If schools are failing they are being taken over. This morning we learnt that the same will happen to the adoption services of local councils. This is excellent news. In no other area has political correctness been more disastrous. That mentality is deeply ingrained in the social work profession, which is why relying on persuasion would be naive. There were complaints about the Queen's Speech being thin, but if the only thing achieved is a dramatic increase in the number of children taken out of the care system and placed in permanent loving homes, that will mean a thoroughly worthwhile Parliamentary year.
It is no use for poorly performing councils to make excuses. And delays in the courts need to be tackled as well. That is acknowledged by the Government. But this does not explain why some councils perform much better than others.
In The Times this morning, Tim Loughton, the Children’s Minister, says (£):
“Hundreds of children are being let down by delays right across the country and throughout the adoption process. Every month a child waits to be placed there is less chance of finding a permanent and loving home. This cannot go on.
“I make no apology for shining a light on the system to hold local areas to account. I have been clear we won’t hesitate to intervene where the worst delays are not tackled effectively.”
Writing in the same paper, Martin Narey says:
I am an unashamed fan of performance data. No one can run an organisation effectively if they do not have reliable information about how long things take, how much they cost and what difference they make.
That data is particularly useful when one is able to compare one organisation with another. So the response from directors of children’s services and the Local Government Association is both disappointing and worrying, and their pompous plea that “councils simply cannot risk shifting their focus from the quality of placements to the speed of placements” is deeply disingenuous. As I know from many local authority visits, the best local authorities in terms of adoption outcomes are often the quickest, reflecting their grasp of the reality that delay in adoption is so detrimental to the child.
Some councils will perform well on some criteria and badly on others. Hackney, for example, takes an average of 1,017 days to place a child for adoption, but performs strongly on other measures. Only those clearly failing overall will have the service removed and placed with a neighbouring council or charity.
This is an area where the Government are taking the right approach after a terrible record of negligence by the Labour Government. David Cameron, Michael Gove and Tim Loughton should be strongly congratulated.