VAA Expansion Grant Programme 2014-16

CVAA successfully managed a £12.5m programme of Department for Education (DfE) grants to the VAA sector over 2014-16.


The programme

At the end of March 2013 there was a national shortage of adopters, with approximately an additional 3,100 needing to be approved each year to meet the shortfall. A package of support for the VAA sector was announced by the DfE in August 2013 in order to address this issue. This included £12.5m of Expansion Grants in 2014-16 to support the sector in recruiting more adopters for harder to place children.

CVAA was successful in bidding to be the Grant Manager for this programme.

CVAA designed a programme that included both Booster and Expansion Grants, with awards of £100,000 and £400,000 respectively, in recognition of the diversity of the sector and the value of both smaller and larger VAAs. In addition, CVAA proposed 2 System Capacity Building (SCB) Grants (each of £1m) to build the capacity of the sector overall by addressing challenges faced by all VAAs.

An independent Grant Advisory and Monitoring Board (GAMB) was established to provide expertise and scrutiny in assessing and overseeing the bids, and to address the challenge of CVAA continuing to represent the interests of all members whilst being the Grant Manager. A subcommittee of the CVAA Board of Trustees was also set up to oversee the management of the programme. Alma Economics were commissioned to carry out an economic analysis of the grants programme and Wallwork Nelson & Johnson were commissioned to carry out external auditing.

A total of £6.5m of grant funding was awarded to VAAs in Round 1; £2m in Round 2 (SCB); and 3.5m in Round 3. Activity for VAAs in Round 1 began in July 2014; while activity for VAAs in Rounds 2 and 3 began in January 2015. All but one VAA benefitted directly from Expansion Grant funding or as a partner within a joint award.



A total of 1,517 adopters were approved and 1,572 children placed by agencies in receipt of Expansion Grants across the two years of the programme.

While the initial focus of the Expansion Grants programme was on adopter recruitment to address unmet need in the sector, the focus of the programme shifted in response to the decline in placement orders and children waiting over 2014-16. CVAA and DfE agreed a revised framework of objectives for the programme in June 2015.

These were that:

  1. More children are placed with VAA adopters than would otherwise have been the case.
  2. Of those children placed, a greater proportion of them are harder to place.
  3. VAAs are able to deliver an adoption service that raises standards for the whole sector.
  4. VAAs take a leading role in shaping and delivering the adoption system of the future.

Looking at each of the 4 objectives in turn, the programme has delivered clear outcomes for each:

  1. 500 additional children placed with VAA approved adopters over 2014-16 than would otherwise been the case (from the Alma Economics evaluation).
  2. Twice as many harder to place children placed with VAA adopters per quarter than at the start of the programme.
  3. VAAs continuing to set high standards for the adoption sector in a time of change and uncertainty, with 93% rated ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.
  4. VAAs delivering innovative services developed through the grant to LAs, such as child-specific recruitment, concurrent planning, and service transformation; as well as a number of specific resources to improve adoption provision and research outputs that can inform future practice.


The role of CVAA

CVAA showed through its management of the programme that membership organisations can be highly effective grant managers.

The Expansion Grants programme was highly complex. A total of £12m of funds were allocated to agencies across 3 grant rounds and 36 individual grants. Payments were made monthly on an arrears basis to reimburse expenditure incurred by agencies, meaning that CVAA had to gather and process monthly financial returns providing evidence of money spent. Monitoring arrangements required CVAA to gather data against a range of measures on a monthly basis from all participating agencies. CVAA then used this data to produce dashboards for each individual grant for the DfE to give an almost ‘real time’ picture of how each grant was performing against their targets.

Because of our position as the membership organisation for the VAA sector, CVAA was in a unique position in terms of knowledge, expertise and the ability to lead sector-wide change. CVAA therefore understood better than any other potential grant manager the challenges and potential of the voluntary adoption sector. The possible tension between CVAA’s role in representing the interests of all its members and in managing a programme of grants to the sector was effectively managed by the creation of the independent Grant Advisory and Monitoring Board.


 Independent evaluation

Read the independent evaluation of the programme here.