Adoption scorecards ‘an unwelcome distraction for councils’
By Richard Johnstone | 30 November 2012
Councils have criticised the latest publication of adoption scorecards by the government, warning that the data could lead to ‘misleading’ comparisons between authorities.
The Department for Education today released updated assessments of the performance of every upper-tier and unitary authority in England in reducing delays in the adoption system.
The scorecards, which form part of government attempts to speed up the adoption system by highlighting best practice, rate the performance of every town hall against two targets intended to ensure cases are dealt with quickly.
One indicator measures the average time it takes for a child to go from being taken into care to moving in with his or her adoptive family. This should take no longer than 21 months (639 days).
Another target measures the average time for a local authority to place a child to an adoptive family once a court has formally decided adoption is the best option. This should happen within seven months (213 days).
Today’s scorecards show that the average time for child adoption across England, over the three years from 2009 to 2011, met both these targets. It took children an average 636 days from entering care to being placed in an adoptive home, and 195 days from the decision being made by a judge.
However, a total of 74 authorities are failing on at least one of the measures, the figures show, up from 72 when the scorecards were first published in May. Overall, nearly half (44%, or 10,180) of children entering care had to wait more than 21 months.
Responding to the publication, the chair of the LGA’s children and young people board said the scorecards were ‘simply another layer of bureaucracy that distracts social workers from the vital task of matching children in their care to loving families’.
David Simmonds said local authorities acknowledged the variation in performance across the country and were ‘committed to tackling this’.
However, he added: ‘We are concerned that scorecards fail to provide a sound basis for comparison across local authority areas and risk shifting the focus from the quality of placements onto just the speed at which a child is placed.
‘There is no one-size-fits-all approach to adoption and it would be misleading to simply look at one element of a council’s approach to adoption as this fails to recognise the often differing and complicated circumstances surrounding each and every child.’