Councils are warned over adoption failings
David Cameron has warned councils failing children put up for adoption that they could be stripped of their responsibilities.
The Prime Minister said that services at poor-performing local authorities could be taken over by other councils, or contracted out privately.
The comments came as the Government produced a series of adoption and care league tables as part of a crackdown on poor-performing authorities.
The 15 indicators exposed a mixed picture among Westcountry authorities. Broadly speaking, they showed more children in care in Devon and Cornwall were moved repeatedly than in most other parts of the country.
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It found that Plymouth City Council came second from bottom when measuring the percentage of children in care who had more than three placements in a year.
In Plymouth, 16 per cent of children in care were given multiple placements. The council pointed out it was ranked ninth highest for the stability of placements for children under 16.
Cornwall Council and Devon County Council were equal third bottom with 15 per cent of children in three or more placements. The rate was 14 per cent at Torbay Council.
Westcountry authorities performed much better in other criteria. In Cornwall, 90 per cent of children were placed with adoptive parents within a year – the 12th highest in the country. In Plymouth, the rate was 74 per cent, Devon 73 per cent and Torbay 68 per cent. By contrast, Hackney, in London, the rate was just 43 per cent.
The Government found huge differences in the rate of children leaving care for adoption, ranging from 2 per cent to 26 per cent. Plymouth managed 19 per cent, Torbay 15 per cent, Cornwall 14 per cent and Devon just 8 per cent.
Children's Minister Tim Loughton said the system was too dismissive of potential adoptive parents. He went on to say that "too often" they are told "you're white and middle-class and the wrong ethnicity, or you're a bit overweight or smoke".
"None of this is regulation set down by this department," he added. "As far as I'm concerned the only consideration is can that family offer a safe, stable, loving family environment."
Plymouth councillor Sam Leaves, cabinet member for children and young people, said of the multiple care rating: "This can largely be attributed to young people coming into care between the ages of 16 to 18, who have particularly challenging behaviour and are on the cusp of independence. It's very difficult in these circumstances to find stable placements, but it's an area we are actively working on."
The Prime Minister spoke out after launching the Give a Child a Home campaign at the start of national adoption week, which urges potential adopters and foster parents to come forward. He said: "We want to act to help some of those vulnerable children in our country, children who languish in the care system who have a terrible start in life."