The final evaluation of the Adoption Support Fund published by the Department for Education today shows how important high-quality therapeutic support can be for kinship families whose children have often experienced trauma, separation and loss.
However, the evaluation also reinforces a number of concerns we’ve consistently raised about the scope and focus of the fund since special guardians were first included within its remit in 2016. It finds that both awareness levels and the extent to which the fund was seen to have positively helped carers and their children were lower amongst special guardians than for adoptive parents. It also identifies that special guardians were more likely to be facing significant ongoing challenges compared to adoptive families by the third and final wave of the survey.
This reflects an urgent need to deliver bespoke and tailored support for kinship families, and not to simply view kinship carers and their children as an ‘add-on’ to services designed with adoptive families in mind.
At minimum, the fund should be renamed to better reflect those eligible for support and more widely promoted to kinship families to increase take up. At present, special guardians comprise only 13% applications to the fund despite more children having left care to special guardianship than through adoption every year since 2019.
Whilst we’re pleased eligibility for the fund was extended earlier this year to include those with child arrangement orders, this still leaves a number of kinship families – particularly where the child was not previously looked after – without valuable support they could significantly benefit from.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, an additional support scheme was introduced to help adoptive and special guardianship families access a broader range of support services, including information, advice and peer support. This expansion enabled 69 local authorities and over 2,000 special guardians to access our services. The evaluation of this fund found there could be significant benefits in broadening the scope of the core Adoption Support Fund to better meet the needs of kinship families.
Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) of kinship carers in our recent Cost of Loving annual survey told us that they weren’t getting the support they needed from their local authority to meet their children’s needs. The Government has committed to delivering the Adoption Support Fund until March 2025, but it’s vital it renames and extends the scope and eligibility of the current fund to ensure many more kinship families can access the tailored support they need and deserve.
With the recent decision to close the Adoption and Special Guardianship Leadership Board (ASGLB), and ahead of the Government’s forthcoming children’s social care strategy in early 2023, now is the time for the Department for Education to hear the calls of our #ValueOurLove campaign and kinship carers across the country and commit to a kinship care strategy which equalises support between kinship families and foster and adoptive families.
Only by delivering the bespoke support which all kinship families need can we match the ambition of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care for kinship care and truly “unlock the potential of family networks”.
To read more, you can find the full evaluation at the links below: