Support Services

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 5:45 pm ar 21 Tachwedd 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

We welcome the proposals in clause 3 and section 14F of clause 110 that establish a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for the provision of adoption support services and special guardianship support services. We are concerned however that there is no specific provision made with regard to adoption or special guardianship allowances. Clause 2 (6)[b] and section 14F(1)[b] both make reference to ``such other services as are prescribed (which may include financial support)''. We feel that this is totally inadequate in terms of the necessary recognition of the role that such allowances could play in widening the pool of potential adopters and guardians. The system for providing adoption allowances must be standardised across all authorities. We are currently unable to advise prospective adopters of what level of financial support they might receive because of the variation between local authorities. It is our experience that this uncertainty deters some adopters and limits the chances of young people to be adopted. If this situation is to be replicated for special guardians then these very welcome proposals that give children more opportunities for permanency will not be enabled to fulfil their potential.

We are very pleased to see that following evidence in the last parliament, the Bill extends the right to an assessment for adoption support services to other people affected by adoption. We would urge the Committee to consider the need to extend this right to siblings and other members of the extended family. It is our experience that those who seek such support are in need of it and therefore should not be denied this entitlement to have those needs assessed. This is particularly true for siblings who may have experienced the intense loss of being separated from their adopted sister or brother.

We are also pleased that new section 14F of clause 110 [1] makes provision for support services for special guardians and children subject to special guardianship orders. We are very concerned however that clause 4 and section 14F only allow for entitlement to assessment for adoption support services and not the right to access those services which they are assessed as needing. If adoption placements and special guardianship orders are to be successful, adoptive parents and special guardians need to be assured of their entitlement to receive any support that they might need over the long-term. The Children's Society projects offer post adoption support work and much of this work is funded by voluntary income. Provision of such services is patchy across the country and we had hoped that this Bill would have at its core an acknowledgement of the absolute need for such services. We think that this should be done by placing a duty on local authorities to ensure such provision is made.

Clause 4 (9) provides that where a local authority has carried out an assessment and has identified a need for the provision of services by a health authority, local primary care trust or local education authority it is required to notify the authority. There is nothing in the bill requiring the said authorities to comply with the request and to provide support services, which fall within their respective functions. Our experience across a range of health and education authorities is that if there is no requirement to provide services these services will not commonly be provided. Young people will be particularly disadvantaged by this and there is a need for clarity where adopted children and young people are placed in different health and education authority areas from the originating and responsible social services authority. As a voluntary adoption agency The Children's Society is involved in interagency placements and it is likely that such placements will increase when the Adoption Register is fully operational. It is vital therefore that legislation establishes which agency is responsible for providing a service and which local authority has professional and financial responsibility both for placements and for post adoption support. It is our experience that adopted children have been disadvantaged by not receiving services whilst local authorities have argued over who has responsibility to provide services to them.