Thursday 26 January 2017

DfE Adoption Support Fund announcement - Question & Answer Sheet

Here's a question and answer sheet to clarify any concerns

2017-18 Fair Access Limit (FAL) Question and Answers
Q1 Why have you introduced a separate FAL for specialist assessments?
Following the introduction of the £5k per child FAL in October 2016, concerns were raised about how the cost of a specialist assessment significantly reduced the amount of funding available for therapy. Therefore, to ensure that there is still fair access to therapy we will, from 1 April 2017, provide up to £2,500 as a separate fair access limit for specialist assessments.

Q2 When is it being introduced?
The specialist assessment FAL of up to £2,500 will come into effect on 1 April 2017 alongside the 2017-18 therapy FAL of £5k per child.

Q3 What do you mean by specialist assessment?
A specialist assessment is an in-depth, multi-disciplinary assessment, that includes clinical input. It is not a general assessment of adoption support needs these remain the responsibility of local authorities and are not funded by the ASF.

Q4 Why is the specialist assessment FAL set at £2,500? Is this also per child?
The level was determined following an analysis of the costs of all assessments funded via the ASF since it was launched in May 2015. This is a per child limit, as per the therapy FAL.

Q5 What if my specialist assessment costs more than £2,500?
If it is determined that the cost of the specialist assessment needed for your child/family is above the £2,500 FAL, and there is no reasonable alternative, then an application can be made for match-funding if your circumstances are covered by the match-funding criteria.

Q6 Can I use some of my therapy FAL to supplement my specialist assessment FAL or vice versa?
No. The two FALs are independent of each other.

Q7 If we don't need a specialist assessment FAL can my child's therapy FAL be increased to £7,500?
No. The specialist assessment FAL is being introduced to ensure that those children that do need a specialist assessment are not disadvantaged.

Q8 If we don't use all our £5k therapy FAL this year can it be carried to 2017-18?
No. Funding is for a financial year. A new FAL is available in each financial year. A further £5k for therapy per child will be available from 1 April 2017.

Q9 A child’s assessment is/was in 2016- 17 but their therapy won’t start until 2017-18. What FAL does that child have?
Assuming that an application is made in 2016-17 for the assessment that took place in that year, the child’s FAL is £5k which includes costs for assessment and therapy.
If no therapy is being/has been claimed for in 2016-17 then the Fund will cover assessment costs up to £5k.
The child will have new FALs of £5k for therapy and £2.5k respectively towards any additional specialist assessments within scope of the Fund in 17-18.

Q10 Can the FAL be used for more than one specialist assessment
Yes, as long as the total does not exceed £2,500. If it does, then matched funding arrangements will apply. 

Letter from Edward Timpson Re the Adoption Support fund and RAAs

Please find attached the letter that has been sent to the Heads of Children's Services today.

To: Directors of Children’s Services
The Adoption Support Fund 2017/18
25 January 2017

I wrote to you in October last year setting out why it became necessary to introduce a ‘fair access limit’ of £5,000 per child for the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) and to ask local authorities to share the costs of support over and above that limit through a match-funding approach.

Many of you have already contributed to the costs of supporting our most vulnerable families, ensuring that they continued to receive the support they needed. I wanted to personally thank you for that the families we have spoken to really appreciate the support. Over 12,500 families have received therapeutic support since the Funds launch in May 2015.

There has been wide acceptance across the sector that continuing to operate the Fund with no limits in place is unsustainable, and a general consensus that the introduction of the fair access limit and the match- funding approach ensures a consistent offer for families. It enables those with the greatest needs to access additional support and encourages smarter commissioning. However, we know that there are concerns that the cost of specialist assessments significantly reduces the funding available for therapy.

The budget for 2017-18 is £28m, over 20% more than this financial year. However, demand for therapeutic support from the Fund remains high, with a further 1,500 families having accessed another £8m of support since I wrote to you in October. The average spend per child remains under £4,000 but, as already recognised, there are a small number of cases where the needs of the child and their family are much greater.

