Well, some of you were disgruntled about not receiving a copy of the letter. Some of you were unhappy with the contents of the letter. Some of you felt that National Adoption Week didn’t address the needs of existing adoptive families and focussed purely on recruitment. And there were a whole load of other issues and queries that were raised. So we ran a #WASO special and invited you to write a post, link up and we forwarded those posts onto Edward Timpson MP for his response.
Last week, we got a response. We’ll try not to hold the delay, and the numerous follow-ups against Mr Timpson, after all, he’s a busy man and there’s been a change of government in the last little while too, but here’s his response:
Thank you for your email of 9 June, on behalf of contributors to The Adoption Social, about the issues faced by adoptive parents, adoptees and local professionals.
Please pass on my thanks to your contributors for their views about the adoption system. I cannot comment directly on the experiences that have been describedas these are matters for local authorities and adoption agencies. I would, however, like to respond to some of the key themes that have emerged from the range of views expressed.
Some of your contributors have mentioned the open letter that I wrote to all adoptive parents last year as part of National Adoption Week (NAW), and have expressed disappointment that I did not address the concerns of adopters in the real world. I was sorry to read that your community feels this way. My letter was a genuine attempt to express my personal recognition of the commitment made by individual adopters to improve the lives of children, many of whom have had a difficult start to their life. However, I do recognise the discrepancies between policies and practice. Officials from the department work closely with adopters to understand more about their experiences of adoption support, and unfortunately we often hear about people struggling to access the support they need.
I was sorry to read that some of your contributors had not been sent a copy of my letter or were unaware of it. It is always difficult to reach out to all adopters when there is no centralised list of adoptive parents. The department’s social media team worked hard to publicise the letter, and it reached some 160,000 accounts. In addition, all local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies were sent the letter in advance of it being published and were asked to forward it to all their adoptive parents. I am disappointed that in some cases this did not happen. Your contributors may wish to ask their particular agency why they did not receive a copy. My letter is still available to view online at:
Your contributors may find it helpful if I explain more about NAW. It was established by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) in 1997, and is run by them on behalf of the sector. This year, NAW will take place between 19 and 25 October. I understand from BAAF that the theme will be older adopted children. If your contributors would like to know more, please contact BAAF at:
Some contributors felt that the six-month timescale to consider and approve applications to become adoptive parents did not give them enough time to prepare for the realities of adoption. The two-stage adopter approval process was introduced in 2013 to make it more efficient for prospective adopters to be considered and approved. I can understand that this might be too quick for some people, and that they may want more time during the process to consider whether adoption is the right option for them. Adopters in this position can slow down the assessment process or take a break of up to six months between stages one and two to allow them to reflect on whether they wish to proceed with their application or require more time to think through the issues raised by the assessment.
I read a number of comments associated with adoption support and the availability of help to prevent the breakdown of adoptions. Research published in 2014 with funding from the department shows that many adoptive families struggle to obtain the support they need, particularly in terms of therapeutic services. They also find it difficult to access a nuanced, sensitive consultation by an expert in adoption support. The research demonstrates that there is a high need for more specialist support and intensive services for many adoptive families. It is available at:
For these reasons, the government has made reforms to the adoption system a high priority. A key part of reforming help for adopters is the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). This is playing a significant role in reshaping the provision and availability of local support. It allows local authorities to assess individual support needs and apply for funding without the current financial barriers that often prevent them from offering these services.
Some contributors have questioned how the ASF works. The model is based on the existing statutory framework for the assessment of adoption support needs and the provision of support services. The adoptive family or an eligible individual will discuss the issues they are experiencing and explore the most effective form of help with the assessing social worker, based on the needs of the child. When these discussions have been concluded, and the local authority and individual assessed have determined that therapeutic adoption support of the type that qualifies for payments from the ASF is required, the local authority can apply to the ASF. At this point, there will also be a discussion on who may provide that service, dependent on the availability of providers in the area. The local authority will make an application directly to the ASF on behalf of the parent, with no need for the parent to get involved in the process.
