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LGA statement – council performance on adoption
Commenting ahead of the publication of the Department for Education's adoption scorecards, which look at an individual council's ‘performance' on adoption, Cllr David Simmonds, Chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board, said:
"Councils are passionate about helping children and take their responsibilities towards those in their care extremely seriously. It's heartening that the latest figures show the number of children being adopted into loving homes is increasing.
"Local authorities acknowledge that there is variation in performance across the country and recognise that at times the system has been risk-averse in order to comply with the requirements of the legal system. We are committed to tackling this and want to work with Government to remove barriers that delay decisions.
"The heavy legal burden of care proceedings – a matter which is out of councils' control – adds delays, with the average length of the court process being 14 months. In some cases it can take up to 20 months. Councils also have to wade through reams of unnecessary paperwork before social workers can approve people to adopt, which not only delays the process but can also put people off.
"The LGA has already called for this bureaucracy to be scrapped and it's encouraging that the Government agrees, but changes that make a tangible difference are yet to come into force. We also want to see better support for social workers who should be able to make the best decisions for the individual child and not be deterred from considering all options, including special guardianship arrangements.
"The biggest barrier to finding homes for children is that sadly there is still an acute shortage of potential adopters. We need more people from all racial, religious and cultural backgrounds to come forward and be willing to make the life changing decision to give a child a loving stable home."
On the use of adoption scorecards, Cllr Simmonds said:
"There is already a wealth of data out there on how councils are performing on adoption. Scorecards are simply another layer of bureaucracy that distracts social workers from the vital task of matching children in their care to loving families.
"We are concerned that scorecards fail to provide a sound basis for comparison across local authority areas and risk shifting the focus from the quality of placements onto just the speed at which a child is placed.
"There is no one-size-fits all approach to adoption and it would be misleading to simply look at one element of a council's approach to adoption as this fails to recognise the often differing and complicated circumstances surrounding each and every child."
Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: Cherie Willers, LGA press office, Telephone: 020 7664 3333.