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28 Nov 2002 : Column 406W—continued



Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what role the Government plan for voluntary adoption agencies following the Adoption and Children Act 2002. [84025]

Jacqui Smith: The Government is aware that voluntary adoption agencies (VAAs) make a very significant contribution to the adoption service and play an important supporting role alongside their local authority partners in assessing prospective adopters for both domestic and inter-country adoption. Indeed, statistics prepared by the consortium of voluntary adoption agencies show that in 2001–02, 604 children were placed for adoption with adopters approved by 26 of their member agencies. This accounts for around 20 per cent of the looked after children likely to have been placed for adoption during that year.

Many VAAs specialise in finding adoptive placements for the more difficult to place children, including older children, children from ethnic minority groups and those with special needs. Almost a quarter of the 604 children placed for adoption with adopters assessed by VAAs were disabled, developmentally delayed or had special health care needs.

VAAs also provide choice for adopters, for example some cater for prospective adopters of a particular religious faith, and local authorities and vulnerable children benefit from this choice.

VAAs also play an important part in the provision of adoption support services. Nearly all VAAs offer support networks and provide a wide variety of support including workshops, therapeutic and social groups and counselling of individuals.

The Government expects the valuable role played by VAAs to continue and grow under the new Act.

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on progress in increasing the number of children who leave care to be adopted. [83165]

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Jacqui Smith: The Department's social services performance assessment framework indicators 2001–02, which were published last week, show that the number of adoptions of looked after children increased from 3,100 in 2000–01 to 3,400 in 2001–02—a rise of 11 per cent.

Since the Quality Protects initiative began in 1998–99, there has been an increase of 1,200 in the annual number of looked after children adopted—a rise of almost 55 per cent.

The Government believe that more can and should be done to promote the wider use of adoption to provide permanent, secure homes for vulnerable children, and have set a public service agreement target to increase by

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40 per cent., and if possible, by 50 per cent. of the number of looked after children adopted by 2004–05 from a baseline of 2,700 in 1999–2000.

Care Home Inspectors

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many (a) care home inspectors are employed and (b) vacancies there are in each region for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. [82022]

Jacqui Smith: The numbers of inspectors in post by region and the numbers of current vacancies are shown in the table.

Regions are currently in the process of interviewing for inspectors where it is expected an extra 75–100 posts will be filled, further boosting capacity.

RegionEstablishment WTEActual headcountActual WTEVariance Total Staff v. Establishment WTEOffers madeVacanciesPercentage vacancies against establishment
North East79.4980.0076.962.530.002.533.18
East Midlands115.79113.00106.369.430.009.438.14
South West201.21197.00184.4216.790.0016.798.34
West Midlands148.27149.00137.4610.810.0010.817.29
North West212.03193.00185.0327.000.0027.0012.73
South East268.62220.00207.3161.3135.0026.319.79
Yorkshire and Humberside137.84128.00123.8613.980.0013.9810.15
Inspector total1,428.921,327.001,253.26175.6635.50140.169.81


1. Offers made are those that are currently awaiting start dates following the recruitment campaign of July/August.

2. Regions are currently in the process of interviewing for the current round of inspectors where we expect to fill 75–100 posts.

3. Advert will be going to press on 4 December for any remaining vacancies.

Child Protection

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps have been taken since 1997 to develop preventive services to identify children at risk of abuse. [81064]

Jacqui Smith: Following the publication of the Cross Cutting Review of Children at Risk for the 2002 Spending Review, the Government recently announced the next steps in developing preventive approaches in services for children and families. Local authorities, the health service, the police and key criminal justice agencies will, for next year, agree local preventive strategies which will build on existing initiatives such as Sure Start, the Children's Fund, Connexions and youth offending teams. The development of local strategies will be supported by Government offices and the inspectorates who, where necessary, will work with the local partners on ensuring that an effective strategy is in place.

The Government have also announced in the Treasury White Paper on the Spending Review published in July 2002, their intention to pilot new organisational models for managing children's services known as children's trusts. This work will be complemented by the Green Paper on Children at Risk announced by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in July 2002.

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has for local authorities in the UK to put in place area child protection committees to look at safeguarding children. [81065]

Jacqui Smith: XWorking Together to Safeguard Children", the Government's guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, published in 1999, states that local authorities, in exercising their social services functions, should ensure that there is an area child protection committee covering their area, which brings together representatives of each of the main agencies and professionals responsible for helping to protect children from abuse and neglect. Area review committees were first established in 1974 and became area child protection committees in 1991. This guidance applies only to England.

Mr. Paul Marsden: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of young children were classified as failing to thrive in each year since 1997. [82746]

Jacqui Smith: The information requested is not held centrally.

The category, 'failure to thrive', has not been used in the Government's child protection guidance since 1991. XWorking Together Under the Children Act 1989", which was first published in 1991, and later replaced in 1999 by XWorking Together to Safeguard Children—a

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Guide to Inter-agency Working to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children", narrowed the categories used when placing a child's name on the child protection register. The category of 'failure to thrive' is now, therefore, no longer recommended for use as a child protection register category.

Children in Care (Leeds)

Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children were in care in Leeds in (a) 1970, (b) 1980, (c) 1990 and (d) 2000; and what percentage these represented of Leeds children. [83477]

Jacqui Smith: The information requested is shown in the table.

The number of children in the care of (or being looked after by) Leeds metropolitan council at 31 March, and the rate per 10,000 children aged under 18 years

YearNumber at 31 MarchRate per 10,000 children


1. All numbers are rounded to the nearest 5.

2. Figures for 1970 to 1990 relate to children in care of local authorities under the Children Act 1948, the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 and associated legislation.

3. Figures for 2000 relate to children being looked after by local councils under the Children Act 1989.

Children's Trusts

Ms Shipley: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his plans for the role of the children's trusts. [83348]

Jacqui Smith: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Wyre (Mr. Dawson) on 29 October 2002, Official Report, volume 391, column 679–80.

We are currently seeking views of stakeholders to inform our thinking about models that would support the vision of children's trusts we have set out. Pilots will start from April 2003, and we will be issuing a prospectus inviting expressions of interest in December.

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