Social workers force adoption tsar into U-turn

Only 3,200 children were adopted from care last year - a 12 per cent fall on the number adopted in 2006

The children's Minister has partially rejected proposals from his newly appointed adoption tsar amid growing anger from social workers, lawyers and charities.

Tim Loughton was forced to distance the Government from Martin Narey's recommendations, which have been criticised as evangelical, overly simplistic and legally dubious.

Mr Narey, the outspoken former chief executive of Barnado's, the children's charity, launched his report in The Times two days before his appointment was officially announced.

Mr Loughton said: "It's not my blueprint... it is not government policy and I do not agree with all of it." Mr Loughton has this week defended Mr Narey's appointment amid questions about his lack of direct experience.

Mr Narey's proposal that social workers speed up adoptions rather than waste time assessing the suitability of extended family members could be illegal, as it would breach a child's human right to family life, Caroline Little, a family lawyer and former co-chair of the Association of Lawyers for Children, said.

The backlash means Mr Narey may face an uphill battle despite consensus about the need to fix the system.

Nushra Mansuri, the British Association of Social Work's children and families officer, said Mr Narey's suggestion that social workers were anti-adoption was "highly offensive". She said: "We are not going to be receptive of a report sponsored by the media, especially one that was blinkered and ignored the bigger picture of poor morale, cuts and high case loads."

Alison Paddle, an independent social worker who works as a court-appointed children's guardian, said Mr Narey's report was simplistic, and ignored the expensive specialist support that adopted children needed as a result of long-term damage caused by neglect, abuse and alcohol.

"This is not just about child rescue, it is about the extremely patchy post-adoption support available in this country... The pendulum always swings back and forth, from being all for adoption to being all for family care. We have to be balanced, well-informed and sophisticated – an evangelical approach is not helpful," she said.

Mr Narey's appointment was partly in response to public condemnation of the fact that only 3,200 children were adopted from care last year – a 12 per cent fall on 2006 levels.

But experts agree that the system cannot be fixed without addressing the high rate of adoption breakdowns.

Mr Narey said: "Having discussed this with Tim Loughton, the only disagreement I am aware of is around the issue of family and friend carers. My belief is that he overwhelmingly agrees with the thrust of my report, and my email box has been full of supportive messages."