Clauses 9 and 10 ordered to stand part of the Bill. - Clause 11 - Fees

Part of Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:00 am ar 18 Rhagfyr 2001.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Jacqui Smith Jacqui Smith Minister of State, Department of Health 11:00, 18 Rhagfyr 2001

That was precisely what I said we needed to consider in making regulations on adoption and post-adoption support. In order to ensure that we achieve what we want to achieve, we must where necessary promote adoptions across local authorities.

That brings me to the important point about inter-agency fees. Part of the incentive to recruit adopters is in the level of inter-agency fees. A local authority that recruits adopters can benefit through the inter-agency fee system. Kent could do so. However, there is a difficulty with that, particularly in relation to voluntary adoption agencies—and I agree with the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Djanogly) about their importance. The agency fee is an important source of income for voluntary adoption agencies. Despite the fact that some have argued that inter-agency fees should now be abolished, in the course of consultation on the performance and innovation unit report there was a strong response to the effect that the system of inter-agency fees should remain. I return to my previous point about the levels of inter-agency fees. Hon. Members might have noted that the inter-agency fee charged by local authorities is £10,539, but that charged by voluntary adoption agencies is £14,931. That reflects some of the concerns expressed by Opposition Members about the lack of ability to cover any overheads that adoption agencies may have.

We believe, for the reasons that I have suggested, that the inter-agency fee system operated by adoption agencies that recruit adoptive families should continue. However, we have promised to keep that system under review, and the powers in clause 11 will enable us to make any changes to the system that we consider necessary. The introduction and development of the register may well, at some point in future, cause us to consider whether there are other appropriate ways to deliver some of the incentives and objectives of the current inter-agency fee system.

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham made a point about resources. The payment of an inter-agency fee secures for the local authority the adoption of a looked-after child. To that extent, it may well bring long-term savings for that local authority. That is important, and the Government intend to encourage local authorities to recognise the long-term financial benefits—apart from the very important benefits to the child—of quickly using whichever adoptive families may be available, regardless of inter-agency fees. The payment of an inter-agency fee in the short term may well bring long-term financial benefits. That should be reflected in authorities' accounting and financial systems.

I think that I have answered the questions raised by hon. Gentlemen and explained the intentions behind the powers in the clause. On that basis, I ask the Committee to agree that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.