Adoption UK welcomes the news that children are spending less time in care before being adopted, as revealed in official figures from the Department for Education.

The latest Adoption Leadership Board data shows the time children are spending in care before being adopted is down by four months. Children were waiting 22 months in the period between April and June 2016, compared to 18 months in the following quarter.

The data also shows that fewer children are waiting to be adopted. As of 30 September 2016 there were 2,030 children and young people with placement orders waiting for an adoptive family. This compares with 2,190 as of 30 June 2016.

It is also taking less time for would-be adopters to be approved, with 29 per cent being approved within six months of registration compared with a quarter in January to March 2016. But the speed at which adopters are matched with children is still declining. In January to March 2014, 80 per cent of matches occurred within six months of adopters being approved, compared with 43 per cent in July to September 2016.

Adoption UK chief executive Dr Sue Armstrong Brown said: "The fact that children are spending less time in care before being adopted is really encouraging. We know that the sooner children find permanence in their adoptive home, back with their birth families, or in long-term care plans, the better their outcomes.

"We need to keep a close eye, however, on the time it is taking to approve adopters, and gain a better understanding of why it's taking relatively longer to gain approved adopter status now, than it was in 2013/14."

Adoption UK is also concerned about a decline in the recruitment of potential adopters. Dr Armstrong Brown continued: "This autumn the number of children needing an adoptive home may outnumber those coming forward to provide that home. Clearly we need to do more to recruit potential adopters, as well as speed up approvals, whilst retaining the rigorous assessment that's part of that process."

The Adoption Leadership Board figures also show that a total of 1,060 children were adopted in July to September 2016, slightly down on the previous quarter (1,070), and that the number of new placement orders has almost halved from 1,630 between July and September 2013, to 830 in the same period of 2016.

Both falls are linked to the impact of the September 2013 Re B-S judgement, which indicated that local authorities need to show the courts that all alternatives to adoption were considered before seeking an adoption order.