Adoption charity welcomes manifesto pledges; pushes for health, education and social care improvements

Adoption UK say there is a way to go for the next government to give adoptees life-long support

a child gives a thumbs up in a ball pool
Photo by Carlos Magno on Unsplash

In a week that saw the publication of most of the main political parties’ manifestos for 4th July’s general election, a UK adoption charity calls for the next government to commit to a better deal from education, social care and health for adoptees.

Adoption UK has been campaigning for political parties to formally recognise the vital role modern adoption plays, alongside other forms of permanence, for children who are unable to live with their birth families and to commit to lifelong support for adoptees.  

Adoption UK’s Chief Executive, Emily Frith, said: “It’s encouraging that all the parties have formally recognised the vital importance of providing permanent families for children who can’t grow up with their birth parents. The challenge for the next government is to make significant changes to the social care, education and health systems to ensure lifelong support for adoptees, and we’ll be pressing them to do so.”

The Conservative manifesto includes a commitment to ‘helping children grow up in loving adoptive families where that is a better option’, while Labour commits to working with local government to ‘support children in care, including through kinship, foster care, and adoption.’

The Liberal Democrats have set out a commitment to make care experience a protected characteristic; and to better support children in kinship care.

The Green Party has promised that elected Greens will ‘push for children in foster care or who have been adopted to have consistent access to a trained counsellor until it is no longer required’. 

Adoption UK’s Breaking the Barriers report earlier this year found that as many as half of children who are adopted or in kinship care are missing school or unable to take part in lessons, not because of lack of motivation or poor parenting, but because of school systems and approaches that do not meet their needs. The Liberal Democrats have committed to understanding and removing the barriers to school attendance.  The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats say they would introduce a register of children not in school.  Adoption UK is calling for more support to help care experienced children and others who have experienced trauma to be able to attend school and enjoy learning while they are there.

The manifestos published this week have included proposals for transforming the current education system, including reviews of the curriculum, amendments to teacher training, improvements on Special Educational Needs and an improved post-16 offer. Ccording to Adoption UK, a majority (79%) of adopted children routinely feel confused and worried at school. Last year almost a third (29%) of adopted young adults were not in education, employment or training (NEET) at the end of 2023, compared to a national average of 12%. Adoption UK’s manifesto calls on political parties to commit to training education professionals in the needs of care experienced children and young people, including on trauma and attachment.

Three of the main political parties have promised to ensure access to mental health support in every school as well as drop-in access for mental health support through Young Futures Hubs (Labour), Early Support Hubs (Conservatives), and walk-in mental health support hubs for children and young people (Liberal Democrats). 

Adoption UK research shows that last year in England alone, almost a quarter (23%) of adopted children were known to have harmed themselves or attempted to do so. Just over half of 16-25-year-olds had accessed or attempted to access mental health services during 2023. Alongside better mental health support, Adoption UK is calling for a permanent fund for specialist therapeutic support for adopted and kinship children.

The Liberal Democrats are committing to an extension of parental leave and pay rights, including the self-employed and adopters. Labour promises a more general review of parental leave and pay in their first year. 

Adoption UK has campaigned in recent years for government to equalise the pay and leave entitlements for self-employed adopters who are not currently eligible for statutory adoption pay (SAP) because they are not employees, nor the equivalent to the statutory maternity allowance (SMA) available to self-employed birth parents – negatively impacting the time they are able to spend bonding with their children in the vital early months of placement.

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