Some of the main UK political parties have now published their manifestos ahead of next month’s general election.

So, what do they say about supporting families?

We look past broadband, Brexit and “oven-ready deals” to inspect their plans in key areas for adoptive families.*

Read our analysis below.

Conservative Labour Liberal Democrat
Education

Reaffirming their support for headteachers use of exclusions and expanding their programme to help schools learn from one another about behaviour management. Also, reaffirmed belief in Ofsted’s capacity to improve standards and behaviour.

Expand alternative provision for those who have been excluded and deliver more school places for children with SEND. 

Investing nearly £2 billion in further education.

Create a new National Skills Fund worth £3 billion over the next Parliament. This will include match-funding individuals for high-quality education and training, helping to transform the lives of people who have not got on the employment ladder or lack qualifications.

Bring free schools and academies back under local authority control, abolish Ofsted (transferring responsibilities to another body) and end ‘high stakes’ testing by scrapping SATs.

Remove perverse incentives for schools to off-roll by making them accountable for outcomes of those who leave their roll.

Increase funding for further education colleges and reinstate the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

Provide funding for schools to deliver mandatory LGBT+ inclusive relationships and sex education.

Maximum class sizes of 30 in primary schools and increased non-contact hours for teachers.

End fragmentation of school system and reinstate local accountability, in the hope this will end unfair admissions and off-rolling of SEND pupils.

Scrap SATS and replace existing league tables with a broader set of indicators which include student wellbeing and social and emotional development.

End SEND crisis with cash boost for local authorities, invest £1 billion in further education and triple early years’ pupil premium.

Ensure all schools have the training to identify mental health issues and can provide access to counselling and develop a whole school approach to mental wellbeing.

Health

£34 billion a year in additional funding for health and social care services by the end of the next Parliament.

Treat mental health with the same urgency as physical health and legislate so that patients suffering from mental health conditions, including anxiety or depression, have greater control over their treatment.

Provide an additional £1.6 million a year to ensure new standards for mental health are enshrined in the NHS constitution ensuring access to treatments is on par with that for physical health conditions.

Look up detention of people with learning disabilities and mental illnesses and independent review of the Mental Health Act.

Improve access to psychological therapies and provide 24/7 crisis service.

The Healthy Young Minds Plan will more than double spending on CAMHS, bringing it to £845 million.

Recruit 3,500 qualified counsellors to guarantee every child access to a school counsellor.

Parity of esteem in terms of resourcing mental and physical health, focusing on early intervention and prevention.

Raise an extra £7 billion in taxes, ringfenced for NHS and social care.

Reform the Health and Social Care Act to deliver a more efficient and joined-up NHS.

Publish a National Wellbeing Strategy, with ministers from all departments responsible for its implementation.

Ringfence funding for mental health and introduce maximum waiting times for children’s services.

Stop the cliff edge for young people transmitting to adult services and ensure uninterrupted care.
Social Care

£1 billion extra funding every year for more social care staff and better infrastructure, technology and facilities.

Provide £74 million over three years for additional capacity in community care settings for those with learning disabilities and autism.

Support people with SEND to access careers, advice, internships and transition into work.

Aim to restore council spending powers to 2010 levels over the lifetime of the next Parliament and will bring a range of local services back in-house.

Protect and build on the Adoption Support Fund (ASF).

Launch a wholesale review of the care system, including kinship care.

Tackle urgent workforce shortages in social care and invest in mental health and preventative services.

Early Years and Wider Family Support

Encourage flexible working and consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to.

Fund more high-quality childcare before and after school, and during holidays i.e. make it more flexible.

Free school meals for all primary school pupils. 

Within 5 years, all 2, 3 and 4-year-olds will be entitled to 30 hours free pre-school education per week and access to additional hours at subsidised, staggered rates.

Giving all workers the right to flexible working and review family-friendly employment rights.

Extending statutory maternity pay from nine to 12 months and increasing paternity leave and pay.

Free school meals for all primary school pupils.

Free, high-quality childcare for children of working parents from nine months.

Justice

Reintroduce the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Back greater disciplinary measures in schools and more funding for youth services to tackle youth offending rates.

Legislate to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online – protecting children from online abuse and harms, protecting the most vulnerable from accessing harmful content.

Set new standards for tackling domestic and sexual abuse and violence and reintroduce the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Acknowledged need for cross-governmental action to reduce impact of ACEs.

Want to pursue a joined-up approach, fostering close relationships between criminal justice agencies with educational authorities and health services.

Improve the mental health support and treatment within the criminal justice system.

Adopt a public health approach to serious violence by restoring community policing and youth services.

The Conservative manifesto broadly follows the vision set out by the Prime Minister in his Queen’s Speech last month, focusing on health, education and policing. The party has taken the opportunity to reinforce its support for headteachers to get tough on behaviour and use exclusions where they feel necessary. This indicates the Timpson Review recommendations may be shelved by a Conservative government. The review adopted recommendations included in AUK's own Equal Chance campaign and we will be working hard to ensure they remain on the next government's agenda. 

Further education has been neglected by successive administrations, so it’s unsurprising to see significant funding pledges in this area from all three parties. All have plans for new adult and continuing education schemes. So, whoever is elected, we are likely to see the most ambitious adult education scheme for two decades.

All three parties have made significant commitments to funding and reforming social care. This is in response to the funding pressures local government is under and the perception that Theresa May’s failure to provide solutions to problems in adult social care cost the Tories their slim majority in 2017. Significant pledges around children’s social care have been made too. For example, delivering more support for young people with special needs.

Labour is the only party to explicitly mention adoption policy in its manifesto, with a promise to “protect and build” the Adoption Support Fund. The fund, which was introduced by the Tories in 2015, was recently extended by the current government until March 2021. But there are concerns about what statutory support will be on offer for adoptive families in England beyond that date. Adoption UK is calling on the next government to make a long-term commitment to delivering the fund.

Labour has also announced a full review of the care system, including kinship care and has taken forward a parliamentary committee recommendation for a national strategy for tackling adverse childhood experiences. Other examples of cross-departmental initiatives include the Conservatives’ proposed National Strategy for Disabled People and the Lib Dems’ National Wellbeing Strategy. No party mentions renewing the current Adoption Strategy and its numerous commitments, which is due to expire at the end of 2020.

Both Labour and the Lib Dems have made generous offers around free childcare provision, following the perceived popularity of the Tories’ policy of 30 hours free for parents of three-to-four-year-olds, introduced in 2015. They have responded to the improved offers from the opposition parties by pledging to make their current offer more flexible to better meet the needs of working parents.

Labour has also announced plans for extending parental leave – an area in which AUK has been campaigning for parity between adoptive and birth parents. It’s not clear at this stage whether the enhanced package promised by Labour will include adoptive families too.

You can read the manifestos in full here:

Conservative   Labour   Liberal Democrat

AUK recently published its own five-point mini manifesto, setting out our own vision for a fit-for-purpose adoption system across the UK

  • Ensure all adopted children have an equal chance in school, starting with trauma and attachment training for all education professionals
  • Guarantee therapeutic support to all adoptive families from the moment their child comes home
  • Provide access to peer support for all adopters
  • Include FASD strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment, with implementation plans and resources, in every UK nation
  • Ensure Northern Ireland’s Adoption and Children Bill finds its way onto the statue book in 2020

*Many of the policy areas covered here are devolved. Therefore, many of the above pledges are only relevant to England.

See December’s Adoption Today magazine for some tips on being ‘election ready’.

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