Government funds £8m Covid-19 adoption support scheme to help families

Catherine Gaunt
Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Adoptive families will be offered online counselling and couples therapy in an £8m scheme from the Government to support them during the coronavirus pandemic.

The money for vulnerable families is being made available through the Adoption Support Fund to meet needs arising from the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Local authorities and regional adoption agencies will be able to use the fund to pay for therapy for families, whose adopted children may have already suffered trauma and be made more anxious owing to the uncertainty of the effects of the virus.

This support could include virtual peer to peer support, access to helplines, couples therapy and online counselling, amid the social distancing measures.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said, ‘We are taking urgent action to protect the country from the spread of coronavirus, meaning many of us have seen changes in our daily lives as we practice social distancing and stay at home. For adoptive families, often still adjusting to their new environments, this may create additional strain.

‘That is why I am freeing up £8 million from our Adoption Support Fund to pay for therapies that will help families to cope in this uncertain time.’

Feedback from the sector shows that adoptive families have been experiencing greater stress due to children with attachment and trauma needs being isolated at home and having their routine disrupted, which can lead to an increase in adoption breakdown and child to parent violence.

The therapies available through the COVID-19 Adoption Support Fund will be delivered alongside those already available, such as music activities, play therapy and family support sessions. 

The fund will be flexible so that local authorities and regional adoption agencies have discretion to spend their share of the money on the support that adoptive families in their areas need most at this time. 

The DfE said the funding aims to help fill gaps in provision caused by the impact of Covid-19, including where local authority staff are unable to attend work due to sickness or self-isolation.

Dr Sue Armstrong Brown, chief executive of Adoption UK, welcomed the funding.

'I am absolutely thrilled the Government has listened to our grave concerns about the gaps in post adoption support which are appearing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,' she said.

'Thousands of adoptive families across the UK are currently struggling with a plethora of issues which are exacerbated by the lockdown so freeing up £8 million will be nothing short of a lifeline to many during this crisis. The measures set out in this package of support acknowledge the enormity of the problems facing those parenting some of the nation’s most vulnerable children.

'While many families are experiencing issues with isolation, a disruption to routine, challenging behaviour from children and a lack of support, these issues are all magnified tenfold for many adoptive families whose children struggle with difficulties relating to their challenging start in life.'

She added that the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) was 'a lifeline to many', with a third of adopters saying that the support they accessed via the ASF helped them to avoid a potential disruption or adoption breakdown.

'It’s particularly pleasing to see peer support services included in this package as the right post adoption support is the difference between thriving adoptive families and those that struggle. We know peer support can help adopters address problems before they escalate and build strong and successful families. Adopters who receive timely support are much less likely to reach crisis point and require urgent help, or in the worst cases, face the breakdown of their families.'

Andrew Christie, chair of the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board, said,I wholeheartedly welcome this news. Many adopters and special guardians are struggling during the current crisis and this funding will help provide much needed support for them and their families during these difficult times.’

The DfE has also published guidance for professionals working in children’s social care to help them meet the needs of their families safety and effectively during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

The guidance outlines that adoption can still take place, with regional adoption agencies using communication technology to continue with the process.

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