Agenda Item No. 13
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 1st September 2014
Report of the Director of Social Services
Annual Review of the Council's Adoption Service
Purpose of the Report
1. To provide Scrutiny Committee with the Annual Review of the Vale of Glamorgan Council Adoption Service in line with statutory guidance.
2. To provide Scrutiny Committee with an overview of the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) 2013/14 Inspection of the Adoption Service.
That Scrutiny Committee:
1. Notes the content of this report.
Reason for the Recommendation
1. To provide assurance that the Council's statutory functions in relation to providing an Adoption Service are fully met, in line with guidance and regulation.
3. Regulation 22 of the Adoption Service (Wales) Regulations 2007 requires all Adoption Agencies, both voluntary and statutory, to complete an annual review of service quality. The 2013/14 Annual Review for the Vale of Glamorgan Council Adoption Service is attached at Appendix 1.
4. In accordance with the regulatory requirements, the Service was subject to inspection by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) during 2014.
5. The Adoption Service provides support to anyone involved in what is commonly 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 unable to be cared for within their own family and for whom the plan is adoption (as determined by the Court).
6. 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 adopted adults wishing to have access to their birth records and potentially wishing to be reunited with their birth family and also acting as intermediary to assist birth family members wishing to re-establish contact with children adopted out of their family. Post adoption support also includes the provision of individual support packages to children placed for adoption, in accordance with assessed need.
7. The Council's Adoption Service is a member of the South Wales Adoption Agencies Consortium (SWAAC) which was established in 2002. The constituent agencies aim to assist each other in identifying prospective matches between children being placed for adoption and approved adopters. The pooling of adopters and children provides greater opportunities for matching. Member agencies refer approved adopters and children to SWAAC where matches cannot be achieved by using adopters from their own or neighbouring local authority resources.
8. Adoption continues to receive high levels of attention from both UK and Welsh Government. The most significant areas of pressure on the Adoption Service concern the availability of suitable adopters compared to the number of children awaiting matches and the number of adopted children and families requiring a high level of support services to prevent adoption disruption and breakdown.
9. The Family Justice Review of Public Law Proceedings criticised the length of time taken from entry into care to adoption (approximately 2 years 7 months) and the complexity of the Adoption Panel process. It recommended removing the requirement that Local Authority Adoption Panels should consider the suitability for adoption of a child whose case is before the Court. This has been implemented and the decision to place a child for adoption is now the responsibility of the Agency Decision Maker (who is the Head of Children and Young People Services or the Director of Social Services), rather than being a matter where the Adoption Panel makes a recommendation in the first instance.
10. As set out in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, the Welsh Government will be establishing a National Adoption Service, delivered at a number of levels -i.e. through a central function, regional local authority collaboratives and local authority work with families. It is intended that progress with our regional collaborative will be reported to Cabinet on 14th July and the new arrangements are expected to be operational by September 2014. The Vale of Glamorgan has been working collaboratively over the past year with its regional partners to ensure a smooth transition.
Relevant Issues and Options
11. The Regulation 22 Annual Review outlines the performance of the Vale of Glamorgan Adoption Service for 2013/14. Performance information is not collated systematically across all local authorities in respect of all children referred for adoption and their outcomes. This is a matter that the National Adoption Service will address.
12. The table below shows the number of children referred for adoption during the past five years in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Service has experienced an increase in referrals for adoption during the last year, although annual numbers are small and this may not represent a trend. During 2013/14, approximately 9% of Looked After Children were referred for adoption in the Vale of Glamorgan (based on the LAC population figures for 31.03.14) compared to 5% the previous year.
Number of children referred to adoption for twin tracking
13. The Vale of Glamorgan is relatively well placed in its ability to attract and approve adopters in sufficient numbers for its own children. During 2013/14, the Adoption Service received 29 registrations of interest from prospective adopters, compared to 25 the year before. We increased the number of approved adopters during 2013/14, with nine families (18 individuals) being approved compared to seven families (14 individuals) during 2012/13. Overall, there has been a decrease of almost 50% in the number of initial enquires made to the Adoption Service compared to 2009/10 data but conversion rates (i.e. the proportion of people registering interest who are subsequently approved) have almost doubled for the same period.
14. Ten children in the Vale of Glamorgan were placed for adoption during 2013/14, the same number as in 2012/13. Five children were made subject of Adoption Orders during 2013/14, compared to three during 2012/13; it should be noted that adoption orders are not always made during the same year that a child is placed for adoption. During 2013/14, there was one adoption disruption - a child of 12 years who had been placed with Vale of Glamorgan adopters from the age of three.
