Department for Education
Adoption Reform Update – September 2015

Hello and welcome to our September issue of the Adoption Reform Update. In this issue, we remind local authorities about how to access the Inter-Agency Fee announced in our July update, and include a wider reminder about contributing your views to the call for evidence on the Special Guardianship Review.  The call for evidence is live until 18 September.  We also share some research resources that have been published by the Adoption Leadership Board to help inform local matching practices.  We hope that you find this month’s content helpful and informative.

Inter-Agency Fee
As we announced in our July issue of this bulletin, 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 (LAs) over the next twelve months for the cost of the adoption inter-agency fee (IAF). The scheme commenced on Budget Day (8 July) and LAs will be able to claim in arrears for IAFs 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 for children who are harder to place. Paying the fee will ensure that siblings, disabled children, children who have been waiting 18 months or more, BME children and children who are aged five or over will have access to the widest pool of potential adopters. The DfE wrote to all local authorities at the beginning of August with information on how to access the Inter-Agency Fee funding, together with background information.  If you have not already done so you should complete the grant acceptance form attached (see page 3 of Grant Funding Letter) and return to the mailbox below. The covering letter is available here.

If you have queries about the fee please email:

Special Guardianship Review - Call for evidence (Reminder)
We announced the DfE’s Special Guardianship (SG) Review Call for Evidence in the July issue and there is still time to contribute and make your views heard.

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

Further information can be found at:

Special Guardianships 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 number 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 those minority ethnic groups who may 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 relatively low.  The research did find concerns, for example that approaches to special guardianship were highly variable between areas; that children living with special guardians could have ongoing issues due to previous abuse or neglect; that many families struggle with unmet needs; and that assessment and preparation for special guardianship were not always sufficient.

Our engagement work with local authorities also indicates a shift in the use of SGOs - for example with a sharp increase in number being awarded to 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 SGs 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 parallel, The Nuffield Foundation is undertaking quantitative research on SGOs, Cafcass is analysing a range of its case files and DfE has commissioned local authority case file analysis to provide additional qualitative information.

For further information on the review, please contact us on

Focus on matching practice
The Adoption Leadership Board takes a keen interest in improving matching in adoption. In this issue of bulletin we are sharing the following resources to help inform local matching practices:

Matching Paper by Sir Martin Narey
In this brief paper the Chair of the Adoption Leadership Board, Sir Martin Narey, draws on research to examine, and in some cases challenge, what good matching practice looks like. He argues for greater pace, pragmatism and adopter involvement.

Behavioural Insights Team Research
Earlier in the year we asked the Behavioural Insights Team to do a short deep dive in a small number of areas to look at matching practice and potential areas for improvement. Their report is available here.

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 
September 2015