Dear Department for Education,

The Secretary of State Michael Gove has been quoted in the media as saying that a council rejected a couple as prospective adoptive parents because of the length of their kettle flex. If this position is not correct, and such a case was not cited by Mr Gove, please confirm this and disregard this FOI request.

I would like to request the following information:

1) Which council rejected the parents (I am not requesting that you identify the parents)?
2) Were any other criteria used to reject the couple in question from being potential adoptive parents?
3) Does the Department for Education issue any advice to councils on health, safety and welfare issues to take into account when assessing prospective adoptive parents.

Yours faithfully,

Tim Turner

Dear Department for Education,

Can you confirm that my request has been received, and is currently receiving attention?

Yours faithfully,

Tim Turner

Department for Education

Dear Mr Turner

Thank you for your recent email. Your original email dated 24th
February is at the moment with policy officials to reply. For
information, the departmental standard for correspondence received is
that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you are
requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number
2012/0013653.

Thank you
Department for Education
Public Communications Unit
Tel: 0370 000 2288
www.education.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Department for Education

Dear Mr Turner,
Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 23 February 2012. You asked: 

1)     Which council rejected a couple as prospective adoptive parents because of the length of their kettle flex? 

2)     Were any other criteria used to reject the couple in question from being potential adoptive parents? 

3)     Does the Department for Education issue any advice to councils on health, safety and welfare issues to take
into account when assessing prospective adoptive parents. 

I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. 

If we named the council we would run the risk of breaching the confidentiality of the couple who came forward to
share this information with us.  This is because the council handles a small number of adoption cases and it may be
possible to identify the couple. Under the Freedom of Information Act Section 40(2), we are withholding this
information as release of this information would infringe the rights of the individuals under the principles of the
Data Protection Act 1998.You also asked whether any other criteria were used to reject the couple from being
potential adoptive parents. The Department for Education does not hold this information because it is not collected
centrally. 

Your third and final query asks whether the Department for Education issues any advice to councils on health, safety
and welfare issues to take into account when assessing prospective adoptive parents. The Department’s practice
guidance preparing and assessing prospective adopters guides practitioners through the preparation and assessment of
prospective adopters, see in particular paragraph 8 of Chapter 5 (ensuring safety).  This practice guidance is not
statutory and does not place duties on adoption agencies (these are council and voluntary adoption agencies).   

The practice guidance and statutory adoption guidance can be accessed on the Department’s website. I am including
the links for your convenience: 

preparing and assessing prospective adopters: 

[1]http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/fil...

statutory adoption guidance: 
 
[2]http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/fil...

We are publishing an Action Plan for Adoption this week.  The Action Plan includes some proposals to change adoption
legislation and guidance. 

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number below in
any future communications. 

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should make a complaint to the Department by
writing to me within two calendar months of the date of this letter.  Your complaint will be considered by an
independent review panel, who were not involved in the original consideration of your request.   

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the Department, you may then contact the Information
Commissioner’s Office.
Yours sincerely,

Celine Dignan
Adoption Division
[email address]
[3]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0013653.

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References

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1. http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/fil...
2. http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/fil...
http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/fil...
3. http://www.education.gov.uk/

Dear Department for Education,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department for Education's handling of my FOI request 'Kettles'.

I do not accept that the refusal of my first question is correct. I do not accept that it would be possible to identify the couple if you identified the council. Any council handling adoption cases would by definition be a unitary or county council covering a wide geographical area. Moreover, in my experience of having been a data protection officer in two councils which ran adoption services and a trainer for many more, the adoption process is run in a highly confidential way, and information processed by the teams is available strictly on a need-to-know basis. To name the council would not put the couple at any risk of identification unless the confidentiality procedures at the council were faulty - I know of no council where this is likely to be the case.

