Some recent research* revealed that almost all councils in England expect to cut spending from April, in order to balance their books following the pressures of 2020.

Children’s social care services are amongst those cited as putting pressure on local authority budgets, and therefore, are at high risk of cuts. Meanwhile, the NSPCC have warned that the return to school will bring with it a spike in referrals to children’s services, because adults in school will be well placed to identify children who have become vulnerable during lockdown. Potentially, services will need to do more with less resource. 

This might not seem immediately relevant to the adoption community, but the extra pressure on social workers is likely to affect the support many of us rely on. A useful analogy is the overwhelming demand on the NHS during the pandemic, with knock-on effects on regular health services.  

My experience as a social worker gives me some insight into what is likely to happen. Children at greatest risk, with the greatest need and with the least protection are going to be front of the queue. Services may well be slower to respond and harder to reach and will be more likely to signpost you elsewhere. Thresholds for accessing services may well be higher. 

But, while the system might have (hopefully temporarily) changed, your child’s needs are still your child’s needsSo, the big question becomes, what should families be doing if they need support from children’s services 

  1. Think about which agency might be best placed provide the support – is it your GP, your school health service, the school, CAMHS, universal services, early help, your adoption service or children’s services. Many charities are well equipped to provide quite specialist support, so depending on your child’s needs consider the voluntary sector. If you’re not sure, you can always call our Helpline to talk it through.  
  2. In asking for help, advice or services, be explicit about what you are asking for. You are the experts in your child. The more clearly you can state your child’s needs, the more likely you are to get a tailored response. Write it down. Talk it through with someone before you make that call/send that email.  
  3. Advocate for your child by referencing their rights. Most of us aren’t sure what those rights are! The NSPCC has a useful guide: Adopted children have very particular rights, which vary from nation to nation within the UK. Give our Helpline a call for more info.  
  4. Reach out to us. Adoption UK is here for the whole community, through our support services, our community groups, our webinars, our training provision and our Helpline. 

We would love to be able to promise you that the surge in demand for children’s services will not affect adoptive families. But, in reality, it probably will, and it’s best for us all to be prepared to weather this hard patch.  

Author: Eleanor Howarth, AUK’s Director of Service Delivery  

*Local government finance in the pandemic - National Audit Office (NAO) Report