Adult adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents will no longer face a major barrier to access therapy as a result of pressure from the counselling and psychotherapy sector and adoption charities.

Until now, Ofsted registration has been required for those who provide therapy to adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents aged over 18 in England – which has long caused major barriers in accessing therapy at a time where people need it most.

However, following years of lobbying to remove this requirement, an extensive government consultation was carried out earlier this year. This week, updated Ofsted guidance was issued implementing the Department for Education’s decision to make important changes will mean the providers of adult adoption-related therapy no longer need to be registered with Ofsted.

After hearing the news, Martin Bell, our Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said:

“We’re absolutely thrilled to hear that the government has removed the Ofsted registration requirement for adult adoptees, birth mothers and adoptive parents. We’ve no doubt this change in legislation will significantly increase access to therapy and help more people at a time where they need it most.

“We’ve called for this change for many years as we know it’s caused a huge barrier for those trying to access vital, affordable, and appropriate counselling. Adoption can have a life-long impact on people and it’s crucial that anyone affected by it can access the mental health support they need. It’s also a topic that our members and clients feel incredibly passionate about.

“One of the issues that many of our therapists faced before this new legislation came into play was that it’s sometimes difficult to know if counselling will centre around adoption before therapy starts. Under the old rules, if adoption-related issues were unearthed in counselling, often the therapist had to stop working with the client and had few or even no onward referral pathways available for them. But now that the new change in law has come into play, therapists and clients will no longer have to face this upheaval and can access life changing therapy like any other adult.

Marian O’Brien, who was adopted and recently affected by this issue, said:

“Having finally decided to take the big step and have counselling to discuss my adoption story, I was told by the lovely therapist I had found that the law actually prohibited her from working with me - I was incredulous! So, I am delighted with this news because it means I can get the support that I need from the therapist I want to work with.”

Our evidence was referred to throughout the government’s response to the consultation.

The response also included our intention to create an adoption competence framework, and other good practice and CPD resources to enable members to develop their knowledge and understanding of this area. We’ve also committed to developing a training curriculum to support training providers to deliver training in this area. The report states: “the development of such a framework and training would deliver what many respondents asked for in their responses and should allow high quality provision with sufficient safeguarding for those registered with them.”

Please note: The new Ofsted guidance does not explicitly refer to the previous restrictions that were in place for therapists working with adults on issues related to adoption, and the fact that the required Ofsted registration has now been removed.

There are still circumstances where registration with Ofsted is required, including working therapeutically with children and young people around adoption issues or when providing other adoption related support to anyone in addition to counselling. You can view the new updated adoption support agency guidance and registration requirements here