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Adoption scorecards risk prioritising speed over quality

BASW has expressed concern at the government’s publication of adoption scorecards, which rank local authorities on how long children in their care wait to be adopted.

The Association says the scorecards, which ministers insist are aimed at speeding up the adoption process, will put speed above quality and fail to recognise the complex issues involved in adoption work or the barriers presented by an overstretched legal system.

Commenting on the scorecards, BASW professional officer Nushra Mansuri said: “We speak to adoption social workers all the time who say they feel demoralised and let down by the government’s posturing on adoption. Local authorities cannot be compared like for like across the country, because they each have different populations and resources.

“What’s more, this policy of prioritising speed fails to acknowledge the increasingly complicated lives that children, even very young infants, have faced before entering the system. Clearly we want children in safe and supportive placements as quickly as possible but we must not risk increasing numbers of adoption breakdowns when the government doesn’t even have a clear handle on how many placements end in failure. A failed adoption will only worsen the outcomes for vulnerable young people, so the onus on speed is worrying.

“As highlighted by an Ofsted report in April, social workers are well respected by adopted parents for their valuable contribution to proceedings but they are working alongside a family courts system that is desperately overstretched and unable to work as effectively as children in the system need it to.

“As such, a lot of the delays are a result of issues that are not within the control of individual social workers. Instead of empowering social workers by giving them the support they need to help more children, and instead of aiding a creaking court system, the government continues to distract from the real issues. The idea behind these gimmicky scorecards must surely be to help reverse its declining opinion poll ratings as it manifestly has nothing whatsoever to do with improving adoption performance.”