Agenda Item No
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 2nd September, 2013
Report of the Director of Social Services
Annual Review of the Vale of Glamorgan Council 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.
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.
2. 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 Annual Review for 2012/13 is attached at Appendix 1.
3. The Vale of Glamorgan Council Adoption Service was subject to inspection by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) during 2011 and it be inspected again in 2014, in accordance with the Regulatory requirements.
4. 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 for whom the plan is adoption (as decided by the Court).
5. 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 access their birth records and potentially wishing 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 includes the provision of individual support packages to children placed for adoption, in accordance with assessed need.
6. The Vale of Glamorgan Council Adoption Service is a member of the South Wales Adoption Agencies Consortium (SWAAC) which was established in 2002 with the aim of assisting 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 using adopters from their own or neighbouring authority resources.
7. 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 with 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.
8. The Family Justice Review of Public Law Proceedings criticised the lengthy time taken from entry into care to adoption (approximately 2 years 7 months) and the complexity of the Adoption Panel process. The recommendation to remove the requirement on Local Authority Adoption Panels to consider the suitability for adoption of a child whose case is before the court has been implemented. 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.
9. As set out in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill, the Welsh Government proposes establishing a National Adoption Service, delivered through regional collaboratives. These developments will be reported separately to Scrutiny Committee and the new arrangements are expected to be fully operational by April 2014.
Relevant Issues and Options
10. The Regulation 22 Annual Report deals with the performance of the Vale of Glamorgan Adoption Service. There is some comparator data from local authorities which are part of the SWAAC consortium; these relate only to those children and adopters who are referred to SWAAC and thus provide only a partial picture of adoption in Wales. Performance information is not systematically collated across all local authorities in respect of all children referred for adoption and their outcomes. This is a matter that the National Adoption Agency will be expected to address.
11. The table below shows the number of children referred for adoption during the past four years in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Service has experienced a 38% decrease in referrals for adoption during the last year, although the annual numbers are small and this may not represent a trend. During 2012/13, approximately 5% of Looked After children were referred for adoption in the Vale of Glamorgan (based on the LAC population figures 31.03.13) compared to 7% the previous year. SWAAC does not provide data across member local authorities.
Number of children referred where adoption is the plan.
12. The number of children referred and registered by SWAAC for 2011/12 is provided for each SWAAC authority at Appendix 2. This information does not reflect the number of children referred to each local authority for adoption, only those referred to SWAAC for adoptive placements to be sought.
13. The Vale of Glamorgan is well placed in its ability to attract and approve adopters in sufficient numbers for its own children. During 2012/13, the Adoption Service received 25 registrations of interest from prospective adopters, compared with 20 the year before. Despite the increase in the number of people registering interest, the same number of families (7) were approved in 2012/13 as in 2011/12. Overall, there has been a decrease of almost 50% in the number of initial enquires made to the Adoption Service during 2012/13 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 time frame.
14. Data for 2012/13 is not yet available from SWAAC. During 2011/12, SWAAC local authorities received in total 308 initial enquiries from prospective adoptive households, of which 109 progressed to an assessment. For the same period, voluntary adoption agencies received 310 initial enquiries of which only 44 progressed to assessment. The data is not available on a per authority basis.
15. Ten children in the Vale of Glamorgan were placed for adoption during 2012/13, compared to five placed during 2011/12. Three children were made subject of Adoption Orders during 2012/13, compared to six during 2011/12; adoption orders are not always made during the same year that a child is placed for adoption. During 2012/13, there was one adoption disruption - a sibling group of two who had been placed with independent agency adopters for a period of two months.
16. During 2012/13, the average length of time taken to place a child/sibling group with adopters from the time the Court agreed a Placement Order was 7.5 months. This calculation includes children who are still waiting to be placed. The shortest time taken was two months and there are 10 children, including three sibling groups, who have been waiting for placements for 11 months.
17. 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.
18. During 2012/13, we matched four children with our own adopters, three with adopters on the National Adoption Register. Of the thirteen children we referred to SWAAC, only three were matched with SWAAC adopters.
Children matched with own adopters
Children referred to SWAAC
Children matched with SWAAC adopters
Vale of Glamorgan children matched with adopters on the National Register
The chart below shows the percentage of children referred to SWAAC during 2012/13 per SWAAC local authority.
[CHART 1 REFERS]
19. In respect of referring adopters to SWAAC, we refer more than larger local authorities. During 2012/13 we referred fourteen adopters (seven couples) to SWAAC; member agencies placed three children with our adopters and we provided adopters for three children referred from the National Adoption Register. Our contribution to SWAAC equates to 12% of all adopters referred by SWAAC authorities. The only agencies and local authorities to contribute more are the voluntary adoption agency St David's (24%), Rhondda Cynon Taff (16%) and Bridgend (15%).
20. The chart below shows the percentage of adopters referred to SWAAC during 2012/13 per SWAAC local authority.
[CHART 2 REFERS]
21. 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 of the consortium via the National Register.
22. There were twelve referrals for adoption support during 2012/13, compared to twenty one in 2009/10, sixteen in 2010/11 and nine in 2011/12. We continue to fund a high cost package of therapeutic, domiciliary and respite care support package for two adopted siblings amounting to £33k.
23. During 2012/13 the Adoption Service paid Adoption Allowances to sixteen families, costing £106,511.64 in total; this was marginally less than the previous year at £109,314.43.
24. In summary, the Vale of Glamorgan Council is well placed for attracting and approving prospective adopters and, where possible, we place Vale of Glamorgan children with our own adopters. We are making a significant contribution of adopters to SWAAC compared to some other local authorities but we are referring fewer children, possibly because we have lower numbers of children being referred for adoption overall. All children that we cannot match with our own adopters are referred to SWAAC and the National Register. Inability to obtain suitable matches within our own resources and within SWAAC has resulted in a greater reliance on voluntary adoption agencies, the implications of which are detailed below.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
25. The provision of the Local Authority Adoption Service continues to be made within existing resources. However, there are two specific areas which pose ongoing financial challenges.
26. Firstly, the number of children referred to SWAAC continues to increase. In the year ending March 2013, a total of 280 children requiring an adoptive placement were referred to SWAAC. This is an increase of 21% during 2012/13 and follows on from an increase of 31% during 2011/12 and 32% during 2010/11.
27. While there has been an increase in the number of adopters referred to SWAAC, the supply has not kept up with the increasing number of children being referred (SWAAC Annual Report 2012-/13). This means that there are fewer opportunities for matching children with adopters through SWAAC. Consequently, the service pays fees to voluntary adoption agencies and local authorities in England at an average of £27,000 or to other local authorities in Wales at £13,138, compared to £8,759 for matches secured through SWAAC
28. Secondly, the provision of individual packages of support to adopted children can have significant financial implications and increases in referrals for adoption support will place pressures on this budget.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
29. There are no sustainability or climate change implications arising from this report.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
30. Regulation 22 of the Adoption Service (Wales) Regulations 2007 requires all Adoption Agencies to complete an annual review of service quality.
Crime and Disorder Implications
31. There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
32. There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.
33. 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.
34. The provision of a quality Adoption Service meets the outcomes expressed in the Social Services Directorate Service Plan 2013/17.
35. 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
36. This is a matter of Executive decision-making.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
37. Provision of a quality Adoption Service is a Council wide priority.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
38. Social Care and Health
Colette Limbrick, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services
Placements and Permanency Team
Head of Children and Young People Services
Philip Evans, Director of Social Services