The cash will instead be given to councils in the form of a one-year “adoption reform grant”. Of this, £50m will be ringfenced to “incentivise” local authorities to find more adopters, particularly parents willing to take children who are more difficult to place.
The remaining £100m of the £150m will not be ringfenced, but local authorities will be expected to spend it on supporting adoption reform, including the “major backlog” of more than 4,000 children that the Department for Education says are waiting to be adopted.
Councils that fail to tackle the “chronic shortage” in potential adopters risk having their entire adoption service forcibly outsourced, under legislation that the government intends to introduce at the earliest possible opportunity.
The proposed new legal power would allow the Secretary of State to force local authorities to commission their adoption recruitment and approval services from private or voluntary sector organisations.
Timpson said: “There are more than 4,000 children waiting to be adopted nationally but year-on-year local authorities are not recruiting enough people to give them stable and loving homes. We cannot stand by whilst children’s futures hang in the balance.”
“Some local authorities are already doing a good job to recruit the adopters they need in their area – but not enough is being done to address the national shortage.”
“We have set out our vision of how we expect local authorities together with voluntary adoption agencies to respond to the needs of all children waiting for adoption. Local authorities must now demonstrate that they are up to the challenge, or we won’t hesitate to intervene.”
But Helen Dent, chief executive of the charity Family Action warned that spending more money on adoption while cutting funds for early intervention is “like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted”.
“Adoption has a place in the system and may need reform. However it is nonsensical for the government to shift spending away from the Early Intervention Grant to speed up adoption services,” she said.
“ Early intervention saves money and has a proven track record of effectively nipping family problems in the bud and its purpose is to prevent family breakdown.”