I don’t and have never worked in adoption services. I have though worked in Adults Services in a Local Authority. I know about targets. I know about performance indicators.
So Cameron’s ‘oh so brave’ declaration that he will be ‘name and shame’ councils that don’t facilitate speedy adoptions struck me with more than a hint of misunderstanding and opportunism on his part.
A government playing politics with social care – that would be a surprise!
The shocking statistic that the Prime Minister calls up is that only 60 children were adopted last year in the UK. It did surprise me to be honest and I would be wholly in favour of streamlining a variety of processes but there are a number of assumptions that the Prime Minister makes that I would challenge.
The BBC article explains
The Prime Minister said: “It is shocking that of the 3,600 children under the age of one in care, only 60 were adopted last year – this is clearly not good enough.
Um. Does he realise that children in care ≠ children available to be adopted?
Of course 60 is low but I assume that many of those children in care are in shorter term placements and may well return to family or kinship carers after an initial period. Maybe someone with more information about that can correct me if I’m wrong but the dichotomy presented of either ‘languishing in care’ or ‘being adopted’ seems blatantly false and misleading.
The other little nugget provided by the article from the BBC is that
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton suggested if councils were not performing well enough services would be privatised.
which is, I expect, a great driver of the government’s policy.
I’m not against systems working better but I am against government propaganda and misinformation. I can see more centralisation of adoption services being positive – it makes no sense to me that people living in neighbouring localities who might be the perfect match for a child are on different ‘lists’ but that’s not the same as quantifying a child’s future to meet a target or to move up a league table.
I can talk from experience about the ways that league tables and targets have been used in the services I do work in and I am beyond cynical about them. Local authorities have found ways to fudge systems and create the ‘correct’ results. Meeting a target is not the same as providing a quality, person-centred services.
As for the naming and shaming, is it really necessary? I suspect more important is the overarching threats of privatisation. Many of our targets have been linked to funding and I’ll be surprised if this is not rumbling in the background at some level.
A lot of my initial responses have been from the gut but I’d be interested to hear about any other experiences of these ways of quantifying work.