Department for Education
Adoption Reform Update – July 2015

Hello and welcome to the first Adoption Reform Update of the new parliament. The adoption reform continues to be a key priority for the government, and progress has been swift since the commencement of the new parliamentary term. Recent months have seen the start of the national Adoption Support Fund, the introduction of the Education and Adoption Bill in Parliament, the launch of a Regional Adoption Agencies support programme, and the announcement of a new fund for central payment of the inter-agency fee over a twelve month period. We will bring you regular updates on all of these areas and more via this newsletter. We would also like your views on the value of these updates and will ask for your formal feedback later this year. In the meantime, we hope that you find this month’s offerings helpful and informative.

Regional Adoption Agencies
Manifesto commitments were clear that the government wants to increase the scale at which adoption services are delivered by introducing regional adoption agencies. The rationale for this is that regional agencies will be given a greater pool of approved adopters with which to match vulnerable children successfully first time; make vital support services more widely available to adoptive families as and when they need them; ensure recruitment of adopters is better targeted; and make the sector more efficient.

The DfE has now published papers that give more information about this commitment. They set out the case for change and outline the department’s thinking so far about what regional adoption agencies might look like in order to stimulate ideas and discussion locally. They then go on to outline the support the department is offering this year.

The paper and associated expression of interest form can be accessed here:

Inter-agency fee
The Government announced an allocation of £30 million in the Budget to support the Adoption Reform Programme. The funding will be used specifically to reimburse local authorities over the next twelve months for the cost of the adoption inter-agency fee. The scheme commenced on Budget Day (8 July) and local authorities (LAs) will be able to claim in arrears for inter-agency fees paid for eligible children from that date.

The government has agreed to pay the fee because it wants to speed up the adoption process for children waiting to be matched, and ensure that there are no financial barriers to timely matching. Paying the fee will ensure that children with particular needs, as well as any other child who has been waiting longer than 18 months for adoption, will have access to the widest pool of potential adopters.

This letter from Edward Timpson to LAs and voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) in England sets out a little more of the background.

Details of how to apply to the scheme will be circulated shortly to all LAs and VAAs via Directors of Children’s Services and Chief Executives.

Special Guardianship Review - Call for evidence
The DfE Special Guardianship Review Call for Evidence is now live and can be found at:

Special Guardianships (SGs) were introduced in 2005 to provide an alternative legal permanence status, up to the age of 18, for children and young people unable to remain with their parents.  At the time it was considered that a new legal order was required to meet the needs of a significant group of children - these included:

  • mainly older children who had become separated from their birth family;
  • children already settled with a relative or foster carer and
  • particular groups, such as unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, minority ethnic groups (who have cultural difficulties with adoption), and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (who may need a secure legal basis without breaking the strong attachment they may have with their family abroad).

Research by Jim Wade on children made subject to a Special Guardianship Order (SGOs), published by DfE in 2014, found that the introduction of SGOs had been well received by practitioners who saw it as an important pathway to permanence for some children, and that the risk of disruption of SGO placements was low. The research did find concern, however, that children living with special guardians, like adoptive children, could have ongoing issues due to previous abuse or neglect, and many families were struggling with unmet needs with little or no ongoing support.

Our engagement work with local authorities also indicates a shift in the use of SGOs - for example with more being awarded to much younger children and concerns that the assessment process for special guardianship is not sufficiently robust  in some cases.

The Call for Evidence invites views on:

  • how the use of SG has changed since its introduction in 2005
  • whether change is needed to the legislative/regulatory framework
  • the assessment process
  • the advice and support provided for special guardians
  • examples of best practice

In conjunction with the review, The Nuffield Foundation will be undertaking quantitative research on SGOs and DfE will be commissioning case file analysis to provide additional qualitative information.  We will also be holding a series of meetings over the summer with key stakeholders.

The Call for Evidence will close on 18 September 2015 at 5pm.

For further information on the review, please contact us on

Meet the minister
First4Adoption hosted a ‘Meet the Minister’ webcast on 17 June where they interviewed Edward Timpson. The interview is available on the First4Adoption website at

Please circulate this link amongst your teams and through newsletters.

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

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 
July 2015