessary.

It is essential that local authorities work with VAAs to attract adoptive parents nationally. If local authorities fail to meet this challenge, a proposed new legal power for the Secretary of State will require local authorities to seek approved adopters from other organisations.

The challenge to local authorities is an opportunity to show they can deliver change, increase the numbers of approved parents wanting to adopt, and continue to increase numbers in years to come.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said:

There are over 4,000 children waiting to be adopted nationally but year on year local authorities are not recruiting enough people to give them stable and loving homes. We cannot stand by whilst children’s futures hang in the balance.

Some local authorities are already doing a good job to recruit the adopters they need in their area - but not enough is being done to address the national shortage.

Today we have set out our vision of how we expect local authorities together with voluntary adoption agencies to respond to the needs of all children waiting for adoption. Local authorities must now demonstrate that they are up to the challenge, or we won’t hesitate to intervene.

We know long term structural reforms will take time. To help tackle the immediate need to find children loving homes we want to incentivise recruitment by returning to local authorities the £150 million early intervention grant top slice in the form of an adoption reform grant:

  • £50 million will be ring-fenced to incentivise local authorities to find more adopters and address structural problems with adoption recruitment, particularly the unfair fee that local authorities are charged for adopters approved by other authorities which is lower than that charged by voluntary adoption agencies. It will also help in the search for adopters willing and able to take children who are more difficult to place, and so tend to wait longer for new homes.

  • £100 million of the £150 million will not be ring-fenced and will be available to local authorities to support adoption reform. This is for local authorities to target funding at the entire adoption process and the specialist support children need. They will retain the discretion to use this funding to address their highest priority needs, such as the major backlog of children waiting for adoption. The adoption reform grant will be awarded for 1 year.

We are also announcing, later today, that we are awarding the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies a grant of £1 million to enable VAAs to recruit more adopters.

This grant, available from next month, will make it easier for VAAs to take more innovative and collaborative approaches to adopter recruitment. Taken together, these measures should have an immediate impact on the capacity of the system to recruit and approve the adopters so urgently needed.

Today’s announcements are the next steps towards total reform of the adoption system set out by the Prime Minister last year. This includes ways to give adopters a more active role in the process, the same rights to pay and leave as birth parents, and also a new toolkit to help potential adopters, such as the adoption ‘hotspots’ map, the new infoline and the national gateway for adoption website, launching later this year.

Notes to editors

  • The strategy Further action on adoption is available on the publications section of the site.

  • At present local authorities pay each other a fee for approved adopters which are less than half the cost of a VAA adopter - and doesn’t reflect the true cost to local authorities of approving that adopter. This means there is no level playing field for VAAs. We hope that LAs will move swiftly to level up the inter-authority fee so that they charge a fair price to other LAs and VAAs can compete on a fair basis.

  • Examples from Adoption UK’s online survey reveals significant number of prospective adopters turned away with reasons quoted as:

‘…not recruiting within our own city council, only looking for people outside of our county.’

‘The authority said we were out of their area even though it was xxxx County Council and we live in [the same] county.’

‘We are a lesbian couple and one authority was not interested in accepting us due to our sexuality.’

DfE enquiries

Published 24 January 2013