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Ofsted must not collude with crude government adoption targets

In a move claimed to ‘speed up’ the adoption process, Ofsted have announced that local authorities will only be given an outstanding rating, if they place children for adoption within 12 months.

A spokeswoman for Ofsted said:

“Inspection will have a key focus on how quickly adoption agencies place children when adoption is in their best interest.”

Nushra Mansuri, BASW professional officer, said:

“Ofsted, like the government, do not reveal how processes are to be speeded up in order to meet a 12 month deadline for placing children for adoption.

“Ofsted praised the work of adoption panels in its annual report just three months ago; we trust that they are not abandoning excellence for the sake of colluding with government targets.

“We want to see Ofsted highlighting good practice, so that it can be shared between local authorities, rather than fostering a negative culture of competition.

“Inspections should also be factoring in adoption breakdown, rather than rushing to adhere to inappropriate adoption deadlines, the future happiness of the child should come first.

“Resources are also a key factor, we want inspections to appreciate the context of the environment that social workers are working in, i.e., staff shortages, number of cases, how many are allocated, workload management, support to staff through supervision, professional development, etc.

“Making judgements based on whether a local authority has hit the 12 month target should not become the obsession above all else.

“Adoption is not suitable for every child; there may be other alternatives within the care system, like staying with a family member, that would be more appropriate for their needs.

“It is so important that we don’t create a divide within the care system. Yes, we need to improve upon adoption practice, but equally we need to place emphasis on improving the experience of all children in our care system, not create an unfair disadvantage for those who are not adopted.

“We hope that Ofsted will also consider occasions when adoption delays might actually be explained by delays in the family courts, for example, when a birth parent opposes the adoption. It is not simply a matter of looking at the performance of local authorities in isolation.

“While Ofsted doesn’t inspect the work of family courts, there does need to be some crossover. If the average adoption takes two and a half years and the Government wants to get it down to 12 months – surely, councils need to be given some leeway to working towards this as an ideal rather than being criticised for not achieving the target overnight.”