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Written Statement - The launch of the National Adoption Service and consultation on the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (Joint Adoption Arrangements) (Wales) Directions 2015

Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services
Today, I issued the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (Joint Adoption Arrangements) (Wales) Directions 2015 for consultation with local authorities in Wales and their key partners. This targeted consultation will conclude on 23 December 2014.

I intend to use my powers under section 3A of the Adoption and Children Act 2002, inserted by section 170 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, to issue these Directions so that they come into force on 31 January 2015.

The primary purpose of the Directions is to ensure that effective joint arrangements are in place between local authorities in Wales for the delivery of adoption services. As such, they are designed to ensure the effective and timely establishment of the National Adoption Service, which the First Minister and I launched on 5 November 2014, during National Adoption Week.
 
The National Adoption Service for Wales will increase the pool of adopters and ensure good quality post-adoption support is available to those who need it.  It will promote adoption and, most importantly, will give more children the opportunity to become part of a loving and supportive family.

The new service is being led and delivered by local government, working closely with voluntary sector partners, and it is a key part of the Welsh Government’s plans for fundamental reform of the way social services are delivered in Wales. The use of these powers to issue Directions will be one of the first elements of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 to be implemented.

Bringing together adoption services across Wales on a national basis will deliver better collaboration and joint commissioning of adoption services, resulting in keeping delay to a minimum in the placement of children for adoption.

It will also enable more efficient use of resources for training, assessment and support, an improvement in the matching process and the widest choice of placements.

The National Adoption Service for Wales is being delivered through a ground-breaking collaborative model, bringing together all Welsh local authorities and a broad range of key organisations and expertise.  The model to which it is being delivered remains very close to that outlined by the former Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, in her written statement of 25 April 2013, except that the Task and Finish Group subsequently proposed a change to the governance arrangements, which I have agreed.  A Governance Board will ensure that challenging targets for improvement of the service are set and delivered and an Advisory Group will bring together professional and academic expertise, with a focus on promoting best practice and ensuring that services are shaped by the voice and experiences of people who use and wish to use them.

Appointments have been made to all the key roles.  The service will be led at a national level by Suzanne Griffiths, the new Director of Operations.  The Governance Board will be chaired by the Welsh Local Government Association’s Spokesperson for Health and Social Services, Councillor Mel Nott and the Advisory Group by an independent Chairperson, Phil Hodgson.

Under the new National Adoption Service, some types of adoption services will continue to be delivered by individual local authorities but most will be delivered by five regional collaboratives, pooling the expertise and resources of the member local authorities and their partners from across the voluntary sector, health and education services.  

Whilst the Welsh Government has provided one-off transitional funding of £263,000 for the current financial year, the National Adoption Service will be wholly funded by local
government in future years.

Two crucial pieces of infrastructure are now in place at an all-Wales level, to underpin the National Adoption Service’s successful operation.  The new Wales Adoption Register, operated by BAAF Cymru, will play a crucial role in swiftly matching children and potential adopters to ensure a prompt and suitable match is found for each child.  In addition, a bespoke national performance framework for adoption services has been put in place to ensure that decisions can be taken by the National Adoption Service based on robust evidence.

I congratulate local government, the voluntary adoption agencies and all their partners who have worked so hard to bring about the launch of the National Adoption Service.  I welcome their evident appetite to respond to the challenge of building an innovative and excellent adoption service across Wales and to ensure that adoption is a positive, nurturing and enduring foundation for those children who need it.  I want to support and enhance their delivery of the new National Adoption Service through the Directions I will issue and I expect to see an upward trend over the next few years as the National Adoption Service drives up standards and performance.