When it receives an application, the ASF will ensure that the services required meet its eligibility criteria, and process payment back to the local authority. This means that the process of securing resources from the ASF should be quick and straightforward for adoptive families.
I appreciate the views that your contributors have expressed about the important role that schools play in supporting adopted children, and in particular the need for staff to be effectively trained on the range of issues associated with adoption, including attachment and therapeutic support. Since 2014, schools have been able to claim the pupil premium plus for children who have been adopted from care or who have left care under a Special Guardianship Order. The pupil premium plus, worth £1,900 per child per financial year, is additional funding for schools to help meet the needs of these children.
I understand the concern expressed by some adoptive parents that the pupil premium plus is not allocated to the needs of each pupil. The reason why this funding is not ring-fenced for the individual child is twofold. First, we consider schools to be best-placed to determine how to use the additional funding for maximum impact. Schools could decide to provide training for their staff or to provide tailored support for an adopted child that exceeds the value of the individual premium. Alternatively, a school could decide that a whole class intervention is appropriate. Secondly, the number of eligible children at each school is recorded by the January School Census, and this triggers the payment of the pupil premium to the school for the coming financial year starting in April. Some eligible children will leave the school during the year and others will join.
The flexibility that schools have enables them to ensure that they can support all disadvantaged pupils, and not just those on the school roll in January.
I would like to assure your contributors that it is not our intention that pupil premium funding is used to back fill the general school budget or to support other groups of pupils, such as those with special educational needs or those who are low-attaining. Schools are accountable to Ofsted on how they have used the funding to benefit eligible children. Ofsted will look at the impact the school has made with the pupil premium to close the attainment gap. Schools are also required to publish how they have used the pupil premium for the benefit of disadvantaged pupils on their website each year.
As your contributors may be aware, this is the first year that adopted children have attracted the pupil premium. To help schools and adoptive parents, the department recently published some case studies on emerging good practice in using the pupil premium during the first year of implementation. These can be found at:
I am conscious that prospective adopters often report difficulties with having the seriousness of their child’s problems recognised. I know that in some cases it is adopters themselves who have to educate health professionals about their child’s needs. I would like to assure your contributors that ensuring adopted children receive appropriate and timely Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services support remains a key priority for the government. In 2013, we included the need to plan and commission integrated services for adopted children in the government’s mandate letter to the NHS Commissioning Board, in statutory guidance on Joint Strategic Needs Assessments, and in joint health and wellbeing strategies. We also commissioned the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence to develop clinical guidance on attachment.
An important opportunity to make further progress in this area is the government’s children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing taskforce. This is considering how to improve the way children’s mental health services are organised, commissioned and provided and how to make it easier for young people to access help and support, including through schools, voluntary organisations and online. The taskforce has set up a task and finish group for vulnerable children, which will be looking at the specific concerns of adopted parents. Further information can be found at:
I agree with your contributors that there should be a well-trained workforce for social work. The government supported training on adoption support that was delivered by BAAF to social workers across the country over the second half of last year. This included the views of adopters on adoption support, which in many cases echoed the experiences described on your website. It is important that social workers are aware of these views. The BAAF training has helped them to confidently identity and assess the needs of individual adoptive families. The government also worked with the College of Social Work and Research in Practice to develop a curriculum guide, a range of new training materials and other tools to focus on adoption support. We have been working to support and challenge with social workers to help them speed up the matching process by avoiding unnecessary delays associated with searching for what they might consider to be a ‘perfect match’.
Finally, your contributors may also wish to know that as part of the voluntary and community sector grant programme, in 2015-16 the department will be funding Adoption UK to work to improve the adopter voice across the adoption system. This work will seek to empower adoptive parents to engage with agencies on range of issues, including their experience of matching. The views and experiences of adopters are at the heart of my personal commitment to adoption, and will help determine what more the government needs to do in the future.
Edward Timpson MP
Minister of State for Children and Families