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MAJOR SLAMMED FOR ATTACK ON ADOPTION

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The Association of Metropolitan Authorities has accused prime minister John Major of launching a 'nauseating' attac...
The Association of Metropolitan Authorities has accused prime minister John Major of launching a 'nauseating' attack on council adoption services.

Mr Major's weekend assault on adoption, in which he pledged to root out political correctness in a shake up of the service, immediately prompted speculation that a new Conservative government would even consider privatisation.

Denise Platt, social services under-secretary at the AMA, said Mr Major's comments were 'nauseating', given the fact that the government had omitted its widely supported adoption Bill from last October's Queen's Speech.

Ms Platt said the Bill had attracted political and professional consensus and would have resolved concerns over political correctness intruding into adoption services.

The Bill, published last March, was hailed as a landmark by ministers at the time, heralding the biggest changes to adoption for two decades.

It sought to place a new duty on councils to publicise their range of adoption services and encourage couples from ethnic communities to come forward. It also aimed to empower the courts to assess a child's interests.

Ms Platt said the prime minister's comments on adoption, and the subsequent speculation about privatisation they fuelled, amounted to 'dishonourable' politics. 'To the general public this seems like a new crisis in the public sector which someone is going to put right by accessing the private sector,' she said.

Ms Platt said the private sector had no track record in adoption and that the professional expertise resided in social services departments.

Mr Major's attack came on the back of a recent Social Services Inspectorate report on adoption. An SSI inspection of six local authority adoption services found evidence of children waiting up to three years to be adopted and parents approved for adoption waiting more than two years.

Inspectors also found that expertise in adoption is narrowly focused, leaving other child care workers unfamiliar with adoption.

SSI chief inspector Herbert Laming said: 'Social services need to match parents to children much more effectively by finding parents who are ready to adopt children from specific age groups.'

Health minister Simon Burns urged councils to review their services and said: 'Arguments for introducing new adoption legislation are weakened by evidence that existing law [the 1976 Adoption Act] is not being followed.'

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