Memorandum from the Local Government Association

Adoption and Children Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 20 November 2001.

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INTRODUCTION

This briefing outlines the key issues for local government in the adoption and children bill. The bill sets out a range of proposals to improve the adoption service, which will continue to be provided by local authorities, making the welfare of the child paramount and avoiding delay. It builds upon measures set out in the white paper Adoption—a new approach and in the Bill introduced in the last session.

As the national voice for local communities, the LGA speaks for nearly 500 local authorities, representing over 50 million people and spending £65 billion a year on local services. The LGA has been established to promote the case for democratic local communities which are prosperous, safe, healthy and environmentally sustainable, and which provide equality of opportunity for all.

Social services authorities provide adoption and permanence services in accordance with the Adoption Act 1976 and the Children Act 1989. The LGA welcomes the Adoption and Children Bill and is committed to improving the quality of life for children and young people for whom adoption is the best plan. Local authorities have a key role in finding permanent families for children who cannot live with their birth families. Local authorities also provide services to step parents wishing to adopt, and to those adopting from abroad. Local authorities are increasing the proportion of looked after children adopted—from 2,000 to 2,700 in 1999-2000. Local authorities with Public Service Agreements have set themselves stretching targets to achieve on adoption.

It is vital that the new duties for local government are adequately resourced, and that targets and standards are realistic and achievable. Much of the detail will be left to regulation and guidance e.g. adoption allowances. These are not simply technical matters and we seek assurances that there will be proper time for consultation.