Agenda item

Vale, Valleys & Cardiff Regional Adoption Service Annual Report 2019/20

To enable Members to review the Annual Report of the Regional Adoption Service for 2019-20


The Committee received a copy of the Vale, Valleys & Cardiff (VVC) Regional Adoption Collaborative Annual Report 2019/2020 which covers the period 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. The report brings together into one document a review and analysis of the activities of the Collaborative, together with a number of performance measures which monitor performance in relation to the key stages in the adoption process for children, with particular emphasis upon the overall timeliness of the process. The report also provides the annual review of the service as required by Regulation 22 of the Local Authority Adoption Service (Wales) Regulations 2007 and section 15 (c) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (joint Adoption Arrangements) (Wales) Direction 2015.


The Chairperson welcomed Councillor Graham Hinchey (Cabinet Member for Children & Families), Angela Harris (Regional Adoption Manager) and Deborah Driffield (Assistant Director, Children’s Services) to the meeting.


Councillor Hinchey made a statement in which he confirmed it was the VVC 5th Annual Report.  There are positives but there are also ongoing challenges within the service to meet the ever increasing demands for adoption services.


Members were invited to comment, seek clarification, or raise questions on the information received. Those discussions are summarised as follows:



Members discussed the down ward trend in referrals against a rising number of children looked after.  They noted that that trend was part of the national trend and whilst there was a decrease in the making of Placement Orders it is not necessarily to do with a reduction in the number of Children Looked After, it is about authorities considering other alternatives such as Kinship or Special Guardianship Orders.



Members queried the reasoning behind the choice to attend the various different engagement events.  Members were advised that the benefits of the VVC having its own Marketing Officer are now being realised. The reasons for contact and for not progressing any applications are collated and being used to inform the recruitment practise and marketing.  The various events attended have now ceased due to the pandemic, however, digital platforms are now being used, an area which is being developed and there is a greater knowledge base as to where prospective adopters come from the areas that need to be targeted.   There is also a national campaign ongoing; there was a recent news item about single adopters which was very informative.


Members also discussed the age profile of prospective adopters and whether there is a role for real grass roots involvement in the advertising campaign. Whilst every effort is made to attract local adopters the current pandemic has made grass root involvement much more difficult.  The idea is to keep as many children as possible in the region.



Members discussed the additional pressures on the team as a result of the pandemic and how they were coping.  Members were advised that staff have been working virtually since March 2020. In terms of placement of children NAS developed a national risk assessment process.  Initially, no placements were undertaken, but once the process was established the placement process was resumed.  It is a lengthy process and requires a lot of cooperation from all parties.  In terms of the recruitment process a risk assessment was developed; partly virtually and partly face to face.

The service is also involved in Adoption Support, there was a spike in referrals in Quarter 2 – after lockdown and when children returned to school.  Staff have adapted well to the new ways of working, services, training and support groups have taken place online; the service has found that families have participated more because they can attend virtual meetings. In relation to adopters, the team are due to approve 49 adopters by the end of Quarter 3.



Members asked, as Cardiff is part of the VVC collaboration, whether Cardiff had any specific characteristics or whether the same issues and patterns were shared.  Members were advised that VVC is the largest collaboration in Wales with two of the largest authorities; Cardiff and RCT and two of the smallest.  There are differences but in terms of practice there is a lot of consistency.  Cardiff provides the most work, it has a very diverse population, both in the children and the adopters coming forward.  One of the difficulties is that it is not always possible to place children in Cardiff, so we try and encourage placements from further afield but within the region. 


Members were advised that one of the services provided by the Regional Adoption Service is that they service Cardiff’s Adoption Panel.  There is no longer a legal requirement for there to be an Adoption Panel, however, it was decided that the Panel would continue, there is an agency decision maker (Chair), agency advisor, a legal advisor, social workers and managers. The whole Panel makes the decision, it is right and proper that that Panel remains even though it is no longer a requirement.  It is a heavy decision to make.


Members also noted that the Assistant Director and the Regional Adoption Manager are the decision makers in terms of the matching process during Covid.  Every situation is risk assessed to ensure the children are safe, their birth parents are safe, the prospective adopters are safe and the foster carers are safe.  It is a very complicated process and a good example of collaborative working.


Adoption is a specialist area of work, there was a degree of trepidation when the collaborative work began.  However, it has proved to be invaluable.



Members asked about the additional support provided and consultation with young people during Covid.  Members were referred to Connected, run by Adoption UK.  As part of investment monies provided by Welsh Government to improve adoption support, regions were required to recruit a children and young people co-ordinator who supports young people within the regions and inputs into those groups.  Prior to lockdown the co-ordinator was attending 3 groups a month.  Now the groups are run online.  The aim of the service is to reach more young people who might benefit from such support and the Co-ordinator’s key role is to promote the service across the region. Engagement with children and young people has increased because of social media and online meetings, the meetings are less scary.



Members discussed the information provided in relation to the average expenditure per child being greater in the Vale of Glamorgan and whether that was a positive or negative.  It was noted that the graphs relate to adoption support packages because the VVC does not have a budget of its own.  The VVC carries out the assessment and then the assessment and referral go to the individual authority to make the decision about support.  The varying amounts relate to the type of support required; some can be quite costly. 


AGREED: that the Chairperson, on behalf of the Committee, writes to the Cabinet Member conveying the observations of the Committee when discussing the way forward.


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