- Date requested: 10 May 2010
- Publish date: 01 June 2010
- Updated: 10 January 2011
On 31 December 2008, the ‘20-month breathing space’ given by the government to allow Catholic adoption agencies in England and Wales to comply with the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 came to an end.
Since the act was passed, can the department provide the following information?
- how many adoption agencies have
- closed or
- renamed / restructured themselves?
- what preparation was made for adoption agencies closing?
- what has been the cost of this and what proportion of adoption agencies did these changes comprise?
- if an adoption agency were to be set up without any public funding, would they still required to promote hetero- and homosexual adoption equally?
The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 (‘the 2007 regulations’) provided a transition period for faith-based voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) until 31 December 2008. This was to give them time to consider the implications of the 2007 regulations for them. An independent assessment panel was commissioned to assess the impact of the 2007 regulations on faith-based agencies with a view to ensuring, as far as possible, that their expertise and services were maintained. In 2007-08, £500,000 was made available to all faith-based and non faith-based VAAs in England and Wales for grants for legal, financial and/or human resources advice, to enable these agencies to maintain and/or develop their services for “difficult to place children”.
Funding for grants was also made available to all VAAs in Scotland to help them adapt to the changing legislative context, which included the implementation of the Adoption and Children (Scotland) Act 2007.
Since 31 December 2008, the department understands that of the 13 Catholic VAAs in England, Wales and Scotland, two have closed but have since registered as an adoption support agency; one of which has also registered as a new VAA under a different name. Of the remaining 11 Catholic VAAs, we understand that 10 have undergone other changes, such as changing their name.
The department does hold some information in relation to the cost of these changes to Catholic VAAs. However, the department considers this information to be exempt from disclosure under section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act on the basis that it was supplied to independent assessment panel in confidence and we do not consider there to be any specific public interest in disclosure that would override the general public interest in maintaining that confidence.
Under regulation 4 of the 2007 regulations, it is unlawful for any person providing services or facilities to the public (or a section of the public) to discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation.
This means that any agency refusing to provide adoption services or facilities on the grounds of sexual orientation would be acting unlawfully, regardless of whether that agency is receiving any public funding or not.