New government must follow up on manifesto promise to support adoption with clear plans to invest in lifelong support for adoptees

News / Sat 6th Jul 2024 at 09:54am

THURSDAY’S General Election saw Labour return to power after 14 years in opposition. This holds a significant opportunity for the party to set out how it will deliver on its manifesto commitment to ‘support children in care, including through kinship, foster care, and adoption’.  

Adoption UK research shows higher numbers of adoptive families face crisis than ever before, and adult adoptees face a complete absence of support. Most adoptees today will have experienced trauma, neglect and abuse and yet many cannot access the support they need. 

Responding to the election results, Adoption UK’s Chief Executive, Emily Frith said:  

“This government has a mandate for radical change, and children’s social care is crying out for a fresh approach. We need a commitment to a social care system which keeps families together but is there for every child who is unable to grow up with their birth parents, throughout their lives. 

This government must deliver the reforms needed to ensure adopted people and others with care experience are given an equal chance in life.

We need greater accountability in the system, and faster and wider reform – particularly around maintaining relationships with birth families, and therapeutic support for all adoptees.” 

Labour has also promised some wide-ranging reforms on education, one of the most pressing issues for young adopted people.  Commitments include 6,500 new ‘expert’ teachers, an overhaul of the curriculum, and a guarantee to help all 18-21 year olds with work or training. Its plans on improvements to the SEN system, widely criticised by the sector as not going far enough, include ensuring schools co-operate with Local Authorities on SEND inclusion, and that special schools cater to those with the most complex needs. 

The vast majority (79%) of adopted children say they routinely feel confused and worried at school, and adopted young people are more than twice as likely not to be in education, employment or training (NEET) (29%) compared to their peers. Adoption UK will therefore be pressing new ministers to consider including training for teachers in the needs of those who are care-experienced when updating the Early Career Framework, alongside a review of the challenges of school attendance among this cohort. 

In light of a mental health crisis among young people, Labour is promising to provide access to specialist mental health professionals in every school and drop-in mental health support in local hubs, alongside a commitment to recruit more staff and bring down waiting times. Adoption UK research shows that last year in England alone, just over half of 16-25- year-olds had accessed or attempted to access mental health services during 2023. The charity will be pressing the new government to ensure mental health support workers have specialist training in the needs of those with care experience, including experience of trauma and attachment disorders. 

Other commitments made by the incoming party include a review of the parental leave system within the first year in government. This will be an opportunity for Adoption UK and others to ramp up the campaign to equalise the pay and leave entitlements for self-employed adopters and kinship carers. Research shows the lack of any allowance for self-employed adopters negatively impacts the time they can spend bonding with their children in the vital early months of placement, as well as acting as a deterrent to prospective self-employed adopters. 

Adoption UK vows to continue its work with the Department for Education and ministers across Whitehall to highlight the realities of modern adoption. As well as specialist training for education and health professionals, the charity will be calling on the new government to deliver improvements in the Adoption and Special Guardianship Support Fund as well as a programme of support for adult adoptees to include counselling, specialist support accessing records and improved intermediary services for tracing and reunion.  

With commitments in the Labour manifesto to address certain historical injustices, Adoption UK will be calling on the new government to issue a state apology to those affected by the barbaric practices of Historic Forced Adoptions in the late 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s.  

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