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BASW slams Gove’s adoption deja vu

Ahead of the government’s adoption action plan, due to be published next month, in a speech at the Isaac Newton Centre today, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, has reignited the adoption debate.

Gove expressed concerns at low adoption rates, criticised the assessment process and said that local authorities must “speed up decisions for the child at every stage”.

On the subject of adoption rates for black children, he said “it is outrageous to deny a child the chance of adoption because of a misguided belief that race is more important than any other factor. And it is simply disgraceful that a black child is three times less likely to be adopted from care than a white child.”

Nushra Mansuri, professional officer, British Association of Social Workers (BASW), commented:

“The government regurgitating the same platitudes about adoption that we have already heard three times in the past four months is a demoralising assault on social workers and local authorities.

“Once again, the government ignores the complexities of adoption, and the legislation that underpins it, in order to pander to those who all too willing wrongly believe there is a politically correct conspiracy at work in our public services.

“How is the government expecting that assessments will be speeded up when there are not enough social workers around to do them.

“How will families be supported to adopt when we know that there will be no extra social workers and no extra resources in the spirit of ‘more for less’.

“Yes, let’s cut out any unnecessary delays, but it is entirely right that assessment of a child’s future and best interests is a painstaking, sensitive process, undertaken by experts. Mr Gove’s glib pronouncements suggest that caution be thrown to the wind with less rigour being applied to the assessment process, removing vital checks and balances.

“Forcing local authorities to compete against one another is entirely out of kilter with reality, and could see councils who strive to keep families together being unfairly held up as failing.

“We must not ignore adoption breakdown, and the need to reduce the risk of this happening, causing devastation to already vulnerable children.

“Let’s not forget that adoption is not the only option for children in care and is only suitable for a small number of children.

“More money is needed for preventative services, rather than waiting until a family is at the point of crisis and situations are less retrievable. This would reduce some of the numbers of children currently coming into care.

“Nevertheless, if the government is serious in supporting social workers bringing more children into care, it needs to boost the number of placements available as we still have a national shortage of foster carers and this needs to be addressed.

“Sadly, there are more black children waiting to be adopted because black children are over represented in the care system. It is a telling indictment of our society that black adults are over-represented in the prison system and the mental health system too, so perhaps it is time the government made a concerted effort to explore the underlying social and economic inequalities that affect the black community in general rather than simply honing in on the end result.

“In terms of black children being adopted, racial identity does matter and, wherever possible, children should be placed with adopters from a similar background. This may not be possible in every circumstance but it is not a factor that should be ignored or minimised.”