The Shadow Children's Minister Catherine McKinnell said in a Westminster Hall debate on adoption:
I am concerned that naming and shaming local authorities seriously risks painting too simplistic a picture of an incredibly complex issue. Have Ministers considered what impact the threat of tough action against those local authorities will have on the morale, recruitment and retention of already overstretched social workers?
The Government’s performance tables risk failing to present a true picture of a local authority’s performance. Hackney borough council came bottom of the new league table, placing only 43% of children with adoptive parents within 12 months of a decision to do so. However, as Hackney borough council stated:
“Placing a child quickly should not be the only consideration upon which authorities are judged. A placement breaking down is one of the most traumatic things that can happen to an adopted child. In Hackney, we have one of the best records of stability of placements; such is the quality of our placements, hardly any, if any, ever break down.”
The logic of keeping social worker failing secret is that we should never have heard about Baby Peter on the grounds that it must have harmed the morale of the social workers in Haringey. Come to that they would also keep Ofsted reports and exam results secret so that teachers morale in failing scchools was not hit.
So far as Hackney is concerned there is an argument for a particular child remaining in care rather than being placed for adoption. But the league table mentioned is about cases where that is not the decision. It is about cases where even the social workers of Hackney have accepted that an adoption placement is the right option for a child but that after a year later only 43% had been placed. Not only is that the worst performance in the country, it is the worst by a long way. Hackney is the only council where most children had still not been placed over a year after the decision was made.
It is true that in other respects they do better. Their Looked After Children are not shunted around from one foster carer to another as frequently as elsehwere and that is shown in other league table. But on adoption they are doing very badly and shoould be doing much better. It is no good them shooting the messenger. Nor should the Shadow Children's Minister being making excuses for them.