Department for Education
Adoption Reform Update – November 2016

Welcome
Welcome to our Autumn edition of the Adoption Reform Update.  Following reader feedback, we have decided to issue this update quarterly, and the next one will be in February.  Membership has not been affected by this change and everyone who has signed up will continue to be in our database until we are informed otherwise.  Thank you for your feedback – if there are particular topics you would like to see covered please let us know (contact details in our ‘Keeping you in touch’ section at the end of this update).

Adoption Support Fund (ASF) Evaluation survey
The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (TIHR) has been commissioned by the Department for Education to undertake an evaluation of the ASF.  As part of the evaluation, surveys are currently being carried out of adopters and professionals working in adoption support.

The surveys aim to explore whether the ASF has changed the experiences of adopters, prospective adopters, service providers and local authority employees working within adoption support.

Responses will help us understand the impact of the ASF, and enable us to obtain a picture of the experiences across the different groups.

Adoptive parents and prospective adopters from across the UK can complete their survey at http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/It_takes_a_village_to_raise_a_child_2016/.

Adoption support providers working in England can access their survey at http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/Adoption_Support_Fund_Service_Provider/.

Local authority employees working within adoption support in England can complete their survey at http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/Adoption_Support_Fund_Local_Authority/.

For any questions about the surveys please contact A.Hahne@TavInstitute.org

Knowledge and skills consultation
Government ran a ten-week consultation over the summer about a knowledge and skills statement for achieving permanence.  This statement sets out what children and family social workers involved in permanence planning need to know and be able to do.  We have analysed the responses to the consultation and have published our government response at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/knowledge-and-skills-statement-for-achieving-permanence

The final version of the knowledge and skills statement can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/knowledge-and-skills-statement-for-achieving-permanence.

The statement will be used to form the content of a continuous professional development (CPD) programme on permanence, which will support social workers in developing identified knowledge and skills.  We are tendering for a supplier to develop the CPD programme.  Our invitation to tender can be found on the Contracts Finder Service website at    https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/d7c60b53-cb4d-4832-a194-6a72af2ab633

Extension of the Inter-Agency Adoption Fee Fund (IAFF)
The IAFF was established to reimburse local authorities (LAs) for funding spent on inter-agency adoption fees for children who are harder to place.  This fund originally ran from July 2015 to July 2016, and was subsequently extended until 31 October 2016.  Edward Timpson MP has now announced a further extension of the fund until the end of this financial year, targeting the remainder of the fund at those children waiting the longest (children who, as at 1 November 2016, had been waiting for 18 months or longer to be placed).

The DfE wrote to LA finance leads on 11 November setting out the claims process for the remainder of the year.

Further information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/inter-agency-adoption-fee-grant-for-local-authorities

Children and Social Work Bill [HL] 2016-17 - Progress update
The Children and Social Work Bill going through Parliament makes provisions about looked-after children, other provisions in relation to the welfare of children; and about the regulation of social workers.

The Bill has recently finished in the House of Lords, where a vote was held on the Power to Innovate.  The Bill has now entered the House of Commons, and second reading of the Bill will be held on Monday 5 December.

Adoption Leadership Board (ALB) update - a message from Andrew Christie:

This is my second update as Chair of the ALB.  Throughout recent months, I have been encouraged to see how receptive many parties have been to the developing role of the Board.  We have already made progress in ensuring that reforms of the adoption system are making a difference for vulnerable children and adoptive families.

We have set three clear priorities for the board, which are aligned with the governance and subgroup set-up. They are:

  1. Addressing the decline in numbers of children entering the adoption system,
  2. the effective development and implementation of Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs), and
  3. defining the future of Adoption Support, particularly in a regionalised system.

We have also put in to action our commitment to strengthening the dialogue between the national ALB and Regional Adoption Boards (RABs).  After writing to all RAB Chairs in August, this quarter I held the first RAB teleconference.  I am delighted that this well attended, and it was of great value to be able to feed RAB Chairs’ views into the national Board discussion.  These teleconferences will continue, and RAB Chairs will attend the ALB on a rota system to further strengthen this link.  I am grateful to all RABs for their hard work and commitment to the improvement of the adoption system.

In October, I chaired my third ALB meeting, during which we discussed:

  • The huge variation that exists across the country in terms of the number of children entering the care system, their journey though care and, ultimately, their route to permanence.  To explore this further, the DfE, supported by the ALB, is planning a series of visits to local authorities (LAs), talking with managers, practitioners and the judiciary to get a better understanding of local policy and practice.  We hope that by engaging with those responsible for making decisions, we will gain a more informed understanding of where the key challenges lie in achieving permanence, and what more we can do to help LAs work through these challenges.  Data and information gathered will inform the Board’s analysis of key trends and developmental proposals.  We are grateful for the support we are receiving form RABs and LAs in this work.
  • The latest stage in the development of plans for RAAs.  We want to ensure that learning and emerging thinking about delivery are shared across the system – this includes the role of VAAs, concerns that electing members may have, forms of governance, and, above all else, how will these plans improve outcomes for adopted children and their families.
  • The future arrangements for the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) beyond March 2017.  As you will be aware, the DfE recently had to introduce some changes to ensure that the budget was not overspent in this financial year.  However, it is anticipated that there will be further changes for the financial year 2017-18.  As part of the consideration of this issue, I am particularly concerned that we pay attention to the experience of adopters.
  • The Inter-Agency Fee Fund (IAFF) and the impact it has had.  The DfE has since announced that the fun will be extended, just for the remainder of this financial year, for children have been waiting more than 18 months as of 1 November 2016. The fund was always time-limited.

I am greatly encouraged by the commitment from all parties in ensuring the best outcomes for vulnerable children.  I am very grateful for your interest and support in this vital work.  I would welcome any thoughts or comments you would want to make about our work programme to alb@cvaa.org.uk

Honours List 2017-18
We would like to encourage adoption services to consider whether they know individuals that they feel deserve to be recognised for their commitment to adoption and their contribution to their communities through the honours system. We are would like to see nominations from all parts of our diverse workforce.

The British honours system is one of the oldest in the world and has evolved over 650 years to the system we use today.  Honours are awarded to people from all sections of society and walks of life.  Those that are awarded honours are exceptional people who have made a significant difference, have demonstrated exemplary or selfless service, earned the respect of their peers or improved the lives of those less able to help themselves.

More information about the honours system and how to make a nomination can be found at:

www.gov.uk/honours/types-of-honours-and-awards

Keeping you in touch
We are sending this update to those we have contact details for and look to you to disseminate this bulletin more widely among your colleagues and members.

If you do not wish to receive this update please reply to this email and we will ensure your details are removed before any further updates are circulated. If any of your colleagues would like to be added to our circulation list, they should send their name, email address, job title and contact details to mailto:adoption.REFORM@education.gov.uk.

If you have any suggestions as to how we might make these updates more useful to you – or items you would like to see – please let us know by contacting the email address above.

Adoption Reform Team
Department for Education
November 2016

 

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