Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020

Q1. Please could you a) provide a statement of the overarching approach that you have taken to utilising the legislative flexibilities provided by the The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 and b) confirm who signed this off within both the local authority and any providers that you commission to run children’s social care services?

Adopt South West have welcomed the flexibility made available with the regulations amendments as regards adoptions services, but decision was taken by service manager to only use them if necessary, and this was supported by the Operational board of Adopt South West

Q2. With reference to the need to record any use of the legislative flexibilities provided by the The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 as well as the ‘reasons for doing so’ and ‘local circumstances that have given arise to the need to use the flexibilities’ – as set out in the Government’s Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for children’s social care services as per 6 May 2020 – please confirm how many of each specific flexibility has been utilised in total and in each month since the regulations came into force, and summarise the reasons and local circumstances which made the use of each type of flexibility necessary?

In response to the queries raised, we can confirm the following questions and answers in response:

Can we move to stage 2 of the adopter assessment process without having completed the health assessment or having disclosure and barring service (DBS) clearance?
We expect adoption agencies to take a common sense, risk-based approach during this unprecedented period. If prospective adopters would like to proceed to stage 2 and local authorities are happy to proceed without the health assessment and/or DBS clearance, they should do so as long as these checks are completed before the end of stage 2.
Currently adopters who are turned down in stage 1 because of DBS check or the health assessment cannot apply to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM). Prospective adopters will still not be able to access the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) if the reasons they are determined not suitable to adopt are linked to either their health assessment or their DBS check.

Further information is available online at  COVID19 guidance for local authorities

In May 2020 – 4 applicants to become adopters moved from stage 1 of the application process to Stage 2 of the process without a full medical report having been completed.
June 2020 – 2 – Applicants
July 2020– 2 – Applicants

Must we continue to use adoption panels for matching and approvals?
We know that agencies are utilising technology and holding virtual panels and the feedback is that these are working well. We would encourage these to continue where possible. However, we have listened to the concerns raised by the sector about the challenges of bringing together panels for matching and approvals due to sickness or other reasons.
We have, therefore, removed the legal requirement to have an adoption panel (regulation 4). These changes offer agencies flexibility to reduce the quoracy of their panels or to use their agency decision maker to approve matches and approvals and the agency adviser for quality assurance without first going to panel.
To date Adopt South West haven’t used the flexibility as regards panels and have continued with business as usual. We welcome the flexibility continuing as we may have cause to use it if there is a spike in Covid cases and it impacts on staffing capacity or panel quoracy.

In your answer, please include both the specific regulation that has been utilised and a description of the flexibility (it may be helpful to make reference to the Children’s Commissioner for England’s summary of each of the regulations), and, as far as possible, present the information as per the following table:

We should clarify that the regulations referred to below apply to fostering not adoption.

 

RegulationDescription of flexibilityTotal number of usesNumber of uses in MayNumber of uses in JuneSummary of reasons and local circumstances
Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulation 23An emergency placement with an approved foster carer can now last 24 weeks, rather than 6 days, even if that foster carer is eg not approved to look after that many childrenXXXXXXE.g. Shortage of foster carers and inability to recruit more

Q3. What information relating to your use of the legislative flexibilities provided by the The Adoption and Children (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 has been a) requested by or b) provided to Ofsted, and what, if any, further action are you aware of Ofsted taking in response?

Information has been shared with the Department of Education, but Adopt South West has received no request from Ofsted to provide this information.