Back in February, CVAA held a discussion event on the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). The ASF was introduced in 2015 to provide funding for therapeutic support to adoptive families, with the remit broadening in 2016 to include special guardian families whose children had previously been looked after. We convened the roundtable to build on the momentum of the 2019 findings of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Adoption and Permanence and to discuss the future of the ASF. Delegates from across the permanence system - including clinicians, voluntary sector organisations, and statutory agencies - agreed that the ASF has been an incredibly important and welcome innovation and has allowed many thousands of children and families to access crucial support. They also agreed, though, that there are further changes which could be made to deliver this funding to families even more effectively and efficiently.

Of course, there have been significant developments in the months since our February event. Support for adoptive and special guardian families has gone almost entirely digital during the pandemic, and the Department for Education introduced the Covid-19 ASF scheme to deliver quick support to families within the constraints of lockdown. The scheme freed up to £8 million to fund a wider and more flexible range of support than is usually accepted by the ASF, including couples therapy, peer support, and virtual interventions.

Although we now find ourselves in a rapidly changing environment, the recommendations that were discussed by our roundtable attendees back in February have turned out to still be highly relevant. We have seen over the past five months that delivering the right support at the right time should be one of the fundamental goals of our permanence system - the coronavirus has not changed that. In fact, the pandemic and the Covid-19 ASF scheme have highlighted the importance of some of our recommendations. For example, the fact that VAAs cannot apply directly to the ASF has been felt more acutely than ever during the pandemic. 

With the recent announcement of this autumn's Comprehensive Spending Review, and the government's manifesto commitment to a comprehensive Care Review, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Although the ASF has provided critical support to many thousands of children and families, there is much that could be improved to ensure that every adopted and SG child can benefit from the right support at the right time. We hope to see government seizing this opportunity to improve the ASF and truly commit to long-term, evidence-based support that is accessible to every child who needs it.

Download the report - 'Supporting Families, Achieving Change'