Sunday July 17,2011
By Ted Jeory
AT LEAST 10,000 young children have been dragged from their families and needlessly adopted due to a flawed target at the heart of Government, it was claimed last night.
Vulnerable children were handed over in their thousands under a New Labour crusade driven by artificial adoption targets.
A top Oxford academic yesterday branded the policy as Tony Blair’s worst mistake.
The expert in social work who did not want to be named said: “Forget the Iraq War. “Blair’s adoption target was the reason I left the Labour party.” Last night backing came from MP John Hemming, who said the policy led to the unnecessary adoption of 1,000 children every year.
He claims the target set 11 years ago was flawed from the outset because it contained a fundamental error of maths and he has called for a full Parliamentary inquiry to prevent further damage.
One victim who had a 15-month-old baby taken from her and two siblings broke down in tears as she told her story to the Sunday Express, saying: “When you’re reliving it like this, it’s still as raw as the day it happened.
This Government has no intention of setting any new targets
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton
“It was like my heart was ripped out.”
Mr Hemming, who chairs the Justice for Families campaign group and exposed footballer Ryan Giggs’s misdeeds in Parliament, insists a “corrupt and secret” family court system shrouds adoption in silence and away from proper scrutiny.
Mr Blair introduced the controversial adoption formula in the wake of the abuse and murder of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie in north London in 2000, ordering a 50 per cent increase in the number of youngsters placed for adoption from care, and doling out more than £20million to councils as incentive bonuses to meet his aim.
Mr Hemming an Oxford-educated science scholar, said those rewards caused many social workers to go hunting for children from broken homes who could then be pushed through the care system into adoption.
Though the target was dropped in 2006, Mr Hemming believes it caused a lasting change in social worker behaviour.
He said: “Tony Blair meant well when he introduced the adoption targets, but he and many others misunderstood the statistics.
“This is a really big issue. It involves corruption in the courts and legal system and a complete failure of our child protection system, which concentrates on getting children adopted rather than protecting them from harm.”
He said the formula was distorted because instead of comparing the flows of children in and out of care over a whole year, it focused on a random, meaningless snapshot by examining the picture on a particular annual date, March 31.
He said this meant people were duped into believing that barely any children were being taken from care and placed for adoption, when in fact the opposite was the case and there was, essentially, no problem to fix.
Between 1995 and 1999 about 2,000 children, most of them under four years old, left care for adoption each year. As the adoption target kicked in, those numbers rose to 3,100 in 2001, 3,400 a year later and peaked at 3,800 in 2004 and 2005, before settling at about 3,200 over the last two years.
Martin Narey, the Government’s adoption adviser, conceded targets were wrong but added: “Look at the figures: there were 22,000 adoptions in 1974. Last year, there were just 3,200. We have to make it easier for people.”
Children’s Minister Tim Loughton said yesterday: “This Government has no intention of setting any new targets. Decisions about whether to adopt a child must be based on what is best for the child.”