From Dr Lucy Peake, Chief Executive at Kinship
The publication of Breaking Point marks just under one year on from the launch of Kinship’s #ValueOurLove campaign during October 2022. I remember the sense of excitement and optimism which captured the room in Parliament that day, filled with kinship carers expertly and passionately making their case to the MPs and other decision makers who joined us. It felt as though something had changed, and the efforts of kinship carers were finally being recognised and rewarded after decades of hard-fought campaigning.
A few months earlier, the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care had delivered its final report and recommendations, drawing policymakers’ attention to the clear need to invest in kinship care and the benefits this would bring for families and for society.
Since then, we’ve successfully mobilised and campaigned alongside thousands of kinship carers to secure some significant progress, including a commitment to a first ever national kinship care strategy and new investment in a national offer of training and support for kinship carers in England. In February, the UK Government’s children’s social care implementation strategy – Stable Homes, Built on Love – placed kinship care and “unlocking the potential of family networks” at the heart of its new reforms.
Despite ongoing political turbulence, interest in and support for kinship care is at an all-time high, with cross-party backing from supporters in Parliament, the Senedd and beyond. A growing number of local authority leaders in England and Wales are pioneering improved support and practice in kinship care too. Most recently, the UK Government’s response to the Stable Homes consultation in England reaffirmed kinship care as a top priority, bolstered by more than 400 kinship carers who generously shared their views and recommendations based on their own experiences.
Kinship Care Week is a moment each year to really celebrate the value which kinship carers’ love brings to families across England and Wales. However, this year, Breaking Point is yet another reminder that there’s still a long way to go for kinship families to be truly valued and recognised in policy and practice. Despite the successes we’ve achieved in the last year, the situation for kinship families across England and Wales is growing ever more worrying and the need for reform ever more urgent.
Kinship families cannot wait. Our 2023 annual survey has revealed just how close many kinship carers are to breaking point. Whilst we will rightly continue to celebrate each step further towards a future fit for kinship care, what we need now aren’t small steps but great strides. The time to be bold and ambitious is today. Governments cannot delay any further and must guarantee the financial support and system reform which would lift kinship carers out of poverty and keep children safe within their family networks. Anything less is unacceptable.
The UK Government has said that the national kinship care strategy for England, due at the end of this year, “will be an opportunity to make real and lasting change”. The Welsh Government has recently said it is too “committed to seeing how kinship arrangements can be improved in Wales”. These aren’t just words – these are promises made to every one of the kinship carers who have stepped up to raise their children. Governments must now too step up and live up to their promises by providing the step change in recognition and support that kinship carers desperately need and deserve.