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Adoption and Children Act 2002

Section 4: Assessments etc. for adoption support services

31.A local authority must, under section 4, carry out an assessment of the needs for adoption support services of any of the persons mentioned in section 3(1) and any other person of a prescribed description, at that person’s request.

32.The assessment for adopted children and their adoptive parents will provide a mechanism to assist them in accessing adoption support services.  The assessment is intended to provide a means of facilitating the provision of a planned and co-ordinated support package, drawn from the range of support services to be set out in the new national framework.  The assessment will link with other local authority functions and local education authority and health services, where the needs for such services are identified, with the aim of identifying a co-ordinated package of support to help adoptions succeed. The right to request and receive an assessment will also apply to the other persons mentioned in section 3(1), and in the regulations made under section 4(1)(b). The assessment for these persons will help them to access adoption support services to meet their adoption-related needs.  It is intended that the persons prescribed in the regulations made under section 3(3)(a) will be included in the regulations made under section 4(1)(b).

33.Regulations made under subsection (7)(a) may set out the circumstances in which the categories of person prescribed in the regulations made under subsection (1)(b) are to have a right to request and receive an assessment. The local authority may also carry out an assessment of the needs of any other person for adoption support services (subsection (2)). Local authorities may call upon the expertise of registered adoption societies or persons prescribed in the regulations made under section 3(4)(b) to assist them in carrying out an assessment (subsection (3)).

34.Under subsection (4), where a person’s needs for adoption support services are identified in an assessment, the local authority must decide whether to provide adoption support services to that person. Where a decision is taken to provide services, the local authority will be required in prescribed circumstances to prepare a plan for the provision of services (subsection (5)).  It is intended that a plan will be required where a number of different adoption support services are being provided, in order to co-ordinate the provision of those services.

35.Subsections (6) and (7) provide a power to make provision in regulations about the carrying out of assessments, including considerations to be taken into account during the assessment, preparing and reviewing plans, the provision of services in accordance with plans and reviewing the provision of adoption support services. These regulations will underpin the delivery of the new framework for adoption support including financial support.  Regulations under subsection (7)(b) may set out the type of assessment which is to be carried out for each of the categories of person mentioned in section 3(1) and anyone else who receives an assessment for adoption support services. Regulations under subsections (7)(f) and (g) may set out the circumstances in which adoption support services may be provided subject to conditions and the consequences of failure to comply with any such conditions.  It is anticipated that regulations could, for example, be used to enable local authorities to specify that financial support must be spent on specified items or services and that sums given may be recouped where they are not spent accordingly.  This may be appropriate where a one-off grant is being paid for a specific purpose, but is unlikely to be appropriate for a regular adoption allowance.  Regulations made under subsection (7)(h) may set out where the responsibility for carrying out an assessment and the provision of any adoption support services lies in cases where a child is placed with an adoptive family living in a different local authority area, together with funding arrangements. This is intended to ensure that it is clear which local authority is to provide adoption support services where a child is placed across local authority boundaries.

36.An assessment for adoption support under this provision may be carried out at the same time as an assessment of that person’s needs under any other statutory provision (subsection (8)). This provision clarifies that an assessment for adoption support services may link with other assessments of an individual’s needs carried out by the local authority. If at any time during the assessment it appears to the local authority that the person may need NHS services or services which are provided by the local education authority, the local authority must notify the Primary Care Trust or local education authority (or Health Authority or Local Health Board in Wales) (subsection (9)).  Subsections (8) and (9) are intended to promote the joined up provision of public services in support of adoption.  The Primary Care Trust or local education authority (or Health Authority or Local Health Board in Wales) will be best placed to determine whether to provide services in each individual case, in line with their obligations in existing legislation. The Government intends to issue guidance and directions to Primary Care Trusts and local education authorities that they must inform the local authority where they decide to provide services as a result of such a notification, thereby giving the local authority an overview of the package of services being provided to an individual.

37.Subsections (10) and (11) impose a duty upon local authorities to co-operate in the exercise of functions under section 4 if it is consistent with the exercise of their functions more generally.

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