15. Wherever appropriate to do so, children are matched with our own adopters. If this is not appropriate, then children are referred to SWAAC and the National Register once a Placement Order has been granted. All of the children within the Vale of Glamorgan who are waiting for placements have been referred to SWAAC and the National Register. Additionally, children from other local authority areas might be referred by SWAAC and from the National Register to be placed with Vale of Glamorgan adopters.
16. During 2013/14, we matched three children with our own adopters, three with adopters from SWAAC and four with adopters from the National Adoption Register.
17. In respect of referring approved adoption applicants to SWAAC, on average we refer more than larger local authorities. During 2013/14, we referred 12 adopters (six couples) to SWAAC; member agencies placed two children with our adopters and we provided adopters for four children referred from the National Adoption Register.
18. The considerable shortage of adopters within SWAAC and the increase in children being referred has affected our ability to place children during the year, leading to the need to place children with private agencies and agencies outside the Consortium via the National Register.
19. There were six referrals for adoption support during 2013/14, compared to 12 in 2012/13 and nine in 2011/12. We continue to fund a number of high cost packages of therapeutic, domiciliary and respite care support for adopted families; costs amounted to £23k during 2013/14.
20. During the year, the Adoption Service paid Adoption Allowances to eighteen families, costing £109,000 in total; this was marginally more than the previous year at £106,000.
CSSIW Annual Inspection of the Adoption Service
21. The Vale of Glamorgan Adoption Service was inspected in January 2014 and the report is attached at Appendix 2. The inspectors reached the following conclusions.
What does the service do well?
22. Adopters were very positive about their experience of working with the service. One adopter said – "the timing was perfect" and described the service as "very efficient". Another set of approved adopters told inspectors that the response from the Vale was "very prompt". There are good links with the child care teams.
What has improved since the last inspection?
23. The actions taken in response to the last CSSIW inspection in March 2011 had been completed. This included the completion of annual quality of care review reports where the Service itself analyses its own performance and sets objectives. The Service has developed rigorous quality assurance systems to ensure that potential adopters receive an efficient response and better outcomes have been achieved. Developments regarding collaborative work with other local authorities under the national adoption agency agenda were highlighted.
What needs to be done to improve the service?
24. Further development work is required regarding the information contained in chronologies in the Child Assessment Records for Adoption (CARA) documents, so that we can be sure that people receive appropriate information. It was recommended we consider having an independent chair for future disruption meetings, to ensure impartial scrutiny.
25. As a result of the feedback from the inspection, the Adoption Service will now seek to use only independent chairs for all disruption meetings. We are embarking on a training programme for child care social workers on writing CARA reports and the Adoption Service will provide additional support to the child care social workers.
26. In conclusion, CSSIW felt the Adoption Service was working well and did not need to issue an action plan.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
27. The provision of the Local Authority Adoption Service continues to be made within the resources available.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
28. There are no sustainability or climate change implications arising from this report.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
29. Regulation 22 of the Adoption Services (Wales) Regulations 2007 sets out that the Local Authority must make suitable arrangements to establish and maintain a system for monitoring, reviewing and improving the quality of adoption services provided by the Local Authority. The arrangements must make provision by the Local Authority for the quality of the service to be reviewed at least annually and the Local Authority must obtain the views of:
(i) Adoptive and natural parents and children being adopted.
(ii) Any person receiving services from the Local Authority or their representatives in relation to adoption
(iii) Staff employed the Local Authority; and
(iv) Any Local Authority.on the quality of care provided, as part of any review.
Within 28 days of the review of the quality of care the Local Authority must prepare a report and make a copy available in the appropriate form when requested by the Welsh Government, service users or their representatives and staff employed by the Local Authority.
Crime and Disorder Implications
30. There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
31. There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.
32. Children and young people are engaged and supported to take full advantage of life opportunities in their community and beyond - Corporate Plan Outcome 2013/17.
33. The provision of a quality Adoption Service meets the outcomes expressed in the Social Services Directorate Service Plan 2013/17.
34. To provide children and young people with a clearly planned journey through care and to achieve permanence wherever appropriate to do so is a key principle underpinning the Council's Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013/18.
Policy Framework and Budget
35. This is a matter for Executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
36. Provision of a quality Adoption Service is a Council-wide priority.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
37. Social Care and Health.
Karen Conway, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services
Placements and Permanency Team
Head of Children and Young People Services
Philip Evans, Director of Social Services