Schools can support parent’s applications to the Adoption Support Fund (ASF). Many parents are unaware of the adoption support fund criteria, how it is assessed, what it can be used for, or how it can supplement the work done by their child’s school.
The ASF was established to provide therapeutic support to families post adoption. The funding can be used to pay for access to therapeutic services that benefit the adoptive child.
It has been confirmed that the ASF has been extended until the end of the 2021-22 financial year (April 2022). Eligible adoptive families can receive up to £5000 per child per year for therapy, and up to £2500 per child per year for specialist assessment.
Not all parents will be aware that they can apply for the ASF. Although parents will have to apply themselves, schools can provide support in doing so, and the therapies funded by the ASF can supplement or replace the therapeutic support that the school is currently funding. If the school is working with freelance therapists, they can be paid using ASF funds, provided they are Ofsted registered and approved.
The ASF is available for young people aged 21 and below (or 25 and below with a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education Health & Care Plan) who:
- Are living with a family in England while waiting for adoption
- Have been adopted from Local Authority Care in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland and live in England
- Have been adopted from overseas and live in England
- Are under a Care Arrangement Order (CAO) while a potential special guardian is being assessed
- Are subject to a Special Guardianship Order (SGO) and were previously in care
For specific information and specialist advice on accessing the ASF for children under an SGO, see this article by Kinship
Local Authorities are able to apply for the ASF before the Adoption Order has been made. This means that support that adoptive children received while in care can be continued without a break when they are adopted.
Unlike Pupil Premium Plus, the ASF is available for children adopted from outside the UK.
- The ASF can be used for 2 things: therapy, and specialist assessments. The therapies covered include:
- Psychotherapy (or a talking therapy) for the child
- Family therapy to improve the relationship between the child and adoptive parents
- Therapeutic life story work, the help the young person understand and overcome their past trauma
- Creative therapies (e.g. art, music, drams, or play therapy) for the child
- Therapeutic Parenting training for Special Guardians
- Therapeutic Short Breaks
The ASF will also support specialist assessments that will lead to a therapeutic support plan for the adoptive family. The assessment must be in depth, focus on trauma and attachment, and be carried out by a qualified clinician. Unless they are part of a broader assessment, assessments for single conditions like ASD or ADHD are not covered by the ASF.
The ASF should be used to help the child, specifically by improving their relationships with others (including school staff and peers), their engagement with learning, their behavioural and emotional management, or their confidence.
Accessing the ASF
To access the ASF, the family need an assessment of their therapeutic needs by your Local Authority. It is a legal obligation for your Local Authority to carry out this assessment.
The Local Authority that placed the child with the family is responsible for this assessment for 3 years after the Adoption Order. After that, it is the responsibility of the Local Authority where they live (if they live in the same Local Authority, there is no change).
If the assessment shows that therapeutic support would be beneficial to the family, then the Local Authority will apply directly to the ASF, who will release the funding to the Local Authority directly.
As a school, you cannot directly apply to the ASF, you need to rely on the Local Authority’s assessment. Who the parents will need to contact will vary between Local Authorities, and your Virtual School Head may be able to provide guidance on this.
Generally, it will be the Permanence Team or SGO Team, but adoptive parents without a social worker will need to go through the duty line who will allocate a case coordinator. If the parents are unsure and have a social worker, they should be able to provide guidance on who to contact.
Useful Tips for ASF Applications:
1. Apply Early
The ASF is currently guaranteed until the end of the financial 2021/22 financial year, in April 2022. Although it should take 20 days for the Local Authority to receive the funding from the ASF, the wait for an assessment can be much longer. If the ASF is not extended again, and the assessment is not caried out soon enough, the child will not receive the funding.
If the ASF is extended, the family may need to reapply if the assessment is not carried out before the end of the financial year.
2. You Can Appeal Assessment Decisions
When an assessment is carried out, the Local Authority informs the adoptive parents in writing of the outcome. In that letter, the Local Authority must include a timescale for appealing the decision (28 days is recommended good practice, but always check the letter).
The Local Authority cannot make their final decision until the deadline to appeal has passed, or the adoptive parents say that they accept the outcome of the assessment.
Appeals will need to be made according to the Local Authority’s procedure, and cannot be made directly to the ASF.
For information on applying for Pupil Premium Plus or Early Years Pupil Premium to support children in care and care leavers, click here.