Government tasks Ecorys with evaluating Regional Adoption Agencies in England

20 April 2018 4 min. read

Professional services firm Ecorys has been recruited by the UK Government to evaluate Regional Adoption Agencies in England. The firm will work with the University of Bristol to examine the effectiveness of the new scheme – aimed at helping find children new, supportive homes more quickly – on behalf of the Department for Education.

In the UK, around 5,000 children each year are offered the opportunity to find loving, permanent homes through adoption. In England, adoption services have been devolved to 152 local authorities, and over 30 voluntary adoption agencies, as well as a number of organisations that support children and adoption placements.

While this theoretically means that children have a straightforward path to adoption, more so than if the task were taken on by a large centralised organisation, the adoption system still faces significant challenges in terms of inefficiencies, delays, and in providing high-quality support to ensure that proposed adoptive families are stable and supportive.

Government tasks Ecorys with evaluating Regional Adoption Agencies in England

Delays in the process of finding placements, or a lack of support for adopters, can mean that children suffer added stress and uncertainty in the formative years of their life. As a result, the Department for Education (DfE) has recently announced plans to roll out Regional Adoption Agencies (RAAs), which can consolidate the resources of local authorities, replacing local authority adoption services with a larger regional agency covering several local authorities. RAAs will recruit adopters, match foster children with adopters, and provide support to adopters and their children. The rationale is that RAAs, where services are delivered on a greater scale with more innovative approaches to practice, will have real potential to improve outcomes for children. 

The UK Government aims to see all local authorities with adoption responsibilities participating in RAAs by 2020; but first, the DfE must first evaluate how effective the policy will be. In order to do so, the DfE has appointed consulting firm Ecorys and the University of Bristol to evaluate new RAAs. Over three years, the evaluation will assess whether these structures have improved adoption services in England. In particular, the Government requires a focused examination of whether improvements are being made in the matching of adopters and children, in terms of speed, and support offered to adopters.

The evaluation will see Ecorys – which was recently assigned another Government contract to administrate funds for women’s rights groups – partner with the Hadley Centre at the University of Bristol to conduct annual interviews with local authorities and voluntary adoption agencies involved in RAAs. In addition, the study will engage with organisations not currently part of RAA projects, national stakeholders and adopters, while national adoption and financial data will also be reviewed.

“We are delighted to have been asked to evaluate this important public service,” James Ronicle of Ecorys’ Policy and Research team said. “Ecorys has a great deal of expertise in this sort of pragmatic policy assessment, and together with the Adoption expertise at the Hadley Centre we look forward to providing a rigorous assessment of the RAAs’ policy impact.”

The consulting industry has also been deeply embedded in the initial creation of RAAs. Big Four professional services firm Deloitte was previously contracted by the Government to working with 130 local authorities and 20 voluntary adoption agencies to help them merge, creating 19 RAAs in the process. According to Deloitte, the firm played a key role in helping agencies agree the governance, design the new models and launch the combined agencies.