Some of society’s most vulnerable citizens have fallen victim to staggering government incompetenceby Philip Ball / February 21, 2020 / Leave a comment
Among the countless casualties of civil service paralysis as it has wrestled, and continues to wrestle, with the fallout of Brexit is any immediate prospect of a change in the racial discrimination of the current schools admissions policy. The Department for Education is responsible for a blunder that, for the past six years, has discriminated against children adopted from overseas. Worse, its current plan to remedy the situation has been kicked into the long grass.
Intercountry adoption accounted for around 40 per cent of all adoptions in the European Union between 2004 and 2014, but has always been far less common in the UK than in some other European countries, such as France, Spain and Italy—partly because it incurs much higher costs than domestic adoption, but also because historically some British adoption agencies and authorities discouraged it. Most internationally adopted children in the UK have come from China; between 2000-2009 many came too from Russia, India, Thailand, Ethiopia and Guatemala.
The process is regulated by the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (1993), ratified by 24 EU member states including the UK, which says that all such children should have the same rights as those in the receiving country. Yet this ambition is not being met.
In 2013 the Department for Education (DfE) introduced a change to the Schools Admissions Code that required local authorities and all other admissions bodies to give top priority of pupil places to children who had been adopted from state care. This recognised the vulnerability of such children and their need to be in the best available educational environment. It was a welcome change.
There was one problem. The priority, as well as entitlement to “pupil premium” funding for special support at school, applied only to children who had been in care within England and Wales. It excluded the hundreds of children throughout the two countries (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own rules) who were adopted from overseas. Most of these were also in care institutions before adoption, often with few resources and rather basic provision.
It is recognised by adoption specialists and accepted by the DfE that the needs and vulnerabilities of children adopted…