As the couple volunteered this information, presumably in the knowledge that their case would be shared with the media, this suggests that their fear of identification is somewhat balanced by their wish to have their case known and discussed. However, it should be possible to name the council without identifying them. Your response implies that the DfE does know the name of the council and has recorded information about the case - otherwise, the refusal would be meaningless. However, for the purposes of clarity, I would be grateful if as part of the review, you would confirm that the name of the council is held.

I would also like to appeal the second response, on the basis that it is not entirely consistent with the first. The answer to the first clearly states that information was passed directly to the DfE by the parents. The answer to the second question states that the other criteria 'is not collected centrally'. If the first answer is correct, the only logical answer to the second is that the information is not held i.e. the couple did not volunteer whether the kettle flex was indeed the sole criteria for the refusal, or whoever spoke to them did not ask (at the very least, did not record) whether other factors were in play. To clear up this potential discrepancy, I ask that you confirm whether in fact, the couple mentioned other factors or whether they were asked about other factors.

One final issue, which I accept is new but which you may choose to include in the review, is whether the DfE checked with the Council about the facts behind the story. Even if the name of the Council is to be withheld, I see no reason why you could not confirm that. If you believe that it would be more appropriate to treat this as a separate and new request, I accept that this would be justified, and in that case, I ask for all correspondence between the DfE and the Council concerned.

Sticking to your current position, it should be possible to redact the name of the council, and any data identifying the couple or the officers involved on either side, but still show the content. Alternatively, if no such correspondence took place, you could confirm this. I do not accept that removing the Council name would be necessary, but that issue should not be a barrier to disclosure of the content, or at the absolute minimum, confirmation of its existence.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/ke...

Yours faithfully,

Tim Turner

Department for Education

Dear Mr Turner

Thank you for your recent email. A reply will be sent to you as soon as
possible. For information, the departmental standard for correspondence
received is that responses should be sent within 20 working days as you
are requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number
2012/0017141.

Thank you
Department for Education
Public Communications Unit
Tel: 0370 000 2288
www.education.gov.uk

show quoted sections

Department for Education

Dear Mr Turner,
Thank you for your email dated 15 March 2012, requesting an internal
review of the Department’s response to your Freedom of Information request
about the prospective adopters turned down due to the length of their
kettle flex. We are still in the process of reviewing the Department’s
handling of your request, and we will write to you with the outcome of
that process shortly.

However, in the email requesting an internal review you raised a new query
which we are taking forward separately. You asked ‘for all correspondence
between DfE and the council concerned’, and I would be grateful if you
could clarify the scope of that request. It would be very helpful if, for
the avoidance of doubt, you could confirm whether you are asking for all
communications between any part of the Department and the council
confirmed, on any subject, or whether you are interested only in
communications between the Department and the local authority concerned
regarding this particular adoption case.

The former would potentially encompass the review of a very wide amount of
material and would involve consulting colleagues very widely across the
Department. This would include, for example schools. It is likely that
this would exceed the cost threshold applicable to central Government.
However, if wider Departmental correspondence is your area of interest, we
will be happy to provide advice and assistance to try to narrow the
request to bring it within that threshold.

If the latter, i.e. only communications relating to this particular
adoption case; we will take forward your request as soon as we receive
your confirmation. I do apologise for contacting you again, but the
Department did not want to make an assumption about your request.

I look forward to your response.

 

 

 
Yours sincerely,

Patricia Malcolm
Adoption Division
[email address]
[1]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0017439.

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Dear Department for Education,

Thanks for your response. I am only interested in correspondence related to this individual adoption case, and no other matter.

Hope this helps - please let me know if you need anything else.

Yours faithfully,

Tim Turner

Department for Education

Dear Mr Turner,
Thank you for your request for information, which was received on 15 March
2012 and narrowed in scope on 3 April 2012. You asked: 

‘for all correspondence between the DfE and the Council concerned.
Alternatively, if no such correspondence took place, you could confirm
this. I do not accept that removing the Council name would be necessary,
but that issue should not be a barrier to disclosure of the content, or at
the absolute minimum, confirmation of its existence.’  

