Hit squads sent to tackle councils' adoption failure

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Eight councils with the worst record on adoption were named by the Government yesterday at the launch of a taskforce to boost the number of children placed permanently with families.

Eight councils with the worst record on adoption were named by the Government yesterday at the launch of a taskforce to boost the number of children placed permanently with families.

Hit squads of experts will be sent into the councils to agree on an action plan to deliver improvements. John Hutton, a Health minister, said one council would be visited each month.

The move is the latest in a string of measures unveiled by Tony Blair earlier this year to prevent children languishing in care. The aim is to place an extra 1,000 children with adoptive families.

Figures show that in the worst local authorities only 1 per cent of children in care are being adopted while the best achieve a rate of 14 per cent.

Mr Hutton said there had been a rise in the number of adoptions taking place since the Government announced its plans last February. "But we need to keep the momentum going, and the taskforce will help by identifying unneccessary barriers to change and supporting those councils that need help," he said.

However, the policy of naming and shaming failing councils was criticised yesterday. Felicity Collier, director of the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, said: "What really concerns me is that if I was an adopter and I lived in one of the areas that the Department of Health announces is lagging behind the pack, adoption might look unappealing.

"And if I was a social service worker coming off a course, the more I saw councils examined and blamed, the more unattractive a career in the social services would become."

Miss Collier said 20 to 30 per cent of job positions in social services were vacant and the Government's approach might make posts harder to fill.

The eight councils are: Barnet, Coventry, Lambeth, Newham, Northamptonshire, Peterborough, Slough and Torbay. The taskforce will also visit councils with a successful track record to compare them.

Denise Platt, chair of the taskforce, said: "The taskforce will help councils achieve a step change in their performance, bringing everyone up to the standard of the best."

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