plans to create a faster adoption process are not “a Prime Ministerial flash in the pan”. David Cameron insisted yesterday.
Addressing a group of parents who have adopted children or begun the adoption process, the Prime Minister said the priority was to give youngsters the chance to grow up in a loving home, regardless of their ethnicity.
He said: “I promise this isn’t a Prime Ministerial flash in the pan – I’ve made this an issue and I’m going to keep coming back to it.”
Speaking at South Acton Children’s Centre in south west London where he met parents and adoptive children, Mr Cameron said: “I was at an adoption centre in October, I’m back here now in March and, as Arnold Schwarznegger said, ‘I’ll be back’ because I really want to keep chasing this issue and make sure we do all the things necessary, including primary legislation.
“I want to make sure speed and getting things done quickly is what matters, rather than ethnicity and other issues.”
Full details of the shake-up are due to be published next week by Education Secretary Michael Gove – who last month criticised “misguided” efforts to insist on same-race matches.
Despite guidance issued last year, some local authorities were still putting their belief in finding “a perfect match” ahead of the children’s interests, Mr Gove, himself adopted, said.
But although the Government said it would introduce the changes “as soon as possible”, officials would give no commitment to the changes being made before 2015.
The Adoption and Children Act 2002 says a child’s welfare should always be the “paramount consideration” but requires “due consideration to the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background”.
Revised statutory guidance was issued last year in a bid to reduce delays faced by ethnic minority children but ministers believe it has failed to have a big enough impact.
“Now we will go further and will bring forward primary legislation at the next available opportunity. We want to make it clearer that ethnic matching should not automatically be an overriding consideration in the matching process,” a Number 10 spokeswoman said.
Secondary legislation is expected to be used to make it easier for children to be placed with foster carers who are also approved adopters – and who can take them in permanently.
While the fostering and adoption processes would remain separate, Number 10 said, enabling the sort of cross-over employed by some areas should reduce disruption for youngsters.
Martin Narey, the Government’s adviser on adoption who previously headed children’s charity Barnardo’s, said he was “delighted at the urgency” being shown by ministers.
The moves were welcomed by the NSPCC but it warned against making speed the prime focus.
Chief executive officer Andrew Flanagan said: “The most important outcome for any child is to have a safe, secure and loving home environment, whether that is through fostering, adoption or being reunited with their birth family or other permanent option.”
He also noted that adoption accounted for only a small minority of cases and called for urgent attention to the risk of children being abused after being returned from care to birth families.
“We hope the Government’s broader children in care strategy due in the summer will set out how improvements will be made across the care system.”