In order to ensure as many families as possible get the therapeutic support they need we have decided to retain the ‘fair access limit’ and match-funding approach. We recognise that the cost of a specialist assessment can make a significant dent in the funding available for their therapy. So, for 2017-18, we propose to offer a separate amount of up to £2,500 for a specialist assessment when children need it before therapy can begin. This will be in addition to the existing £5,000 fair access limit per child for therapy.
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As now, it will be for you and your team to assess a family’s adoption support needs and to make a judgement about individual cases. The criteria for accessing match-funding above the fair access limit will remain:

As now, it will be for you and your team to assess a family’s adoption support needs and to make a judgement about individual cases. The criteria for accessing match-funding above the fair access limit will remain:

  • there is a high risk of adoption breakdown without high cost support;
  • local authorities are dealing with an unusually high number of complex cases that they cannot afford to fund without additional support from the ASF;
  • additional funding would help to progress hard to place adoptions; or
  • a lack of available, affordable therapeutic support locally necessitates the procurement of higher cost provision.

Adoption support has improved significantly over recent years but there remains a need to fill regional gaps so that families can access the same level of quality support wherever they live and to ensure that the system is able to respond effectively to children that have several complex needs which need to be addressed simultaneously.

Over the last few months, officials have spoken to a wide range of people across the sector about the future operating model for the ASF. There was universal support for regional delivery but within a strong national framework to ensure there is a consistent offer for families across the country. However, there is also a clear view that the adoption system is not yet ready for ASF regionalisation. Therefore, we plan to move towards the new operating model alongside the regionalisation of adoption support agencies, taking an iterative approach to design, delivery and continuous improvement over the next three years as RAAs emerge and mature.

Our 2020 vision for the ASF is:

  • the delivery of excellent, timely and easily accessible therapeutic support for adoptive and special guardianship families;
  • based on high quality assessment of need including, where necessary, health-led specialist assessments; and
  • in a regionalised, integrated health and social care environment to ensure long term sustainability.
To achieve that vision, together with positive outcomes for families, we’re committed to working in partnership with adoption services, and with Regional Adoption Agencies in particular. That work began in earnest last week when officials met with the Regional Adoption Agency Demonstration Projects to discuss regionalisation of adoption support.

We have recently, through the Adoption Practice and Improvement Fund, invited expressions of interest from Regional Adoption Agencies, working with partners including health, to provide a coordinated assessment and support offer for adoptive families. We expect this work, with a number of Regional Adoption Agencies, to begin from April.

I appreciate that adoption is in a significant period of change. I want therefore to thank you personally for your continued efforts to help us to redesign and improve the way we do things in adoption so we can deliver the best services for some of our most vulnerable children.
Edward Timpson MP
Minister of State for Vulnerable Children and Families 

Friday 20 January 2017

I am a tree

I am a tree
I am a tree
I am a tree

Just keep saying it, step back, breathe, hold the image in my mind. I like our new Psychiatrist,  like an angel sent from on high. wise, gentle, caring, soothing words, just imagine your a tree he said, ok, I said, what have I got to lose?

I am a tree
I am a tree
I am a tree

I lean towards scepticism in relation to this 'smell to get well', 'imagine you're a mighty eagle' stuff. When I try I can mostly hear my dad's voice calling me a 'silly bugger'. 

But, any port in a storm and I think it might just be helping.

I am a tree
I am a tree
I am a tree

Oh, hell. I think the kids have found my axe.

Monday 16 January 2017

Child on Parent Violence Survey 2016 - First Impressions

Here we have the initial response to the findings of the Child on Parent Violence Survey that I posted at the end of last year.

Dr Wendy Thorley has pulled together the findings and written the First Impressions that can be downloaded here

Thanks to everyone that responded and though I wasn't surprised that lots of people completed the survey I was surprised by some of the findings. I'd advise that you read the First Impressions paper as that outlines the clear themes that emerged. The survey was completed predominantly by adopters and as such reflects their experience but it has relevance beyond that.

