Adoption Support Fund: Q&A for local authorities

Applications

How does a local authority make an application to the Adoption Support Fund?

Applications can be made via the online portal on the Adoption Support Fund website at www.adoptionsupportfund.co.uk/Local-Authority. The site includes guidance notes as well as completed anonymised examples.

I have some questions, who should I contact?

Local authorities (not adopters) can contact the Adoption Support Fund Helpdesk by email asf@mottmac.com or call 01223 463517.

What are the timescales for applications by local authorities to the Adoption Support Fund?

Receipt of an application will be confirmed within 1 working day. A decision is made within 5 working days and funds will be distributed to local authorities at the end of every month. An email with a letter attachment will be sent confirming how much has been approved. Once this has been received the local authorities have permission to commission the therapeutic services. This means that services can get to adopters quickly with the knowledge that funds will be distributed from the ASF to pay for it.

Scope of the Fund

Are short breaks providing therapeutic services in scope of the Fund?

Yes, the ASF will pay for the therapeutic services provided in a short break setting. We would expect short break care to be part of the ‘core’ offer from local authorities but therapeutic inputs not. Evidence indicated that there was a gap in the provision of specific therapeutic services in post adoption support, so this is what the ASF will pay for.

If we buy assessment services should we put in initial claim and then another claim?

Ideally, you should make an estimate of the costs of the initial assessment and then further therapeutic services for the application. However, if this is not possible, then please make an application for the initial assessment and then a further application for any further therapeutic services.

Are multi-year packages funded?

Yes, the ASF will fund packages of support that run for longer than one year however the fund requires one application per year. Consequently local authorities should apply for the first year of the package and then re-apply each year. Entering the previous approved application reference will shorten the approval process.

Are services that are procured by suppliers outside of England but delivered in England in scope?

Yes, if they are Ofsted registered adoption support services or services procured through the local authority to be delivered within the three years for which the placing local authority has responsibility. Additionally, services may be delivered in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, although the child and his/her adoptive family must be living in England.

Does the child need to be living with their parents to qualify for funded support?

No, the child may be in alternative accommodation under section 20, however the care plan should specify that returning to live with their parents is one of the desired outcomes.

If the adopter rejects the assessment prior to the fund application who manages the appeals process?

The local authority manages the assessment appeal using their current appeal processes. When an assessment is carried out, the local authority notifies the adopter in writing of the outcome and must inform them of the timescale to make an appeal if they wish (28 days is recommended good practice). The local authority cannot make their final decision until the period of time for making an appeal has expired or the adopter informs them that they are satisfied with the proposed decision.

Will the entire application to the Adoption Support Fund be accepted or rejected?

No, if the criteria is partially met part of the application will be accepted.

Can local authorities appeal if the application to the Adoption Support Fund is rejected?

You can appeal on two grounds, both of which will be overseen by a panel containing members from Mott MacDonald and DfE:

  • process rejection (incomplete or inaccurate application form)
  • policy rejections (your application, or parts thereof, did not meet the criteria)

What if we under estimate the cost of the therapeutic services?

You can make a retrospective application for the difference, please remember to add the reference of the original approved application.

What if we make an over claim and do not spend the monies requested?

The local authority should keep a record of all over claims and at the end of the financial year the monies will be recovered.

Does the Adoption Support Fund want copies of the invoices from the supplier of therapeutic services?

No, invoices or proof of payment are not required, although the local authority must keep a record.

What if the local authority makes an application to the Adoption Support Fund and all monies in the fund have been spent?

To prevent this occurring, all local authorities will be informed of the status of the fund, however should this arise, all local authorities will be notified immediately.

What happens if there is a change in the circumstances during delivery of the services, the impact of which is to become out of scope?

Once the application is approved and fund distributed, the funds remain committed to ensure completion of the therapeutic services identified in the approved application, regardless of a change in circumstance. Any further applications will need to be within the scope of the criteria as usual.

Terms and Conditions

At what point does a Council enter into contract with providers?

The Council are free to contract and procure in accordance with their current processes and that is for them to determine as they would for any commissioning decision.

If the Council agree a service with a provider and the ASF rejects the application, are they liable to meet that cost if they have already entered into an agreement with the provider?

The Council would be liable under whatever agreement they have in place with their provider(s).

If the Council underestimate the cost because the family required additional help and the ASF rejects funding for additional services do they have to meet the cost?

The Council would be liable under whatever agreement they have in place with their provider(s).

If the ASF ends, will the Council be liable for the future cost of therapeutic services?

The Council would be liable under whatever agreement they have in place with their provider(s).

Can you confirm that there would need to be clear processes in place to minimise any financial risk to the Council?

The Council should have clear processes in place under the requirements to be open to audit as a local government department and their Ofsted registration. We have issued a variety of newsflashes through our contract with Mott Macdonald over the last 3 months titled ‘Fraud Prevention – Audit Guidance for LAs’. These reminded LAs of their current responsibilities.

We would need to ensure that we are kept informed of the status of the ASF and whether there are sufficient funds available before embarking on new assessments and additional bids.

Upon making a decision, the fund manager checks the remaining balance of the funds. The fund manager is unable to approve an application without sufficient funds. We have a communication plan in place once the remaining balance of funds reaches a certain point for this financial year. This involves highlighting to LAs the status of the remaining balance to allow you to make informed decisions.

Are there Adoption Support Fund Terms and Conditions available that can be shared with Local Authorities?

The fund is very different to traditional grant distributions; payments are approved on a per application basis, for a specific family and children, for specific services from specific providers. Where applications are approved, the decision notice represents the DfE’s full commitment for the approved service(s) to be funded.