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An impact assessment on the Children and Social Work Bill suggests that government reforms could make a saving of around £310m over a ten year period, as a result of reducing time to adoption.  

Local authorities are expected to realise savings from 2017-18 onwards from three main areas:

1. Merging adoption functions to provide more efficient and affordable services. 
2. Creating a larger pool of potential adopters allowing matches to be made more quickly between children and adopters.
3. Increasing in the proportion of children waiting for adoption who are adopted, given the availability of more potential adopters.

The proposals follow reforms under the Education and Adoption Act, which has already seen a number of local authorities merge their adoption services to effectively realise economies of scale. 

Adoption UK has hailed the Children and Social Work Bill as a huge opportunity to improve the life chances of looked after children and adopted children in England, with Chief Executive Hugh Thornbery CBE saying:

“We know delay is damaging for children in care so I’m delighted that this Bill will enable the Government to further speed up adoption procedures”. 

On average, children currently wait 17 months between entering care and being placed with adoptive families. Under the Bill though, it is hoped that the waiting time will be significantly reduced. 

The introduction of new clauses make it clear that court decisions on adoption and long term placement options will have to take into account the current and future needs of a child when considering the long-term plan for their upbringing. 

The Children and Social Work Bill has not been without criticism though, with concerns over it being focused on adoption as a solution to the volume of children and young people in care. 

The Fostering Network, for example, whilst it welcomes the reforms, has stressed that there must be a greater recognition of the fact that the majority of those in care are aged 10 and above. For the vast majority of those young people it would be unlikely that adoption would be assessed as being the best option. As Kevin Williams, Chief Executive of The Fostering Network said in The Guardian “it will always be a small minority of children in the care system for whom adoption is the most appropriate route to permanence. The vast majority of children in care will live with foster families, some of whom will spend their whole childhood with one foster family.”

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