Adoption UK has helped to secure an additional one million pounds of adoption support funding for families in England.

The minister has written to directors of children’s services, urging them to make better use of match-funding and to guarantee contract renewal for services, “despite ongoing uncertainties around regionalisation”.

The news comes after Adoption UK carried out a survey to find out how the ASF is working for families in England. With more than 1,700 responses to the call for information, the charity discussed the findings with officials at the DfE and used them to develop recommendations for the future of adoption support policy.

Responding to the announcement of the financial boost to the ASF, Adoption UK’s chief executive Dr Sue Armstrong Brown said: “This is good news for adoptive parents across England. The additional £1m is a great start, and whilst more money would be welcome, it shows that our message - that more support is needed - is being heard by government.  This is recognition of the hard work and commitment of our adoptive families, who are caring for some of our most vulnerable children.”

Adoption UK’s survey revealed a quarter of respondents believe the therapeutic support they received through the ASF prevented their child’s placement from disrupting. It was made clear that the ASF addresses a vital need but that much more still needs to be done to secure a future where families parenting some of the country’s most vulnerable children receive the correct support, on a lifelong basis.

One-in-five adopters and prospective adopters responding to the survey said they had decided not to proceed with an adoption because they lacked the confidence that their family would be well supported.

A quarter of respondents did not know about the ASF, while a further 12 percent did not know how to access it. Adoption UK recently released  an updated guide to the ASF, commissioned by DfE, which should help close the information gap, but it is clear that continued effort is required to ensure adopters understand how to access support when they need it.

The results of the survey add considerable weight to existing evidence on the need for timely and appropriate support for adoptive families across the UK - a long-standing campaign priority for Adoption UK.

The survey also revealed that more than two-thirds of respondents believed that although the support they received was welcome, more was required to meet their families needs. The Fair Access Limit (FAL), which limits funds at £5,000 per child, caps individual allocations to ensure the fair access to the majority of adopters approaching the fund for support. Local authorities are able to match-fund any claims higher than the FAL, in cases where there was a high risk of adoption disruption. The survey results highlight the need for more local authorities to provide match-funding where needs outstrip the therapy available using the first tranche of money under the FAL.

In his letter to directors of children’s services, Mr Goodwill writes: “…it remains necessary to keep the fair access limits in place. I want to offer the sector some certainty and confirm that the existing fair access limits – up to £2,500 for specialist assessments and up to £5,000 for therapy...”

Dr Armstrong Brown continued: “Looked-after children’s needs do not disappear overnight with a successful adoption placement and that’s what the ASF recognises. It has become a lifeline for many adoptive families. We know from our engagement with members that broadly one-third of adoptions work well, one-third need some support and help, and one-third are really struggling.

“Support funded by the ASF provides essential therapy, peer support and training interventions to families who need help. The families who are really struggling – that final third – are likely to need a high level of sustained help for a long period of time, putting pressure on the available funding and risking the child’s early trauma not being fully addressed. That’s why we welcome the minister’s direction that local authorities make use of the match funding available from DfE for a higher level of help, for families in crisis.  This is where the focus needs to be, moving forward,” Dr Armstrong Brown added. 

The ASF has provided more than 21,000 adoptive and special guardianship families and over 25,500 children with therapeutic support since it was launched in May 2015.

 You can view the headline results from our ASF survey here.