A website for an adoption agency, New Leaf Adoption (www.newleafadoption.co.uk), seen on 23 March 2017, contained text which stated "We only use experienced competent assessors".
The complainant, who understood that the agency had been given an "Inadequate" judgement by Ofsted, challenged whether the claim "We only use experienced competent assessors" was misleading and could be substantiated.
New Leaf Adoption Ltd explained the steps they had taken to address the findings of the Ofsted report. The steps included recruiting, training and supporting new staff to replace previous staff members; recruit a new Adoption Panel; re-write all paperwork, policies and procedures; and create new systems setting out clear timescales and processes. They believed the actions they had taken had addressed the concerns previously identified in the Ofsted report and the information on the website, including the claim that had been challenged, was an accurate reflection of how the agency New Leaf Adoption was now operating.
The ASA noted that the claim stated "We only use experienced competent assessors". We considered consumers were likely to interpret the claim to mean that the staff responsible for assessing prospective adopters would have a good level of relevant experience and competence. We noted that the Inspection Report following the most recent full inspection by the regulator Ofsted, dated 20 February 2017, just over a month before the ad was seen, stated that New Leaf did not comply with regulatory requirements during the assessment and approval of adopters; that not all required checks were undertaken; that staff were not recruited in line with safe recruitment and vetting practices; and that poor and unsafe practice had gone unchallenged as the manager and social workers did not have the requisite knowledge and experience of adoption. Ofsted had given New Leaf an overall "Inadequate" rating.
We acknowledged that a monitoring visit in June 2017 found that of two statutory compliance notices served in the February 2017 inspection, one, relating to recruitment checks for staff, had been met. However, the report following that visit also recommended that New Leaf ensured staff had access to support and advice and were provided with regular supervision by appropriately qualified and experienced staff. We therefore concluded that while there was evidence that New Leaf was taking steps to address the concerns expressed in the February 2017 report, there was nevertheless still inadequate evidence to support the claim. We concluded that the claim "We only use experienced competent assessors", as seen by the complainant in March 2017, had not been substantiated and was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told New Leaf Adoption Ltd not to make claims which implied that their assessors were particularly experienced or competent, in the absence of adequate evidence.