County council apologises over adoption procedure errors

Somerset County Council has issued an apology after being criticised in the High Court by Mrs Justice Roberts over irregular adoption procedures.

The High Court considered in September whether appropriate medical information had been requested of the adoption medical adviser about whether adoption was in the best interests of 10 children.

Roberts J has now ruled: “I am satisfied that each of the decisions taken in relation to the primary cohort children was reached from the foot of an evidence base which was sufficient in terms of its material compliance in substance, if not in form.

“Nothing of this sort can be allowed to happen again. [Somerset] must conduct a complete and comprehensive overview of its compliance procedures”. 

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Frances Nicholson, the council's lead member for children’s services, said: “Somerset County Council accepts the findings of the court. The court accepted that we acted at all times in the best interests of the children, with the right decisions made at the right time, with the right information, by the right professional.

“But there were failings in our formal administration of this part of the adoption process – the children’s health information. We acted quickly to put this right and are conducting a complete and comprehensive overview of our procedures.

“I’d like to apologise to the children, families and anyone directly affected in this case.”

Cllr Nicholson said the council and the local clinical commissioning group had jointly appointed consultant Coram BAAF, to review the application of all adoption regulations. 

Somerset said it was under a duty to secure a permanent plan for a child and except in rare cases medical information was very unlikely to be a determining factor in not considering adoption.

But because adoption severs parental rights, legislation requires local authorities to implement many checks and balances including obtaining medical information under the Adoption Agency Regulations 2005 [regulations 15 and 17].

Mark Smulian