A report from the Executive Director – People is attached. (Key decision – reference number 4814)
(7.20 – 7.30 pm)
Councillor Achilleas Georgiou (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services) introduced the report of the Executive Director – People (No.185) seeking approval to formally join the Adopt London North Regional Adoption Agency.
1. That this followed an initial report that had been considered by Cabinet in November 2016 when it had been agreed in principle to join a London Regional Adoption Agency subject to further detailed work, as set out in the report.
2. The proposal to create a Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) for “Adopt London North” combining the adoption services for the North London Boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey and Islington. It was proposed that the London Borough of Islington would host the Regional Adoption Agency.
3. A decision to formally join the Adopt London North Regional Adoption Agency was now required; it was anticipated that the go live date would be 1 July 2019. All local authorities were expected to become part of a RAA by April 2020.
4. The detailed work which had been undertaken by the local authorities involved in developing the proposals going forward for Adopt London North RAA as set out in the report. The anticipated strategic benefits from the establishment of the RAA were highlighted and discussed.
5. The proposed staffing arrangements for the RAA. The impact on Enfield staff was explained in detail. Enfield would be transferring two members of staff to the RAA as set out in 3.8 of the report.
6. In response to questions raised by Members, Tony Theodoulou (Executive Director – People) provided further clarification on the detailed arrangements, including the following issues. It was explained that the responsible local authority would still be making the decision on whether a child under their responsibility was to be put forward for adoption. The RAA would then approve the adopters for the child. In summary, decisions relating to the child would remain with the responsible local authority and, the decisions on the prospective adopters would transfer to the RAA.
7. The Benefits Diagram, Service Schedule and Governance Chart outlined in Appendices 1, 2 and 3 of the report. Tony Theodoulou (Executive Director – People) would be a member of the Partnership Board. It had not yet been decided whether Councillors would also be members. This issue had been raised for further consideration and determination.
8. A detailed discussion took place on the proposed staffing arrangements, the impact on existing Enfield staff, and how the transfer of staff had been determined. Members were advised of the range of work currently undertaken and the areas of responsibility that would remain within Enfield.
9. The scope and vision of the new regional adoption agency as set out in section 3.2 of the report. Clarification was sought and assurances provided of the work undertaken and principles followed in seeking suitable adoption “matches” in relation to a child’s ethnicity. The processes undertaken were very thorough and detailed; decisions were always taken in the best interests of the child. The legal position in relation to adoption matches was outlined in Members. The RAA would enable the local authorities to pool their resources and number of prospective adopters available. Members were advised of the priority groups for adoption and noted the difficulties experienced in recruiting enough suitable adopters who were willing to adopt the children concerned.
10. In response to a question raised, assurances were provided of the thorough work and consideration given to ethnicity issues. However, it was noted that an element of external scrutiny could be considered and this matter would be fed back to the Partnership Board.
11. Members questioned whether the new arrangements would result in an improvement in waiting times. It was explained that Enfield and North London in general had been strong performers regarding adoption and, it was therefore anticipated that there would be limited improvements. There was no evidence base that a RAA would result in such improvements but was possible within RAAs covering areas where waiting times had previously required improvement.
12. That the RAA would have responsibility for inter-country adoption assessments and post approval and post order support.
13. The significant and valuable work undertaken by members of the Adoption Panel was highlighted and acknowledged. The Cabinet expressed their sincere thanks and appreciation to all those who had been a member of the Adoption Panel in previous years and currently; and, noted the importance of the role and the significant time commitment required.
Alternative Options Considered: NOTED, the alternative options that had been considered as set out in section 4 of the report and summarised below:
· Do nothing – this was not viable as the local authority could risk government intervention.
· Create a new model – there was not the time nor the funding to progress this option.
· Join another regional adoption agency – contact had been made with several other regional adoption agencies as set out in section 4 of the report.
· Creation of a new single entity – this was time consuming and costly and not a preferred option elsewhere with regional adoption agencies already live.
DECISION: Cabinet agreed to
1. Approve the service and financial model for Adopt London North Regional Adoption Agency.
2. Agree to join the Adopt London North Regional Adoption Agency.
Reason: The joining of a regional adoption agency was mandatory by April 2020 and if not progressed there was a risk of government intervention. There were operational benefits to Enfield staying in the consortium that outweigh any of the alternative options detailed in the report (section 5 of the report referred).
(Key decision – reference number 4814)