Currently in the UK over 180,000 children are cared for by kinship carers who have saved those children entering the care system. These carers are often grandparents who thought their child caring days were over but did not hesitate to look after the children in their family to avoid them being taken into the care of the Local Authority.
Everything we know about kinship care suggests this is more likely to be a positive, loving and supportive environment for children to grow up in. The outcomes in terms of placement stability, GSCE results and likelihood of university entrance are better than for those children who are in the care system.
Yet time and again we hear from kinship carers about the lack of financial, legal and practical support and that they are left alone to protect and provide for their family members. This has been a focal point in recent years. A specially-assigned Parliamentary taskforce published a report in September 2020 appropriately titled First Thought, Not Afterthought. Kinship care is also one of the aspects being considered by the current Independent Review of Children's Social Care by Josh McAlister. His first report, Case for Change, highlights the work to be done to improve the situation for kinship carers. The Family Rights Group has long campaigned for the position of kinship carers to be improved and they helped devise a guide for assessments adopted by the Public Law Working Group within the Family Court
The Government must be pressed on all fronts to improve the situation for the vast number of kinship carers so they get the help and advice they need. After all, they are caring for children who would otherwise have to be cared for by the state. Sadly, the state cannot provide well enough for the children it has already in care, numbers being at their highest since the 1980s. The answer is not for the state to pat itself on the back and be glad there is one less child to worry about as granny has volunteered. The state should do the opposite and pay full attention to making the placement as safe and secure and worry-free as possible. Our goal as a society must be to enable families to get on with the task of parenting these vulnerable children so that they may have the opportunity to flourish and be the best they can be. It’s time to resolve this situation once and for all.
Facts about kinship care:
- Children raised by kinship carers feel loved and secure and report high levels of satisfaction.
- Kinship care placements offer more stability than placements with carers with whom the child has no prior relationship (‘unrelated care’).
- Kinship carers show a high level of commitment.
- Children in kinship care have experienced similar adversities to those in the care system but they and their carers receive much less support.
- Many kinship carers live in impoverished circumstances, and this impacts on the children
- 3 out 4 of kinship carers experience severe financial hardship
- 49% of kinship carers had to give up work permanently to raise the children
- 8 out 10 people agree that kinship carers should receive financial support
- Many kinship carers face crippling legal costs to secure the child’s future