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Volume 457: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills which inspection regimes monitor local authorities’ activities regarding adoption. (124530)

The Commission for Social Care Inspection is required to inspect local authorities’ adoption services in England, in line with the regulatory framework set by Government. All local authorities’ adoption services must be inspected a minimum of at least once every three years. This function transfers to the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills on 1 April 2007.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what targets have been set for local authorities by central Government regarding adoption; and when each target was introduced. (124532)

The Government have set a number of targets on adoption, in particular to increase the numbers of looked after children who are adopted from care.

The following target was included in the Department of Health publication “Improvement, Expansion and Reform: The Next Three Years (Priorities and Planning Framework 2003-2006)”:

“Maintain current levels of adoption placement stability (as measured by the proportion of placements for adoption ending with the making of an adoption order) so that quality is not compromised whilst increasing the use of adoption as follows:

By 2004-05 increase by 40 per cent. the number of looked after children who are adopted, and aim to exceed this by achieving, if possible, a 50 per cent. increase by 2006, up from 2,700 in 1999-2000. All councils will bring their practice up to the current level of the best performers.

By 2004-05 increase to 95 per cent. the proportion of looked after children placed for adoption within 12 months of the decision that adoption is in the child's best interests, up from 81 per cent. in 2000-01, and maintain this level (95 per cent.) up to 2006, by locally applying the timescales in the National Adoption Standards, taking account of the individual child’s needs.”

The period during which this target operated came to an end in March 2006.

In addition, in 2004, the following Department for Education and Skills Public Service Agreement target was introduced:

“To narrow the gap in educational achievement between looked after children and their peers, and improve their educational support and the stability of their lives, so that by 2008, 80 per cent. of children under 16 who have been looked after for 2.5 or more years will have been living in the same placement for at least two years, or are placed for adoption.”

No individual targets have been set by central Government for local authorities, though some authorities have chosen to develop targets as part of the local area agreement/local public service agreement process. Individual local area agreements are published by the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA).