We wrote an open letter to Rt Hon Robert Goodwill MP/Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP on 2nd January 2018. We recieved no response.
On 7th March 2018 we met with the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, to try to talk about the serious issues raised by the recent Powys teenage suicide case, and to discuss our Interim Report on parental/caregiver Stress and Wellbeing for those caring for previously looked after children. We must pay our own expenses to travel to London, and trainfares are not easily affordable to parents/carers reliant on statutory benefits and allowances – so we hoped to meet the Chief Social Worker, with the Children’s Commissioner, and with others who are London based to make the most use of our time – our care commitments can also mean it is not always easy to get away. We hoped to meet with certain MPs, and with pre-eminent researchers and clinicians who were keen to support us as much as they could. However, the Children’s Commissioner was unavailable, the Chief Social Worker only wished to meet with us in the first instance, the MPs did not respond, and staff could not be provided for us to meet with the researchers at the DofE – a coffee bar was recommended for us to meet. We did not feel it was appropriate to discuss teenage suicide in a coffee bar, but in the end, because of strike action, we had no option but to meet with researchers in a pub. With MPs, we had not expected to be prioritised, but we felt both puzzled and demoralised by the lack of interest and support for us from the DofE, especially when the meeting with the Chief Social Worker was so positive.
By the beginning of April no one from the DofE had been in touch to discuss our Interim Report and we heard, by chance, that other research had now been commissioned by the DofE. It was so dispiriting to have all our efforts come to nothing: our attempts to raise awareness of problems; and our efforts to have dialogue about how those with ‘lived experience’ (who are affected by legislation and policies). We would like to be able to participate, and work together with those with a duty of care, to find solutions to complex problems. It seems to be a very different culture to health care – where ‘patient centred’ care is vital. With the Adoption Leadership Board, recently renamed the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board, we struggle to participate, as parents and carers of previously looked after children.
On 8th April 2018 we wrote a second open letter to Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP
We asked for support to complete our survey analysis, and we flagged up some of the findings from our Interim Report, which we felt should have been cause for concern for the DofE. We copied in the Shadow Minister for Children and Families, who responded quickly, and asked to meet with us. We meet with Rt Hon Emma Liddell Buck MP shortly at Westminster, and are very grateful for her interest.
This is the response we received from the DofE on 8th May to our second open letter. We have no idea how our survey is being interpreted and used, or if it is being considered at all, and we cannot finish the work as we would like to do quickly, as we are too under resourced. We had truly not expected this sort of response from the DofE.
Thank you for your two recent emails to the Minister for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi, on 8 April and 18 April about the work of Special Guardians and Adopters Together, including a request for support to analyse your recent survey.
As I am sure you will understand, Ministers receive a high volume of correspondence and your enquiry has been passed to me as an official with responsibility for adoption policy.
The government values immensely the people who put themselves forward to take on the challenging but rewarding role of being an adoptive parent or a special guardian. Adoption or special guardianship can make a huge difference to children, many of whom have had a difficult start in life. I was therefore sorry to read that some of the adopters and special guardians you have been in contact with feel too frightened to ask for help.
We want adopters and special guardians to come forward and seek support. In 2015, this Government introduced the Adoption Support Fund to enable adoptive families and special guardians (from April 2016) to have access to specialist therapeutic support services when they need them so as to improve outcomes for young people and families. The Adoption Support Fund alone has provided more than £65m towards therapeutic interventions and supported thousands of children and families.
I am grateful to you for sharing your report as we value such feedback. I understand that you are seeking funding to recoup costs and complete the analysis of the survey. Unfortunately, the Department for Education is unable to fund this project at this time. As you may be aware, the Department is currently funding a multi-year evaluation of the Adoption Support Fund and providing grant funding for the development of Regional Adoption Agency led adoption support centres of Excellence. I hope that these projects will help address some of the issues raised in your emails.
Thank you for writing to me on these important issues.
Care Planning and Permanence Team
We really do not know how to make progress with the DofE after this. We are at a complete loss to understand why it is so hard to participate and work together with those who wish to create supportive legislation, policy and statutory guidance.
Even if we were to complete our survey analysis, or conduct further surveys or research, there are no guarantees that anything we find would give cause for thought for the DofE, or lead to positive action. If we flag up concerns, the response from the DofE and government seems to be a defensive justification of the status quo. We care for children who have suffered the most extreme adversity, and who have lost their birth parents, and their brothers and sisters – which are great losses whatever the safeguarding/child protection reasons for their removal. We love our children and care for them because we want them to have the very best life chances and it is frustrating to be so unable to work with the DofE to find solutions to the problems we face as families.