Issue details

23/00014 - Independent Adoption Support Services

Proposed decision:

i)             Competitively tender a new contract for Independent Adoption Support Services, effective from 1 October 2023 to 30 September 2027 (four years) with an additional two, two-year extensions options.  

ii)            Delegate decisions and necessary actions, including the award and implementation of any contract extensions allowable within the terms and conditions of the contract, to the Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education, or other Officer as instructed by the Corporate Director for Children, Young People and Education, in consultation with the Cabinet Member.


Reason for the decision:

The proposed decision is regarding the commissioning of independent adoption support services through an activity-based contract from 1 October 2023 to 30 September 2027 (four years) with an additional two, two-year extension options. This will be competitively tendered and will support KCC and Adoption Partnership South East in meeting its statutory duties. 



In 2015 the Government set out its vision and commitment to deliver a regional adoption system where adoption agencies would come together to deliver adoption services on a larger scale. Adoption Partnership South East (APSE) is a Regional Adoption Agency (RAA) comprising of the London Borough of Bexley, Kent County Council and Medway Council. It launched on 1 November 2020 and delivers adoption services on behalf of the three Local Authorities.


The Regional Adoption Agency is operated under the terms of a Partnership Agreement, which confirms the legal and governance arrangements; the budget; staffing and funding contributions for the three Local Authorities.


Local Authorities, as part of their statutory duties, must take steps to provide assistance to adopted children and adults such as counselling and finding out the details of their adoption.  KCC has a statutory responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of Kent Children in Care and ensure best value for money it spends on behalf of the Kent population


The service will meet the requirements of the applicable regulatory framework, the National Minimum Standards (NMS) and APSE’s identified service outcome of “Children, birth parents/guardians and families and adoptive parents and families will be valued and respected.”  


Service Objectives are:

·         To ensure that our strategic partner delivers our statutory obligations regarding the provision of birth parent counselling, access to birth records and intermediary services and ensuring that family time is protected, promoted, and delivered as per agreed Contact Plans.

·         To meet the needs of children, birth families, adoptive parents and adopted adults and all those who are subject to or who are affected by Adoption.

·         To ensure the voices of children, birth families, adoptive parents and adopted adults and all those who are subject to or who are affected by Adoption are sought and listened to.


Available Options:  

1.         Do Nothing

The contract would lapse and the Council would not meet its statutory duties. An alternative means to deliver these statutory services would be required. With no agreed alternative in place, new systems would need to be implemented and additional resource would be required – see Option 3 In-sourcing. 


2.         Competitively tender for a new activity contract

The proposed decision to competitively tender for a new activity contract will cause the least disruption to KCC, its partners and to the market. The contract would be effective from 1 October 2023 to 30 September 2027 (four years) with an additional two, two-year extension options. This option offers stability to the market and a longer contract term requires less procurement activity to be carried out on behalf of the Council’s, thereby reducing costs.  In addition, this commissioning and procurement approach enables the Council to:


·         test the market in terms of innovation on delivering contact through digital platforms.

·         compare costs between tender submissions and identify the provider who demonstrates a value for money approach.

·         promote the reputational benefits of working with an Adoption Support Agency/Voluntary Adoption Agency.

·         ensure strong contract management arrangements are in place with agreed performance and quality levels.


This is the preferred and recommended option which is supported by the Adoption Partnership South East Board.


3.         Bring Services in-house (Insourcing), to commence 1 October 2023

The current commissioned provider’s team who deliver these services would be subject to TUPE.  APSE Partnership Board would be required to make a decision as to which of the three Local Authorities would wish to host the relevant workforce.  Bringing the service in-house would require significant investment to enable the set-up of new systems and processes to support delivery.  Currently APSE lacks sufficient expertise to deliver these services and would require significant upskilling which would take resources away from other parts of adoption support as this was not originally factored into the Partnership.  This option would also mean that the location of teams across APSE may need re-organising to ensure consistency of access and delivery. 


Financial Implications:

The budget for commissioned services sits within the APSE core budget.  The current value of the contract is £426,020 per annum exclusive of VAT, based on these costs the total value of the commission is £3,408,160 for the period of the contract term and extensions (eight years).


It is likely that any tendered prices will be influenced by recent inflation and cost of living pressures and the procurement and pricing strategy will need to consider what mitigations can be applied at the beginning of the contract and how future increases are managed.  Albeit a restricted market, by going out to tender an element of competition is introduced and pricing will form part of the tender evaluation.


Any price review processes will be agreed with Finance before the Invitation to Tender is issued and embedded within the terms and conditions of the new contract.  From the 1 October 2024 and the 1 October in each subsequent year of the contract an automatic price increase to the Contract Price will be applied.  This will take into consideration metrics such as CPI including proportional increases in staffing and non-staffing costs over the previous twelve months.  However, any increase to the contract price will be authorised by our elected Members and agreed across the partners. 

Decision type: Key

Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Division affected: (All Division);

Notice of proposed decision first published: 13/02/2023

Decision due: Not before 14th Mar 2023 by Cabinet Member for Integrated Children's Services

Lead director: Kevin Kasaven

Department: Education & Young People's Services

Contact: Christy Holden, Head of Strategic Commissioning, Children and Young People’s Services.


No formal public consultation was undertaken as we are not proposing any changes to this statutory service.  However local consultation was undertaken with key partners including the VSK, Area Directors, Service Managers and Providers.

Financial implications: As above.

Legal implications: KCC is obliged to fulfil its statutory responsibilities regarding adoption support services. If the services are sourced externally, we need to comply with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. These services are included as part of an Ofsted inspection and are subject to a comprehensive legal framework including The Adoption and Children Act (2002) and the Education and Adoption Act 2016 which identifies measures which allow the Government to require local authorities to make arrangements for their adoption functions to be carried out by another adoption agency, allowing for regional approaches.

Equalities implications: An Equalities Impact Assessment (EQIA) screening has been completed and no high negative impacts have been identified.