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Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the average time during which looked after children were held in care under the responsibility of local authorities in the last 12 months; and if he will make a statement on the trend. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 29 November 2001]: The table provides figures on the average number of care days per child, together with the number of children looked after at any time in the year, and the total number of care days provided, for looked after children in years ending 31 March 1996 and 31 March 2000. The figures are broken down according to legal status.
Long-term trends show that although the total number who are looked after at any time in the year has been increasing in recent years, annual totals for the number who started to be looked after and the number who ceased to be looked after in the previous 12 months have both been slightly decreasing over the same period.
At the beginning of 2001 the Department commissioned the Thomas Coram Research Unit (Institute of Education, University of London) to conduct a tightly focused research study into the reasons that lie behind this increase in the number of children looked after by local authorities.
The research is designed to assess, among other things, the extent to which drug taking, alcoholism, violence and mental health problems within the family may have been significant factors underlying decisions made by Courts and local authorities to look after children.
|Number of looked after children in year||79,400||81,500||3|
|Care days provided (thousand)||18,227||20,820||14|
|Average number of days per child||229||255||11|
|Full care orders and interim care orders|
|Number of looked after children in year||35,500||43,700||23|
|Care days provided (thousand)||10,494||13,094||25|
|Average number of days per child||296||300||1|
|Section 20 of Children Act 1989|
|Number of looked after children in year||43,600||37,700||-13|
|Care days provided (thousand)||7,140||6,977||-2|
|Average number of days per child||164||185||13|
|Other legal statuses|
|Number of looked after children in year||7,100||8,300||16|
|Care days provided (thousand)||592||749||27|
|Average number of days per child||83||91||9|
(38) Percentage increase
1. Table excludes children looked after under a series of short term placements
2. A child may appear in more than one legal status category in the year, hence sub-totals do not add up to total of all children
DH annual statistical return SSDA 903
3 Dec 2001 : Column: 132W
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health on what basis he judges whether local authority social services departments are adequately providing services related to adoption and adoption support; and whether he proposes to compile performance tables as a result of the Adoption and Children Bill. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 29 November 2001]: At present the social services inspectorate inspects services using standards. In November 2000 the social services inspectorate produced an inspection report "Adopting Changes: Survey and Inspection of Local Councils' Adoption Services", a copy of which is available in the Library. The report provides comprehensive and up-to-date information about the current position, examples of good practice and a checklist for councils to use to review their services.
One of the 50 personal social services performance assessment framework indicators directly relates to adoption (the percentage of children looked after adopted during the year, indicator reference C23).
The social services inspectorate assesses each council's performance every year, taking into account evidence from indicators, inspections and other sources. Assessment of adoption services is included as part of this overall assessment. Next year, the overall assessment will be published in the form of a star rating for each council.
We are currently developing additional monitoring mechanisms including collecting information on the types of adoption support services made available by councils at present. This is intended to help councils benchmark their services against those of other councils. In addition, the adoption and permanence task force has published an audit tool (available at www.doh.gov.uk/adoption) to help councils review their adoption support services and identify possible areas for development.
3 Dec 2001 : Column: 133W
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 29 November 2001]: I have met the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, the Associate Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children, and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Adoption. As a member of the Special Standing Committee, I have also heard the views of a wide range of key stakeholders in adoption.
Departmental officials have met with a group convened by the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering on several occasions this year to discuss the Bill. The membership of this group encompasses a wide range of organisations which represent children, adopted adults, adoptive families and birth families. These include the British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering, the Local Government Association, the National Organisation for Counselling Adoptees and Parents, the Catholic Children's Society (Westminster), After Adoption, the Adoption Forum, Adoption UK, the Family Rights Group and the Law Society.
Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the likely cost of implementation of the Adoption and Children Bill to (a) local authorities, (b) voluntary adoption agencies and (c) adopting parents. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 29 November 2001]: The main financial implications of the Adoption and Children Bill for local authorities lie in the provisions on adoption support, the independent review mechanism, access to information, special guardianship, the Adoption and Children Act Register and the new system of placement for adoption. In each case, any additional costs will be proportionate to the improvements in the level of service provided to people affected by adoption.
Voluntary adoption agencies will principally be affected by the provisions in the Bill on the Adoption and Children Act Register, the independent review mechanism and consistent access to information. The regulatory impact assessment describes the expected impact of the Bill on voluntary adoption agencies in more detail. This is not expected to be significant. The Bill will not create any additional costs for adoptive parents and in practice will ensure that many more adoptive families get the financial and other support they need.
We have already made available an extra £66.5 million for adoption over three years. The resources required to implement the Adoption and Children Bill will also be addressed as part of the forthcoming spending review.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on what powers local authorities have to treat attendance allowance as a means-tested benefit for the purpose of social care charges. 
Jacqui Smith [holding answer 30 November 2001]: Councils have discretion under the Health and Social Security Adjudications Act 1983 to decide whether to take Attendance Allowance into account when assessing ability to pay charges for home care and other non- residential social services. Statutory guidance issued to councils on 23 November 2001 expects councils which take attendance allowance into account to undertake a specific assessment of a person's disability-related expenditure, to ensure that any charge is reasonable. This
3 Dec 2001 : Column: 134W
Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many additional nurses can be employed by the Portsmouth hospitals NHS trust as a consequence of the recent award of additional funds to the trust; and what impact he expects this to have on accident and emergency waiting times. 
Ms Blears [holding answer 30 November 2001]: The allocation to Portsmouth hospitals national health service trust to fund additional nursing posts in accident and emergency and support the development of the emergency care strategy is £18,321 this year and £75,117 for 200203.
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