We have received around 120 replies so far, from 173 English and Welsh councils asked about adoption performance management (including ‘targets’), under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
This is the second stage of research we began late last year into whether, and how, adoption performance management measures (nationally and locally), may be wrongfully affecting council decisions on whether individual children require adoption.
We were concerned about an apparent lack of transparency on adoption ‘targets’; and about the levels of misinformation, mistrust, polarisation and politicisation in this area, with potential risks for public confidence and outcomes for individual children.
We discussed our findings about central government measures to manage the individual ‘performance’ of councils on numbers of children adopted from care here: ‘It’s wrong to measure the success of local authorities in terms of adoption numbers‘. That discussion was later referred to in Dr Fenton Glynn’s report, commissioned by the European Parliament, ‘Adoption without Consent Update 2016’ (at paragraph 2, page 26).
We are now trying to understand how these central government measures actually play out at local level, for example through ‘interventions’, the adoption reform grant and local performance management strategies, including key performance indicators (or ‘targets’).
With respect to adoption performance (in particular numbers of children adopted from care), we have asked councils for information and data about:
• Any individual targets set for them by central Government
• Individual responses from central Government to their own adoption performance
• Any direct financial benefit from numbers of children adopted
• How their particular Adoption Reform Grant (ARG) amount was determined
• The report they were obliged to send to the DfE to account for non-ring-fenced ARG spend and adoption progress 2013/14
• Their local adoption performance management systems including key performance Indicators (KPIs)
• Any direct financial benefit to council employees from numbers of children adopted
We are now analysing a vast amount of information received, before writing up the results. Some last responses are also still trickling in.
Just three councils have declined the entire request, on the basis of cost and proportionality. We are optimistic about the outcome of requests for ‘internal review’ of those decisions, given so many other councils have found the request proportionate. We have received full and transparent responses from many councils.
We are still chasing those councils who haven’t yet replied, other than to acknowledge our request. We are also part way through around 30 requests for ‘internal review’ of decisions not to disclose the 2013/2014 mandatory report to the DfE that account for non ring-fenced adoption reform grant spend and adoption ‘progress’ (Grant Usage Statements and Interim Progress Reports).