I was surprised at the number of responses that highlighted the younger age than is often acknowledged in other studies. I thought it was just our family, or just a coincidence with families that I knew. The survey indicates otherwise for adoptive families. With Selwyn noting in Beyond the Adoption Order that Child on Parent Violence was a major feature in disruptions and the 30% of families that are struggling the scale and impact is clear for all adopters. The data raises questions of ethical recruitment and preparation for adopters as they embark on their adoption journeys. 

The impact of Child on Parent Violence is significant, no surprise, but to see the responses in black and white is heart rending.

Another feature was the inconsistency of response and limited effectiveness of support, no surprise but sobering to think of families struggling. It's been said before but the Survey highlights the need for professional awareness to be raised for all practitioners that are in contact with adopters, foster carer, guardians, kinship carers and guardians.

There's more data to sift through on the survey and it is not without it's floors, I'm the first to acknowledge that I'm out of my comfort zone. But, there's more to unravel that will hopefully validate the experiences of potentially up to a third of adoptive families and inform practitioners. 

From here we keep going, I'm sharing the information and hoping to develop more areas of the survey to consider the response of professionals, impact on siblings and awareness. 

So thank you, please read and share 
This is a good start.

Thursday 12 January 2017

Social Work Games

Peanut and Flossy are playing Social Workers again. 

It's hard to tell what is going on but they are clearly feeling passionate, I lean in and try and interpret the scene. 

Lotty, 11, is clearly working hard to care for her babies. It's not clear but I think the babies have been naughty, or that's what Peanut, 5,  seems to be saying at full volume. I don't like to criticise but her communication and intervention skills are not all they could be and as for her empathy? Well frankly they don't meet the required standard as set out in the professional capabilities framework for newly qualified let alone experienced practitioners. Peanut continues, if they don't behave you'll have to go away she shouts to Lotty. 

It doesn't feel like a sad or happy game, volume in my children's games is no indication of either. It feels like a matter of fact sort of game, it just is.

I heard once that 'I'm down on Social Workers', I don't think I am but I am acutely aware that we're often agents of the state and nobody wants to see us at the front door. Generally, there are no good reasons to see us, even if we're welcome, we're welcome because we're helping in a bad situation or meeting a need that we'd rather wasn't there. We try to be fixers. 

The game continues, Lotty's perceived 'non compliance' is testing Peanuts patients and the tone is turning threatening. Lotty, is arguing the toss, quite convincingly, but she needs to be careful Peanut is holding the cards in the game. Social Workers hold all the power.

Children play out what they see, what matters to them and their play can often be a window into their thoughts and feelings. Social Workers have been involved in most of my children's lives they've never played Social Workers until now.

I keep listening to them but I'd rather they weren't playing Social Workers.

Thursday 5 January 2017


I just want to run into the street and shake my fist at the sky, I want to go totally 'Fawlty Dad' and thrash the ground with the branch of a tree.


Because Trauma wins.

It stains everything it touches and seeps out of the shadows of children's lives and with insidious determination casts shadows over mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and anyone close enough to touch. It feels personal but it's indiscriminate, it chokes love and care, crushes hope and joy. It blinds, deceives, draws you in and asks you to dance to it's tune, it camouflages itself and deflects the blame onto everyone close.

Four weeks ago the historic trauma rose up and cut through us all like a scythe.

Our family, friends, colleagues, faith and professionals caught us. They held us when we couldn't stand, they gave us the worlds to say when we didn't know what to say, friends and acquaintances stepped in and stepped up. I've never felt so cared for in my life. So, thank you for your kind words and wise words shoulders to cry on and ears to listen. There are too many to thank but thank you anyway.

Trauma has not won this battle.

Trauma remains a feature of our home but because of  those who closed around us we are still here, so thank you.