The number of children being adopted in Thurrock has doubled in the past 12 months – but the borough continues to have one of the lowest adoption rates in the east of England.

A new report from the council shows that in 2018-19, children’s services was able to secure 13 adoptions for children in need.

This was an increase of just six during the previous financial year.

The council’s director of children’s services Rory Patterson admitted to a scrutiny committee last year that the department had “underperformed”.

He had hoped that the figure would reach at least 15 in 2018, but it only reached 13.

The small number of adoptions means children who are under the care of the authority are being forced to wait an average of 423 days before being placed with a family.

This was 45 days longer than the rest of the region.

Thurrock Council was asked why it failed to meet the target of 15 adoptions and whether it have shortage of families willing to adopt, but they failed to respond to the Gazette’s request for comment.

The council was also asked whether measures are being taken to improve the adoption rates but they did not respond.

Thurrock’s children’s services have been under pressure to make changes since a 2016 Ofsted report found that it required improvements in all areas, including adoption.

Despite there being 18 adoptions in the 12 months prior to that report, Ofsted noted that social work teams did not consistently consider adoption for children who cannot return home and called post-adoption support “insufficient”.

This latest data is the first time the numbers have not declined since that report and it comes after the council chose to re-establish an in-house adoption service.

They had previously agreed on a three-year contract for independent agency Coram to run the service but over those three years just 19 children were placed with families.

The contract came to an end in July last year and Mr Patterson told the scrutiny committee last year that the council “had to act” to end the partnership.

This was said to be because Coram was unable to deliver “the sort of outcomes that we think are necessary for us to be the good service we need to be”.

A spokesman for Thurrock Council said: “During 2018/19, the council wanted to achieve 15 adoptions and during this time 13 children were successfully adopted, with two more adoptions taking place at the start of 2019/20.

“Since 2018, the council has invested £154,000 in adoption services. A strong, experienced adoption team is also now in place. Thurrock Council is part of the Regional Adoption Alliance – Adopt East, and will work collaboratively with other authorities in the region to improve recruitment.