Agenda item

Update on Call in of Director of Social Services and Head of Service re the internal Audit of Adoption Allowances resulting in a Second Unsatisfactory Opinion- October Committee 2022

Verbal Update from the Chief Internal Auditor


The Committee was provided with a written update from the Strategic Director for Social Services, as requested at the previous meeting:

I attended Governance and Audit Committee with Natalie Poyner Head of Children’s Services on 27.10.2022 following a request from the Committee. Work carried out by the audit team had highlighted a number of areas of concern in the management of adoption allowances. While staff in Children’s Services were aware of some of the challenges and had requested the support of audit colleagues to examine and understand the issues.


The reviews had resulted in two consecutive unsatisfactory opinions being issued.


At the Committee on 27.10.2022 I gave a series of assurances as to the steps being taken by Children’s Services staff and proposals to remedy the issues raised.


Current position

The audit team have further reviewed the adoption allowances and are currently working on a further report. Their review work was undertaken late in the Autumn of 2022. The early findings of their review have been made available to Children’s Services.


During this process it has become clear that the original steps taken in Children’s Services and remedies have been insufficient to manage the challenges and while there is now full awareness of the issues there are in fact ongoing matters which continue to be unsatisfactory and have led to a poor service in the assessment, review and timely delivery of adoption allowances. When looked at in the wider arena of Children’s Services with a budget of £27 million this is a relatively small area of expenditure of £300K and involves a comparatively small number of families 30 in total as compared to over 3,000 supported during the course of the year but it does impact on some of our most vulnerable children and the financial support for them to be settled with their families.


The most recent review has highlighted some very particular issues with staffing and structure in the teams involved. The details of those issues have undermined the assurances I gave to the Committee on 27.10.2022


Planned steps

In light of the further emerging findings from the audit team the following headline steps are now in hand.


a.     The current arrangements for staffing and management responsible for adoption allowances have been reviewed and revised arrangements are being implemented with immediate effect. This will include a return of the work to the Children’s Services business support team. The establishment of robust arrangements for leave periods, counter checking of the assessments and the decisions as well as supervision of the staff are part of this change.

b.     As part of the revisions discussions are underway to build training for a wider pool of staff and to ensure a step by step toolkit is available for all involved. 

c.     Arrangements in neighbouring LAs to consider the “skill” mix for staff have flagged a possible need to enhance some of the input to financial assessment arrangements.



Given the emerging review findings I apologise to the Committee for the assurances I gave on the 27th of October. The particular challenges within the current structures have led to the continued issues with delays and errors. The most recent discussions (23.01.2023) have ensured we do now have an immediate impetus to move forward.



The Committee noted the Social Services update from Director of Social Services.