Plans to redirect £150m of early intervention funding into adoption reform risk reducing frontline services for vulnerable children, the chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) children and young people board has warned.
Graham Allen warned that Sure Start centres could suffer additional cuts. Image: Arlen Connelly
The cash, which has been cut from the Early Intervention Grant to councils, will instead be given to local authorities in the form of a one-year “adoption reform grant”.
David Simmonds argued that the proposals represent a “net reduction in funding for local authorities” that could “significantly impact on frontline services for vulnerable children”. “This could include early intervention services which can help councils identify children that could benefit from adoption at an early stage,” he said.
Graham Allen, Labour MP and chair of the Early Intervention Foundation, argued that funding for adoption must not come at the cost of undermining existing early intervention programmes that help the social and emotional development of all children and young people.
“This is Whitehall taking money from local councils and saying ‘we know best, follow our priorities not your own’,” he said. “So much for localism.
“Councils will have to reduce spending on early intervention programmes. This includes Sure Start, help for babies, short breaks for disabled children and support for families with multiple needs.”
The government has meanwhile announced that it plans to give councils a “last chance” to tackle the “chronic shortage” in potential adopters, or use a proposed new legal power to forcibly outsource their adoption recruitment and approval services.
Simmonds argued that “removing councils from the process of recruiting and screening potential adopters could adversely impact on the very children and potential adoptive parents the government is trying to protect”.
He added: “Parents tell us they value the consistent support that a council social worker offers throughout the process, with many continuing to offer assistance long after the adoption has taken place.
“This move risks creating a disjointed and confusing system that could see potential adopters passed from pillar to post as different agencies become responsible for different parts of the process.”
Debbie Jones, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said councils welcome the challenge to radically increase the capacity of the adoption system.
But she said directors have told ministers that they “strongly oppose” plans to introduce legislation to enable the Education Secretary Michael Gove to outsource local adoption services.
“At a time when more adopters are needed, taking the power away from the largest current supplier of adopters is ill-thought through,” she said.
“This threat is heavy handed and unnecessary. Local authorities should be encouraged to recruit as many suitable adopters as possible, and not do this difficult task with a ministerial ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging over them.
“It will be confusing and demoralising for prospective adopters and local authority adoption staff alike.”
SOURCE: Children & Young People Now