Councils that are adoption 'refuseniks' to be named

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Local authorities that refuse to allow children living in council-run homes to be adopted will be named in a campaign to be launched next week.

Local authorities that refuse to allow children living in council-run homes to be adopted will be named in a campaign to be launched next week.

An all-party group of MPs and peers will be set up to demand that thousands of children living in homes are found permanent families. It will also increase pressure on Tony Blair to honour his pledge to ensure adoption is widely used.

The campaign will call for a "cultural revolution" in the attitude of councils towards adoption, in response to allegations that social workers put up too many barriers.

The criticism is rejected by social workers, who insist adoption is not always right for the child and it is better for them to remain in homes than be placed with the wrong family.

MPs and peers are alarmed by figures suggesting there are only 2,000 adoptions a year among the 53,000 children living in local authority homes. They say three and half years, the average time taken for adoption, is "intolerably long".

A spokesman for the group said: "So many children in care suffer from the abuse and neglect from which the state is supposed to be rescuing them. Even those who suffer no abuse are often passed from foster carer to foster carer."

The campaign will also highlight the cost to society. "Children who spend long periods in care are much more likely to become criminals, drug abusers and prostitutes," said the spokesman. "Despite the lack of support for parents who adopt, adoption has an 80 per cent success rate."

The group, which will call for a policy of "putting the children first", will lobby ministers to ensure a Bill to shake-up the adoption laws is included in the next session of Parliament.

It wants the law to allow councils that drag their feet on adoption to be stripped of responsibility for it and forced to hand over the task to charities, voluntary groups or agencies. "We have got to make sure the legislation has real teeth," said a campaign spokesman. "It must be radical enough to ensure a cultural change to improve the lives of thousands of children stuck in homes."

The group will campaign for more children to live with foster parents while councils try to find a suitable family to adopt them. "It is better for the child to be in a caring family; it is also better for potential adoptive parents to meet them in a family home," said the spokesman.

The campaign includes the Conservative MP Julian Brazier, who organised an informal group at Westminster on the issue; the Labour MPs Frank Field, Llin Golding, Joe Ashton and Gerry Bermingham; the Tory chairman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, David Davis; the Tory backbencher Sir Teddy Taylor; the Liberal Democrat MP Vincent Cable; Baroness Young, the Tory peer leading the House of Lords revolt against plans to abolish Section 28; and Lord Alton, former Liberal Democrat MP for Liverpool Mossley Hill.