A row over the Government's controversial adoption policies broke out on Saturday after a minister claimed that councils had never been offered financial incentives to meet national adoption targets.
Kevin Brennan, the Children's Minister, also claimed the controversial national targets, which have been blamed for a surge in the number of babies removed from their parents, ended in 2006.
Both claims were dismissed immediately by critics.
The controversy was sparked by last week's court case in which a baby was taken into care within hours of being born.
A judge ordered the baby be returned to its mother in Nottingham because proper procedures were not followed. The baby was removed again and placed with foster carers.
The issue of forced adoptions has been highlighted in The Sunday Telegraph's "Stop the Secrecy" campaign to open up family courts to scrutiny.
But in a letter to two national newspapers, Mr Brennan wrote: "The only national adoption targets, which ended in 2006, were on the number of adoptions of children who were already in care and waiting to be placed for adoption, and on the speeding up of this.
"There was never a financial incentive for local authorities to meet these national targets."
Both claims were countered by John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP and the chairman of Justice for Families.
He said: "This is shocking. He should apologise to the British public for misleading them over what has been happening over the last decade."
It was also revealed on Saturday that some social workers were taking babies, then giving the mothers electronic dolls to assess their parenting skills.
One mother who had her newborn baby taken into care told Radio 4's Today programme: "I hadn't recovered from giving birth. I was a mess. Then we went home and they told us they were going to take our baby away and give us an electronic doll to see how we parented it."
Mr Hemming said he had documentary evidence of financial incentives.
A document on Norfolk County Council's website shows that in 2002, the social services director told senior councillors about an agreement with the Government offering "financial incentives in the form of a Pump Priming Grant and a Performance Reward Grant".
The report states: "One target agreed is in respect of the number of children currently looked after by the local authority who will be adopted during the year April 2003 to March 2004."
It adds: "If we are successful the County Council will receive £1,067,899. To succeed, we need to increase the number of children placed for adoption this year."
Another document, released last year by the Department for Education and Skills, details "potential reward grants" for 89 councils if they meet adoption targets.
It shows that Essex County Council stood to gain £2.4 million for meeting a target on "extra adoption orders".
There is no evidence any of these authorities allowed their adoption procedures to be influenced by possible grants.
Mr Hemming denied targets were abolished in 2006. He said one known as "Best Value 163", relating to adoptions of children in care, was amended to include special guardianships, not abolished.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families explained that Mr Hemming's documents about financial incentives referred only to these Local Area Agreements between councils and central government, whereas there had never been financial incentives for meeting nationwide targets.
The spokeswoman added that the only national adoption targets were in a three-year "planning and priorities framework" created by the Department of Health which expired in 2006.
She said BV163 had been a "best value indicator" agreed with the Department for Communities and Local Government and "there is no number to be hit."
Anger as minister denies adoption bonus policy - Telegraph
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