Children and Social Work Bill may be too pro-adoption, say social care experts
Adoption rules in the UK are about to undergo huge changes following the announcement of the new Children and Social Work Bill.
The new provisions are intended to move children more quickly through the care system and into families, but have received criticism from social work professionals and advocates for being too pro-adoption.
According to pressure groups such as the Fostering Network, this focus ignores the positive impact of other options saying that adoption is suited to only a minority of children in care and so a sweeping approach to push adoption, “does all children a disservice.”
The Local Government Association underlines a similar point, saying that kinship carers or residential care workers do excellent work in supporting children and should not be overlooked in provision planning. However, they do strongly agree that support on leaving care should be improved but notes this should be fully-funded to be successful.
Announcing the new legislation, the government seemed to reinforce this critique of “adoption-above-all”, saying it would “tip the balance” in favour of adoption on a permanent basis, as this was the “right thing” for children. Under the new rules, care leavers will have access to a personal adviser until they are 25 years old; part of efforts to ensure local authorities are committed to their responsibilities as corporate parents. This is needed, say policymakers, as of the around 10,000 children leaving care each year, around 39% will find themselves not in education, employment or training between the age of 19 and 21 years old.
For those working in social care jobs the creation of the independent regulator will have a significant impact on their practice. The government says this new body will have a “relentless focus” on the profession; whereas its predecessor, the Health and Care Professions Council oversees 16 different professional disciplines. The measures would also “drive improvements” in social work through more demanding professional standards and the creation of a regulator.
The new moves are already raising eyebrows as no other health and social care profession is answerable directly to the government in this way; usually they are linked to parliament. These changes could create a situation where standards are led by short-term political considerations and not a strong evidence-base, say experts.