Today Sally Donovan updates us on the new Adoption Support Funding and the structure for the prototype being rolled out.
Yesterday I travelled from where I live in the middle of provincial England, to the Coram Foundation in London to attend the launch of the prototype of the Adoption Support Fund, alongside representatives from the ten participating Local Authorities, civil servants from DfE and representatives from other adoption organisations and charities.
Edward Timpson MP, Minister for Children and Families gave a speech in which he said that adoption support is an essential part of adoption and he wanted it to become the norm rather than the exception.
There were presentations from one LA (Cornwall) about how they will operate their prototype and from East Sussex who have set up a joint social services and CAMHS team. It was clear that a great amount of time, thought, team effort and pragmatism has been invested in both schemes. At the end of the day I returned home to the adoption support desert in which I live and dreamt about re-locating to East Sussex.
I attended the launch because I sit on the Expert Advisory Group which was established by the Department for Education and which is responsible for steering the Adoption Support Fund in the right direction. The group is jointly chaired by DfE and Adoption UK and includes representatives from charities, local authorities and mental health.
For many, the Adoption Support Fund offers the first glimmer of hope that real improvements will be experienced by real adoptive families, no matter where they live in England (adoption is a devolved issue).
In many ways, living in a metaphorical desert has helped inform my participation in the development of the fund. It means I can test proposals against a current poverty of services, which is important, because we don’t all live in East Sussex and because it’s easy to get carried along on a happy wave of success stories assuming they represent situation normal.
The ins and outs of the fund such as how to apply to it and the sorts of therapeutic support it will cover are addressed on the newly created website http://www.adoptionsupportfund.co.uk/ It’s important to stress that what was launched yesterday is a prototype, which means there will be glitches.
If you live in one of the ten prototype local authorities (Manchester, Newcastle, North Yorkshire, Solihull, Leicester, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, East Sussex and Lewisham) then you can now approach your LA for an assessment. (Annoyingly the three year rule still applies.)
If you think your family has a therapeutic need then I urge you to contact your LA and ask for an assessment.
Those who are responsible for managing the prototypes might not thank me for encouraging applications but to my mind we need to demonstrate a demand for the scheme and the prototype must be stretched and tugged at a bit to ensure it is fit for national roll out in May of next year.
If you approach your LA to access money from the fund you will, as part of the prototype, be asked for your feedback. If there is anything you think should be fed back directly to the Expert Advisory Group then please tweet me @sallydwrites or send me a message on Facebook (Sally Donovan). My participation in the EAG is entirely voluntary and takes place around other commitments so please forgive me if I don’t always reply very efficiently, but I will do my best. The Department for Education is keen to hear about the good and the bad experiences, so if there’s something you think could inform and improve the scheme, don’t hold back.
This could well be the best chance there has ever been to make wholesale improvement to support for adoptive families in England. In Scotland and Wales the campaigns must continue.