Today’s budget marked a real opportunity for the government to fully commit to their promises to radically overhaul children’s social care and to make vital improvements in the adoption system so that every child has the right to thrive. Sadly, there was no financial commitment to do so. Instead, the Chancellor focused this budget on tax cuts.

Concessions for the sector include 35 new special free schools, which the Treasury claim will offer an additional 2,000 SEND places and greater choice for parents. This builds on a programme of increasing the number of special schools announced back in 2020, although progress on this has been labelled as ‘sluggish’.

Also announced, the location of the 20 Alternative Provision (AP) free schools, which will create over 1,600 additional AP places across England. This had formed part of the government’s Spending Review 2021 commitment.

The recent review of children’s social care in England highlighted the huge problem of profiteering in the children’s home market. Today, the government announced £45M in match funding to local authorities to build an additional 200 open children’s home placements, and £120 million to fund the maintenance of the existing secure children’s home estate and rebuild Atkinson Secure Children’s Home and Swanwick Secure Children’s Home. It is hoped this will ‘reduce local government reliance on costly emergency provision and improve outcomes for children by providing them with more suitable placements.’

Despite these measures, today’s announcement will disappoint many across the education and social care sectors. Aside from vague commitments on efficiency savings in public services, there was little to give local authorities or schools confidence they can offer children and young people the support they so desperately need.

Whilst there has been some significant progress in the adoption sector, primarily through the regionalisation of adoption agencies and steps to standardise support and improve practice, adoptive families are still struggling. Last year, over a third of adoptive families said they faced severe challenges or were at crisis point and three quarters reported a constant battle to get the support they needed. Adult adoptees reported feeling abandoned by authorities with very few being able to access support.

The Department for Education’s latest statistics show that 80 percent of children who were adopted last year suffered neglect and abuse in their early years. Adoption remains a vital option for children who cannot live with their birth family or wider family network, and evidence is clear that adoption offers better outcomes than other forms of care.

Today’s budget – the last before the next General Election is announced – was yet another missed chance to improve the lives of vulnerable children and young people. At a time when so many young people are battling a mental health crisis, the government needed to take urgent action. Six in ten of 16 – 25-year-old adoptees last year sought help with their mental health, and were twice as likely not to be in education, employment or training than their non adopted peers.

Adoption UK is calling on government for all teachers and mental health professionals in schools to be trained in trauma, for a permanent Adoption and Special Guardianship Adoption Fund; and for an ambitious programme of support for adult adoptees, including with tracing and reunion, and access to therapy. We also support calls for greater and urgent investment in the support given kinship carers, building on the promise of the National Kinship Strategy.