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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 16th July 2012

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Adoption Service - Half Yearly Report and Update on Inspection Action Plan

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To provide an update on the performance of the Council's Adoption Service.

2.             To provide an update on delivery of the action plan arising from the CSSIW inspection of the Adoption (Permanence) Service, reported to Scrutiny Committee on 12th December 2011.

Recommendations

1.             That Scrutiny Committee notes the contents of this report.

2.             That Scrutiny Committee notes the progress made in relation to the action plan arising from the CSSIW inspection.

Reason for the Recommendations

1. & 2.To ensure Scrutiny Committee is able to exercise effective oversight of this

key service area and to ensure that Members are aware of the resource pressures faced by the service.

Background

3.             The Vale of Glamorgan Adoption Service provides services to all those involved in what is often referred to as the 'adoption triangle', i.e. the adopted child/adult, adoptive parents and birth families from which children are adopted.  The primary role of the Service is to find families who are able to meet the needs of any child whose family cannot care for them and for whom the plan, as decided by the Court, is adoption. 

4.             Under the Children and Adoption Act 2002, the Service also provides post-adoption support to adopted adults and all other people affected by adoption.  This includes:

  • supporting adults who have been adopted to get access to their birth records and potentially to be reunited with their birth family; and
  • acting as intermediary to assist birth family members wishing to re-establish contact with children adopted out of their family. 

Post adoption support also involves providing individual support packages to children placed for adoption in accordance with their assessed needs.

 

5.             The Vale of Glamorgan is a member of the South Wales Adoption Agencies Consortium (SWAAC) which comprises nine local authorities.  SWAAC was established in 2002 and it assists its member agencies to identify prospective matches between children being placed for adoption and available approved adopters. The pooling of adopters and children provides greater opportunities for matching.  SWAAC provides an annual report and a copy for 2011/12 is attached for information at Appendix 1.

6.             The Vale of Glamorgan Adoption Service produces a half-yearly report which is attached at    Appendix 2.  This report contributes to the Quality of Care Review required by Regulation 22 of the Local Authority Adoption Services (Wales) Regulations 2007.

7.             During March 2011, CSSIW undertook a review of the Council's arrangements for permanency planning for children under the provisions of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003, and the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and associated regulations.  The review included the regulatory inspection of the Adoption Service as required under the Care Standards Act 2000.  A report in relation to this review was presented to Scrutiny Committee on 12 December 2011 with the action plan setting out the Council's response.  The updated action plan is attached at Appendix 3.

8.             Adoption is receiving high levels of attention from both the UK and the Welsh Governments. A significant increase in the numbers of children being referred for adoption has coincided with a significant shortage of available adopters.

9.             The Family Justice Review of family law proceedings criticised the lengthy time taken to achieve adoption from entry into care (averaging 2 years 7 months) and the complexity of the Adoption Panel process. One of its specific recommendations for combating delay is to introduce specific timetables for cases and to remove some Adoption Panel functions, to eliminate unnecessary duplication.  The recommendation is to remove the requirement for local authority Adoption Panels to consider the suitability for adoption of a child whose case is before the Court.

10.        The proposed Social Services (Wales) Bill will provide new powers to enable Welsh Government to require all local authorities Adoption Agencies to come together to form a single National Adoption Service for the purpose of discharging certain adoption functions. However, it is not intended that the National Adoption Service will operate as an "adoption agency".  The types of functions for which the National Adoption Service would be responsible include:

  • providing national leadership and overview of adoption services (linking to standards and performance);
  • recruitment, training and assessment processes;
  • providing a framework for adoption approval (including panels);
  • promoting adoption and building capacity in terms of prospective adopters and specialist workforce skills; and
  • commissioning an adoption support service.

11.        The pooling of certain activities through a National Adoption Service does not remove the need for the local authority to continue operating as an adoption agency.  The local authority adoption agency would still have responsibilities for applying to a court for a placement / adoption order, preparing and maintaining the adoption plan, and making placement arrangements for the child. In responding to the Bill, the Council will need to be mindful of possible cost and service implications if finance is withdrawn from local authorities to fund the national service. 

Relevant Issues and Options

12.        The half yearly report of the Vale's Adoption Service identifies that, during the period November 2011 to April 2012, nine enquiries were received from prospective adopters, six couples were approved as adopters and eight couples were engaged in the assessment process.  The Vale of Glamorgan is well placed, therefore, to attract and approve adopters in sufficient numbers for its own children. 

13.        However, not all children can be placed for adoption within the boundaries of their own local authority.  During the same period, two Vale of Glamorgan children were placed with Vale of Glamorgan adopters and one with adopters assessed by SWAAC.  Between April 2011 and March 2012, the Vale of Glamorgan Adoption Service referred three approved couples and eight children to SWAAC. 

14.        The SWAAC annual report for 2011/12 notes an increase of 31% of children referred for placement and a decrease of 27% of adopters referred. Currently there are 160 children in SWAAC waiting for adoptive placements and only 35 adoptive families available.  During this financial year, we have already placed three children with adopters from external independent providers at a cost in fees of £65,000 because we were unable to match children with our own adopters or through SWAAC. 

15.        In addition to the assessment of adopters and family finding function, the Adoption and Children Act 2002 places a duty on local authorities to provide an 'assessment of need' for all parties affected by adoption.  The half yearly report highlights three new referrals for adoption support, one of which concerns two children who have moved to the Vale of Glamorgan from another area, with an existing care package totalling more than £110,000 per annum.  There has also been an increase in adoption allowances being paid and the six-month total period amounts to £56,000.

16.        As shown in the updated action plan, good progress is being made in delivering the programme of work arising from the CSSIW Inspection report. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

17.        The provision of the local authority adoption service will continue to be made within existing resources.  However, there are two specific areas which currently pose financial challenges. 

  • Firstly, the problems within SWAAC generated by the increase in referrals and the decrease in the number of adoptive families referred means that there are fewer opportunities for matching children with adopters through this route.  Consequently, the adoption service paid £27,000 in fees to independent providers, compared to £8759 for matches secured through SWAAC. 
  • Secondly, providing individual packages of post adoption support can have significant financial implications.  Two new packages required because children moved into the Vale of Glamorgan are anticipated to increase expenditure over this financial year and the next by a total of £110k. 

18.        A third anticipated financial implication relates to the development of the National Adoption Service as proposed by the Social Services Bill.  It is likely that local authorities will be responsible for providing the resource for this service whilst at the same time retaining its own Adoption Agency both of which will have distinct functions.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council Adoption Agency is a small team and the loss of resource from this to invest in the National Adoption Service may impact on the ability of the team to undertake its statutory functions.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19.        There are no legal implications arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

20.        There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21.        There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.        Corporate Parenting clearly links to the Corporate Plan priority for children and young people:

·               'To work with partners to ensure that children and young people in the Vale are well informed and supported to access a broad range of quality services that enable them to take full advantage of the life opportunities available in the local community and beyond'.

Policy Framework and Budget

23.        There are no specific policy issues arising from this report. 

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.        Adoption is a Council wide priority.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.        Social Care and Health

Background Papers

None

 

Contact Officer

Colette Limbrick, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services

 

Officers Consulted

Placements and Permanency Team Manager

 

Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services