26 January 2017 

The existing Fair Access Limit of £5,000 per child for therapy accessed through the Adoption Support Fund (ASF), will continue into the next financial year (2017/18). And a separate amount of up to £2,500 will be offered to children who require a specialist assessment before therapy can begin.

The Fair Access Limit (FAL), which was introduced in October 2016, requires local authorities to share the costs of support above £5,000, through a match-funding approach. This measure was introduced because demand for support is more than double the level forecast.

Its continuation was announced in a letter from the Children’s Minister Edward Timpson to Directors of Children’s Services.

In his letter, dated 25th January 2017, Mr Timpson writes: "There has been wide acceptance across the sector that continuing to operate the Fund with no limits in place is unsustainable, and a general consensus that the introduction of the fair access limit and the match-funding approach ensures a consistent offer for families. It enables those with the greatest needs to access additional support and encourages smarter commissioning."

More than 12,500 families have received therapeutic support since the ASF launched nationwide in May 2015. The budget for 2017-18 is £28m, more than 20% higher than the money set aside during this financial year (£23m).

The average spend per child remains under £4,000 and the majority of applications made so far fall within the new £5,000 fair access limit. But there are a small number of cases where the needs of the child and their family are much greater.

In his letter, Mr Timpson sets out his proposal to offer a separate amount of up to £2,500 for children who require  a for a specialist assessment before therapy can begin.

Mr Timpson writes: "We recognise that the cost of a specialist assessment can make a significant dent in the funding available for their therapy. So, for 2017-18, we propose to offer a separate amount of up to £2,500 for a specialist assessment when children need it before therapy can begin. This will be in addition to the existing £5,000 fair access limit per child for therapy."

The Minister also confirmed that the future operating model for the ASF will be developed alongside the regionalisation of adoption support agencies, taking an iterative approach to design, delivery and continuous improvement over the next three years as RAAs emerge and mature. 

The 2020 vision for the ASF is:

  • the delivery of excellent, timely and easily accessible therapeutic support for adoptive and special guardianship families;
  • based on high quality assessment of need including, where necessary, health-led specialist assessments; and
  • in a regionalised, integrated health and social care environment to ensure long term sustainability.