Today's Times has an article on page 15 headlined "Judge's Criticism raises fear of adoption crisis". Comments in the Leading Articles page carry the message "A humane adoption process must be meticulous, but also fast."
These seem wonderful sentiments, but when I
heard Michael Gove was seeking an adoption revolution, it was
inevitable there would be a mess. This Government introduces policies
with little thought to the impact and practicalities in light of
available resources. Examples include the removal of legal aid (a
reliance on the third sector who saw their resources fall at the same
time), the bedroom tax (smaller properties not being available), faster
adoption (while there were drastic cuts to Children's Services). We
won't mention ATOS...
Sadly, the way in which the
Government handles fall-out from ill-considered policies is not so much
closing the stable door when the horse has bolted, but wondering if
there is someone left at the stables who could do it for them.
2013, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Court, raised concerns
about the inevitable fall-out from the Government's fast-track adoption
policy. In the case B-S in 2013, he criticised the lack of "proper
evidence" that alternatives to adoption had been sought and criticised
the "recurrent inadequacy" of analysis he came across. There was also
criticism of the lower courts and inadequately reasoned arguments in
In 2011 in my own county, it was announced that under austerity measures, 300 posts in Children's Services were due to be cut, some saying this represented 50% of the service. This problem is
compounded by a lack of other resources to keep families and children
together. A prime example being there are no mother and children
residential wards for mothers with post-natal depression.
the Government replies to Sir James's criticism. The main thrust is
that his criticism has caused a reduction in the number of
children being put forward for adoption. No, he has sought to place a stop to children unnecessarily being placed in care.
writes "Edward Timpson, Minister for Children, said he was "very
concerned" at the impact the judge's words appeared to be having. He
goes on... "My reading of the judgment itself doesn't give me cause for
concern, as it is saying very clearly adoption has to be demonstrably
the best option for a child. That is restating what the law says. My
concerns are over the dip in the number of [placement orders] and the
way local authorities and the lower courts appear to have responded to
this judgment, and I am not alone in being concerned about that."
Services, are struggling. Of interest is that 70% of
Social Workers opposed Michael Gove's reforms. A House of Lords'
legislative committee warned that reforms were moving too far, too fast.
Anyone with an ounce of common sense foresaw that cuts to the courts,
cuts to Children's Services and the closing of family law solicitors'
firms due to legal aid cuts would place great pressure on the system.
Perhaps Timpson's chief concern, like Munby's, should be children
unnecessarily being placed for adoption, kinship care not being
adequately explored, and relationships being permanently severed due to
Government polices which lacked proper planning and resourcing. I feel
some sympathy for social services and the courts. I feel more for the
children concerned, their grandparents, mums with transient mental
health conditions and non-resident dads.
funds have to be found, but I note the estimated £3billion for an air
campaign against ISIS (to which the House of Commons seemed almost
unanimous in their belief that an air campaign alone would achieve
nothing) could be found. There is an opportunity cost with any decision,
and it appears that vulnerable children are low down on the pecking
order (we note MPs lunches are still subsidised).
the real world, policy has to be practical, and goals achievable. Pardon
the venacular, but that old business saying of "piss poor planning
result in poor performance" springs to mind. Thank God the President of
the Court is prepared to say so, albeit in more measured language.
can't be criticised for this current problem (praise for highlighting
them would be appropriate). Nor, do I feel, the ultimate responsibility
for poor investigations lies with social workers. The fact that new
guidance is being considered highlights the inadequacy of the system
itself, and that planning and impact analysis seems to always come after
this Government's policies.
Only 4% of social workers agreed with the Government's adoption reforms. The concern being "Speed alone will be a recipe for disaster". One respondent said “The government’s misinformation about adoption
only serves to further undermine those working in the field. The
government sees this as an easy area to score political points.”
Yesterday Cameron announced the
intended removal of housing benefit for the under 21s. Will the
Conservatives have made provision for teens coming out of care? Given
their track record, we doubt it. No doubt they will say it is a local
authority responsibility to house these children, and cast blame in
another direction as Timpson does with Munby... as for local authority funding for this...
We hasten to add we're not rabid socialists here, we just believe that if you're going to introduce a policy, it needs to be thought out, an impact assessment done, and those introducing the policy need to listen to the words of people on the ground. Sir James Munby's criticism of recurrent inadequate analysis might also have been aimed at the Government who are equally failing in this respect.