In our letter of 3 April 2012, we asked if you could narrow the scope of
your enquiry by clarifying that you are interested only in communications
between the Department and the local authority concerned regarding this
particular adoption case. You responded to confirm that this was the
case. 

I have dealt with your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. 

In response to your request, I can confirm that there is no correspondence
between the Department for Education and the local authority dealing with
the couple as prospective adopters regarding this particular adoption
case. The Secretary of State was provided with this example of a
prospective adopter’s experience, to use in his speech to highlight
variances in the system, by Martin Narey in his capacity as Ministerial
Advisor on Adoption. The Department does not intervene in individual cases
and holds no correspondence regarding this case.

We are still in the process of reviewing the Department’s handling of your
request, and we will write to you with the outcome of that process
shortly.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference number above in any future
communications. 

If you are unhappy with the way your request has been handled, you should
make a complaint to the Department by writing to me within two calendar
months of the date of this letter.  Your complaint will be considered by
an independent review panel, who were not involved in the original
consideration of your request.   

If you are not content with the outcome of your complaint to the
Department, you may then contact the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Yours sincerely,

Celine Dignan
Adoption Division
[email address]
[1]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0020801.

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Department for Education

Dear Mr Turner,
I refer to your request for an internal review of the Department for
Education's handling of your FOI request 'Kettles', case reference
2012/0017141, which was received on 14 March 2012. I apologise for the
delay in responding to your request. You requested a review as you do not
accept: 

1)     that it would be possible to identify the couple concerned if the
Department named the council in question; or
 
2)     the Department’s response to your second question which asked
whether any other criteria were used to reject the couple, on the basis
that the response implies that the Department knows the name of the
council and has recorded information about the case.  

Additionally, you have asked the Department to confirm that the name of
the council is held.  You also asked that the Department confirm whether
the couple mentioned other factors or whether they were asked about other
factors.  

The Department has now completed its internal review process and has
carried out a thorough review of the case, chaired by a senior officer who
was not involved with your original request.  The Department has decided
to uphold the original decision not to disclose the information concerned
for the same reasons set out in its letter of 14 March 2012.  

The review reconsidered whether releasing the name of the council would
run the risk of breaching the confidentiality of the couple. It was of the
view that, as the council only handles a small number of adoptions per
annum and some of the couple’s family circumstances were mentioned by the
Secretary of State in the speech he gave at the Isaac Newton Centre for
Continuing Professional Development on 23 February, it may be possible for
the couple to be identified. The review upheld the decision to withhold
this information under the Freedom of Information Act Section 40(2), as
release of this information would infringe the rights of those individuals
under the principles of the Data Protection Act 1998.   

The Secretary of State consulted Martin Narey (Ministerial Advisor for
Adoption), who provided a selection of examples to use in the speech to
highlight some of the anomalies currently encountered by prospective
adopters going through the approval process. These anecdotal examples were
passed to the Secretary of State without the names of individuals or
councils and no other factors were discussed.  

The Department contacted the couple in question only when media interest
arose and they confirmed that they had shared their experience with Martin
Narey, in his role as adoption advisor, to raise awareness of
idiosyncrasies in the decision-making process for prospective adopters.
They were happy for their experience to be used as an example but it was
not their intention to be identified in the media.  

The Department does not intervene in individual cases and holds no
information regarding this case. I can confirm that the Department is
aware of the identity of the council. There has been no correspondence
between the Department and the council on this particular issue.    

If you are unhappy with this decision, you have the right to appeal
directly to the Information Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can
be contacted at: 

The Case Reception Unit
 
Customer Service Team

Information Commissioner’s Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF 

Further information about the Information Commissioner’s complaints
procedure can be found on the Information Commissioner’s Office website:
[1]http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/freedom...
Yours sincerely,

Celine Dignan
Adoption Division
[email address]
[2]www.education.gov.uk

Your correspondence has been allocated the reference number 2012/0017141.

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2. http://www.education.gov.uk/

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