The first ever National Kinship Care Strategy for England has been published, setting out the Government’s plans for kinship care, including new commitments and £20 million investment over 2024-5.
The Government committed to delivering a dedicated kinship care strategy in February 2023 when it published its Stable Homes, Built on Love plan for children’s social care. Our #ValueOurLove campaign has mobilised thousands of kinship carers over the last year to write to Ministers, meet with their MPs, and share their views and experiences through consultations to push the Government on their commitments to kinship families.
Below, we’ve outlined each of the new commitments made in the Strategy. Each is a testament to all the kinship carers who have demonstrated, for decades, the value of raising children within their family network, but overall the Strategy doesn’t go far enough to deliver the urgent support kinship families need now and build a new kinship care system for the future.
For more information, answers to common questions, and a detailed exploration of current kinship care policy, plesase visit our National Kinship Care Strategy hub.
Financial allowances pathfinder
A 4-year trial of financial allowances will be carried out in up to 8 local authorities, backed by £16 million investment for the first year. This will provide special guardians who care for previously looked after children with a financial allowance, paid at the same rate as the foster care allowance. An evaluation will determine whether wider rollout of financial allowances for kinship carers could unlock savings for local government.
Participating local authorities are not yet known. Further information will be published in Spring 2024.
Extended educational support for kinship children
£3.8 million will be invested to expand the role of Virtual School Heads, with delivery commencing between September 2024 and March 2025. This will include championing the educational attendance, attainment and progress of all children in kinship care, regardless of legal order or lack thereof. In addition, kinship carers with a special guardianship order or child arrangements order, regardless of whether or not the child was previously looked after in care, will be able to access advice and information from the Virtual School on request.
Guidance for employers on supporting kinship carers at work
New Government guidance has been published which sets out best practice for supporting kinship carers at work, including how to adapt internal HR policies and improve cultures of support. It encourages employers to take steps to better support their kinship carer employees, and signposts to our own Kinship Friendly Employer scheme.
In addition, the Department for Education will introduce a new leave and pay entitlement for kinship carers in its own workforce, although further details are yet to be confirmed.
A renamed Adoption and Special Guardianship Support Fund
The existing Adoption Support Fund will be rebranded from January 2024 as the Adoption and Special Guardianship Support Fund. This funds local authorities or Regional Adoption Agencies to pay for therapeutic support for kinship families where the child is previously looked after and cared for under a special guardianship or child arrangements order. No changes to eligibility or scope of the Fund have been made.
In addition, an analysis of the Fund’s applications and the therapies provided will be carried out to understand how it is being used by kinship families, informing future development.
Information, training and support for kinship carers, including peer support
Although announced previously, the Strategy reaffirms the Government’s commitment to establishing a new national offer of training and support for kinship carers. Kinship has been awarded a £3 million contract to deliver a bespoke package for all kinship carers in England, including informal carers, launching in Spring 2024.
Kinship has been funded over the past two years to establish more than 130 peer support groups for kinship carers across England. The Strategy commits to investing £1.8 million over the next two years to ensure these groups, available to all types of kinship carer, continue to operate.
National Kinship Care Ambassador
A new National Kinship Care Ambassador will be appointed in Spring 2024 to advocate for kinship carers and work with local authorities to help them improve their services and support. Part of the Ambassador’s role will be to speak with kinship carers and ensure their voices help shape local authority and national policymaking.
National Kinship Care Advisory Board and Kinship Carer Reference Group
A National Kinship Care Advisory Board of sector experts will be established to advise the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing on the Government’s policy development and future funding for kinship care. Further information will be published about this Board in May 2024.
In addition, the existing Kinship Carer Reference Group – a group of kinship carers who have advised the Department for Education on its work around kinship care – will be maintained.
Engaging and supporting family networks earlier
Updated local authority guidance will encourage local authorities to implement family group conferences, and the Department for Education will work towards every family being offered access to a family group conference at pre-proceedings stage. The Government will explore using legislation to mandate this in the future.
Although announced earlier this year, the Strategy notes the Government’s ongoing Families First for Children Pathfinder and Family Network pilot and suggests the Department for Education will publish evaluation findings for the latter in Spring 2025 to inform future decisions about the wider rollout of Family Network Support Packages.
The Strategy also highlights a digital innovation pilot aiming to help social workers more easily and quickly identify family networks who could help to support children.
Updated statutory guidance for local authorities
New statutory guidance on kinship care will be published in Spring 2024, titled ‘Kinship Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities’. This will update existing Family and Friends Care guidance from 2011 and will seek to improve standards and consistency in local authority practice. The Strategy notes the guidance will reaffirm expectations that every local authority publishes a policy setting out its approach to supporting all kinship families.
A definition of kinship care
Following a consultation earlier this year, the Government has published a definition of kinship care which aims to improve visibility and understanding. This has been set out in new statutory guidance. More widely, Government will replace use of the term ‘family and friends care’ with kinship care.
Improving local authority practice in kinship care, including with Ofsted
Ofsted will provide inspectors with additional, specific training around kinship care, and will also review their published guidance to ensure references to kinship care are clear and that local authorities’ strengths and weaknesses in kinship care practice are captured in their inspection reports.
The Strategy notes that ongoing Government work to introduce a new Early Career Framework for social workers will clearly set out the skills and knowledge needed to support kinship families well. A knowledge and skills statement for lead practitioners in family help, to be published in December 2024, will also consider the role of kinship care. Practitioners will be supported to share best practice around kinship care through events and forums, including in areas such as carer identification and assessment.
Independent advocacy for children in kinship care
The Government is delivering ongoing work to update national standards and statutory guidance for the provision of children’s advocacy services. The Strategy commits to developing policy to ensure a future advocacy service considers eligible children and young people in kinship care (i.e. those receiving social care services) and helps them understand their rights and entitlements.
Law Commission review of legal orders
The Law Commission will carry out a review into the legal statuses and orders for kinship carers, and make recommendations to Government on how the legislative framework could be simplified or improved.
Data on kinship care
The Strategy outlines ongoing work to link family court data from the Ministry of Justice with Department for Education data to understand more about formalised kinship care arrangements (i.e. families secured by a special guardianship or child arrangements order). This will be used to see if, in the future, this data could be made available to local authorities to help them target support.
The Strategy also notes existing research work to build a better picture of kinship care, including a systematic review of what works to improve outcomes for children in kinship care, to be published in Spring 2024.
Your questions answered
Are you a kinship carer? Check out our full Q&A to understand what the Strategy means for you and your kinship family.
Kinship care policy tracker
Interested in the detail? Our policy tracker is here so you can learn more about our verdict and what should happen next.