By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottinghamshire County Council plans to break away from its contract with an adoption agency and bring services in house, papers state.
The authority is planning not to renew its contract with Bedfordshire-based agency Adoption Plus – which costs £37,500 a year – in favour of employing an extra member of staff to help run services in-house.
Adoption Plus provides support and counselling to birth families when there are plans for a child to be adopted.
Pre-pandemic, the agency staff travelled to Mansfield to offer these sessions but the counselling has since been offered by phone.
But uptake has been low – in the year 2019/20 only 56% of the 276 sessions available were used by nine clients and in 2020/21 75% were used by 13 clients.
“This contract has been reviewed and it is considered that it is not providing the best or most cost-effective service”, council papers stated.
Extending the contract beyond February 2022 “would not offer good value for money”, they added.
The council has proposed the funds used for the adoption agency are instead used to employ a Permanence Support Worker to work with an existing team supporting children who are being adopted, foster carers and adopters.
The permanence worker will also support birth parents to “have input into their child’s life story and to keep in touch with their child post adoption”.
The Children and Young People’s Committee will vote on the plans during a meeting on January 17.
Papers published ahead of the meeting stated: “It is considered that a service could be provided that would better meet the needs of birth families by provision of a local flexible service where visits can be made to families and support offered.
“The service has looked at what neighbouring counties offer – Derby and Derbyshire both provide the service by support workers, not trained counsellors, and they report that their services are being well used with a waiting list.
“This proposed role, at the start of and during the child’s adoption journey, will increase the likelihood of better working relationships between adopters and birth families in the future.
“There are a few cases where birth families require counselling by a trained counsellor and in such circumstances any money saved could be used to purchase some counselling sessions.”