Families in England can benefit from a new Government initiative to encourage more would-be parents to adopt children. Sarah Wyburn asks why the scheme isn’t happening in Wales
This summer, the Adoption Support Fund – a £20m fund to provide training for would-be adoptive parents and therapy for children – was rolled out in ten local authorities in England. If the trial is deemed successful then, in June 2015, the scheme will be made available across England.
As a specialist family law firm, we regularly deal with cases involving adoption, and based on that experience I think the fund is a great idea. From what I see myself on a day-to-day basis, there is definitely a growing need for better training for parents and greater availability of help for children, in order to encourage more successful adoptions. Anything that helps people make the most of their exciting new family relationship is to be encouraged.
However, I am concerned that the scheme so far has only talked about England. As currently planned, the Fund will cover children aged up to 18 (or 25 with a statement of special educational needs) who have either been adopted from local authority care in England, or who are being adopted in England from local authority care in Wales. At the time of writing, there is no provision for children being adopted in Wales to be eligible to receive any of this funding.
The pilot scheme was announced earlier this year, around the same time that it was confirmed Wales would be getting its own National Adoption Service, an umbrella body made up of local government and voluntary sector organisations which co-ordinates the activities of Welsh adoption agencies. The new NAS Cymru launched in November, and I was expecting the Adoption Support Fund to provide a major plank in the support structure to be offered to parents and families by the new service.
I had sincerely hoped that by now, there would have been an announcement of some sort explaining how the fund will be implemented in Wales, or giving a timetable for the launch on this side of Offa’s Dyke, or even at the very least confirming whether the fund will ever be available in Wales at all.
Instead, as Christmas approaches, we are disappointed that there has been no news concerning the fund in Wales. We echo the concerns of he Association of Directors for Social Services, whose Phil Evans told the BBC earlier this year:
“If there’s too great a difference between England and Wales then we may lose potential adopters for Welsh children and we can’t allow that to happen. We need to understand why the offer in England seems to be better.”
I have nothing but admiration for the work currently being done by NAS Cymru and by everyone involved in adoption services in Wales, who are doing a sterling job even without this much-needed injection of additional funds. I do, however, believe it is unfair that families and children in Wales are at such an apparent disadvantage, and so I hope to be able to report some more positive news on this issue before too much longer.
Sarah Wyburn is a Director with Wendy Hopkins Family Law Practice, Wales’ largest and longest-established specialist family law firm.
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