Covid-19: Yorkshire Adoption Agency registered manager highlights CVAA concerns
Since the well-documented Covid-19 pandemic began, many industries have been adversely affected and the voluntary adoption sector has not been exempted from the damage. In the wake of the crisis, the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies [CVAA] has highlighted some of the most pressing issues that the industry has had to face. In conversation with The Parliamentary Review, Annie Redmond, registered manager and director of the Yorkshire Adoption Agency, discusses these sector-wide issues in more detail.
Established in 1946, Yorkshire Adoption Agency is a charitable voluntary adoption agency based in Doncaster. It is child-focused, vibrant and energetic, carrying out work which includes recruiting, training and approving adoptive parents across Yorkshire.
Presenting the CVAA’s concerns, Redmond pointed out that the Covid-19 lockdown has prevented home visiting, meaning that the adoption placement process will become severely hampered and likely generate a backlog that will be in place for some time.
Redmond explained: “Although preparation work is continuing for those adopters already in the system, recruitment, typically involving open days and information evenings as well as home visiting is highly likely to be severely affected by measures to limit and contain Covid 19.
“Agencies can do preparation courses via the internet, but the process requires home visits, police checks and medicals before an adopter can be fully approved. There will be considerable backlogs created through the time of lockdown particularly on medicals and this will seriously affect placements for many months to come. This will increase waiting times for children and prolong the cash flow difficulties for Voluntary Adoption Agencies [VAAs] who only get paid on placement.”
Redmond went on to highlight that, as charities, VAAs rely on voluntary fundraising, and so the suspension of public events under the coronavirus lockdown will also have an adverse impact.
“VAAs provide lifelong support to the families they work with, easing the pressure on social care and NHS services. This work is funded by their voluntary fundraising, which again, like other charities, will take a hit with the suspension of public events and many donors being worried about the future of their jobs.”
Another issue which Redmond brought up is that the CVAA foresees capacity shortages for adoption social workers once lockdown restrictions do begin to ease, since some local authorities have stopped moving children during the period.
Looking to clarify this, Redmond said: “Although Ofsted have been clear that with proper risk assessments in place children can be moved to their hew home, many local authorities are taking a risk adverse approach and not moving any children at all during the current restrictions. We anticipate that this will create a capacity issue for adoption social workers as restrictions are eased and a high number of children seek introductions and move in support all at the same time.”
On top of this, there is also concern that the additional costs of coping with Covid-19, particularly for children’s services whose finances are already very stretched, will lead to greater reluctance from local authorities to pay interagency fees, which will only threaten to compromise the sustainability of VAAs.
Explaining the concerns over finances further, Redmond said: “To put it simply, no adopters matched with children means no fees and therefore no income for VAAs.
“VAAs are completely dependent on fee income from local government for survival and since adoption, along with child protection, are the two services which must be non-profit making by law, VAAs have extremely limited reserves.
“It is a cash-based market and the system of spot purchase places all of the risk on the shoulders of the providers with no provision for longer term or core cost funding. This, together with the inability to create a surplus, means that business loans are not an option.”
All of these issues that the CVAA has highlighted, which Redmond elaborated on, have had an adverse effect on the business plans of some agencies to develop post adoption support services, considering that much of their work involves direct contact with children and families which has become largely impossible during lockdown.
Importantly, post adoption support is nationally acknowledged as an area for significant development if current and anticipated demand is to be met, and so the survival of voluntary adoption agencies during the Covid-19 crisis is vital.
The CVAA itself has 28 VAA members, and the pandemic is expected to affect all but two of them. The two exceptions are children’s trusts.
Redmond concluded: “Children’s trusts like RAAs will continue to have their costs met through local government finance. Unfortunately, VAAs do not have this to fall back on”.