- new measures to double the number of children placed with their adoptive family sooner – halving the time they spend in care waiting to move into their new home
- children to be placed with relatives who are most able to look after them, and not distant unsuitable relations they have never met
- all council adoption services to be merged into regional bodies so children can be matched with parents more quickly
Following on from his conference speech, the Prime Minister today unveiled further measures to increase the number of children adopted and speed up the process – so children are put in the right homes sooner. The reforms aim to break down bureaucratic barriers and challenge councils to double the number of children placed with their new adoptive families at the earliest possible point, halving the time they are waiting in care for the full process to be completed.
Nearly half of councils – 68 out of 152 – had no children placed with their adoptive families early, according to the most recent figures. And, in a further step to improve the adoptions process, government will also toughen up checks to ensure young people are placed with the best person able to care for them – and not unsuitable distant relatives they have never met.
The average wait for children before they move in with their new family is 17 months, which is 5 months quicker than in 2012-13 – but it is still not fast enough. Today’s move comes after plans were unveiled in the Education and Adoption Bill to merge council adoption agencies, so young people are matched with parents more quickly.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
It is a tragedy that there are still too many children waiting to be placed with a loving family – we have made real progress but it remains a problem.
As Prime Minister I want to make sure that we do everything we can so children are placed in a loving home as soon as possible, giving them the best chance for a happy and fulfilled life.
The reforms outlined include:
Placing children with their adoptive family sooner
We want to see more early placement for adoption, so children move in with their prospective new family sooner, without having to wait for the full process to complete. The number of councils currently using early placement varies across the country, so in a move to encourage more to make use of these schemes, councils will now have to reveal how many children they place with adoptive families before the full process is complete.
Special Guardianship Orders
The government will change regulations so councils have to carry out more thorough assessments to make sure children are in the right home and relatives they are placed with can look after the child right up until they are 18.
The evidence shows that Special Guardianship Orders are more likely to break down where the child is being sent to live with a relative they have never met, or do not have a strong bond with.
Changes to adoption law
The government is actively considering changes to adoption law, to make sure decisions are being made in the child’s best interests. Ministers will look at proposals so that where adoption is the right thing for children, social workers and courts pursue this. Over the last 2 years, the number of decisions for adoption being made by the courts has fallen by up to 50%.
Regional Adoption Agencies
Under the Education and Adoption Bill, we will also create new Regional Adoption Agencies that make it easier to match adopters with children needing homes – and already 140 out of 150 councils have applied to merge and streamline their services.
The government will announce today that we will use our new legislative powers to intervene to ensure that all councils have plans to join regional agencies by 2017 – so that the whole system is in regional agencies by 2020. In most regions, children will have immediate access to up to 10 times more prospective adopters.
Notes to editors
- The most recent figures reveal that 68 out of 152 councils had no early placements ahead of adoption on 31 March 2015.
- Around 10% of adopted children are placed with families early – and we are challenging councils to double it. If this was achieved everywhere, up to 500 more children a year would benefit from being in a loving home sooner.