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Volume 546: debated on Monday 18 June 2012

The Government have published an action plan for adoption, which aims to reduce delays in adoption by legislating to prevent local authorities from spending too long seeking a perfect adoptive match, by accelerating the assessment process for prospective adopters, and by making it easier for children to be fostered by their likely eventual adopters in certain circumstances. We have also introduced an adoption scorecard to focus attention on the issue of timeliness, linked to a tougher intervention regime.

I thank the Minister for his reply. I have written to him twice about two constituents who have been trying desperately to be considered as adopters—not by Leicestershire county council, but by another midlands authority. This authority has consistently thrown up hurdle after hurdle—such as asking for health tests, and raising the issue of lack of child care experience. The latest hurdle involved the lady’s ex-husband and this meant disclosing her address to him because he was apparently needed to give a reference. These sorts of hurdles are only going to slow down the process, so will the Minister assure us all that those hurdles can be got rid of?

My hon. Friend raises some points that are all too common. I have been deluged with similar stories from other prospective adopters up and down the country. We need to make it absolutely clear that we absolutely welcome people who come forward because they are interested in offering a safe, loving and stable home for a child in care who needs to be adopted. The adoption scorecards have contextualised data on them so that we can see how well local authorities are welcoming, retaining and converting prospective adopters into actual adopters. That provides important evidence to make sure that every local authority welcomes adopters with open arms.