Below, you’ll find an easy-to-understand summary of what the final report and recommendations of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care in England say about kinship care. For more detail on the recommendations, our verdict and what we think should happen next, visit our kinship care policy tracker.
Our #ValueOurLove campaign is pushing the Government to respond boldly to the recommendations made by the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and commit to a first ever kinship care strategy that equalises support between kinship families and foster and adoptive families. Find out more at ValueOurLove.Kinship.org.uk.
Overall, the Review has a strong focus on kinship care and keeping children safe within their family network.
It says that the “thousands of grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters who care for their family members” have for too long been a “silent and unheard majority” in children’s social care who now deserve “far greater recognition and support”.
These recommendations are not guaranteed to be accepted by Government. They may be committed to as written, changed or rejected entirely. However, the inclusion of these recommendations in the Review’s final report still marks a significant recognition of what Kinship and kinship carers have asked for. We will continue to campaign to ensure Government listens to the recommendations below and delivers on the changes which kinship families need.
An allowance should be provided to all special guardians and kinship carers with a child arrangements order looking after children who would otherwise be in care.
This allowance would be non means tested (i.e. not dependent on your income) and would match the national minimum allowance given to foster carers who look after a child in care (currently £134 per week). The condition of those ‘who would otherwise be in care’ could involve a local authority judgement, but how exactly this is determined would be worked out as part of the implementation of the recommendation.
Kinship care leave
Special guardians and kinship carers with a child arrangements order should be given kinship leave.
This means that new kinship carers would have a right to take paid leave of up to 39 weeks from employment when a child comes to live with them. This matches the offer currently given to those who adopt a child.
Local authorities should develop peer support for all kinship carers.
This means that kinship carers would be helped to meet and learn from other kinship carers in their local area. This extends to kinship carers in informal and private arrangements too.
The Review highlights our Kinship Connected programme and says that the National Peer-to-Peer Support Service for kinship carers, commissioned by the Department for Education delivered by Kinship, needs “expanding further and faster”.
Preparation and training
Local authorities should develop training for all kinship carers.
This means that new kinship carers would be offered prepatory workshops to help them with the skills and knowledge they will need to care for a child, and to support with managing contact with birth parents. These sessions would be tailored to the needs of kinship families. This extends to kinship carers in informal and private arrangements too.
Access to legal aid and advice
Legal aid should be provided to prospective and current kinship carers in a range of circumstances.
This means that more kinship carers would be eligible for funding to help them cover the cost of independent legal advice if they are considering becoming a kinship carer, as well as costs associated with pursuing a legal order through the family court – such as a special guardianship order or child arrangements order. It could also help cover legal costs if carers were taken back to court by birth parents at a later date.
Identifying kinship options earlier
There should be a requirement for local authorities to use ‘family group decision making’.
This means that, before a local authority can suggest to a family court that a child is taken into care, they should have to use a ‘family group decision making’ process which works with the family to identify who else could help to provide a safe and loving home as an alternative. Potential kinship carers should be supported to take part in this process.
Supporting more kinship carers
There should be a new type of plan – called a ‘Family Network Plan’ – that provides funding and support for kinship carers.
This new type of plan would be organised after the ‘family group decision making’ process if the family and the local authority agree that it makes sense for a family member or friend to provide substantial care for a child. This could be on a part- or full-time basis. Kinship carers wouldn’t have a legal order for the child and the birth parent(s) would retain parental responsibility.
The content of Family Network Plans (FNPs) would be flexible to suit each child’s circumstances and situation. The support offered through a FNP could range from “providing funding to make adaptations to a relative’s home through to compensating someone for reduced working hours or paying for regular child care”.
Local authorities would have to prove that a FNP was insufficient before arguing that it would be best for a child to enter care. Kinship carers with a legal order (e.g. an SGO or CAO) could also be supported through a FNP if they needed more support in order to keep a child safe and well.
Introducing a legal definition of kinship care
The Government should establish a legal definition of kinship care that includes families in informal or private arrangements.
This new definition would help Government to be specific about what kinship care is and who would be eligible for different services. It would include those families who don’t have any ongoing involvement with the local authority, as well as children without a legal order, so that some support (e.g. the peer support and training noted above) could be offered to them too.
This would also help other Government departments and public services, including health, housing and the welfare system, understand and deliver better policies and services for all kinship families.
Looking for more info?
Understand the detail of the Review’s recommendations for kinship care and get our verdict and what we think should happen next.