The Department for Education has today published the first ever National Kinship Care Strategy for England. This is a landmark moment for kinship carers who are raising the child of a family member or friend, who have been overlooked and undervalued for too long and recognises for the first time the monumental role they play in transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.
Kinship welcomes the National Strategy and celebrates that there will now be more support for kinship families than ever before. This is testament to all the kinship carers who have demonstrated, for decades, the value of raising children within their family network. However, the investment and commitments in the Strategy fall short of the ambitious and wholesale reform needed to establish a new kinship care system that delivers the urgent transformation that all kinship families need now and into the future.
A multi-year pilot of financial allowances for some special guardians, equivalent to the allowance foster carers are entitled to, will be introduced in eight local authorities. Unfortunately, too many kinship carers outside of these pilot areas or ineligible to participate will continue to wake up each morning with the stress of wondering how they can continue to afford to keep providing a safe and loving home for their child. Kinship’s recent report, Breaking Point, found that 12% of kinship carers were concerned they may no longer be able to care for their kinship children in the next year if their situations didn’t improve, risking tens of thousands of children unnecessarily entering an overstretched care system.
New guidance encouraging businesses to improve the support they offer to their kinship carer employees, signposting them to our pioneering Kinship Friendly Employer Scheme will also be introduced. While this is a step in the right direction, Kinship is disappointed the Government is continuing to deny kinship carers a right to statutory paid leave, like adopters are entitled to. More than 8 in 10 kinship carers told us they were forced to leave work permanently or reduce their hours after taking on the care of a child, leading to devastating consequences for families and for the state.
Our #ValueOurLove Campaign has fought to get children in kinship care the support they deserve. The trauma, abuse and neglect they face prior to entering kinship care mirrors the experiences of those in local authority care, but their educational and mental health needs have been disregarded by policymakers. We’re pleased that the Government has begun to address this by extending Virtual School support to kinship children too and to rebrand the Adoption Support Fund to the Adoption and Special Guardian Support Fund, but the Strategy does not go far enough to guarantee the right educational and therapeutic support to all children in kinship care.
The Strategy acknowledges that transformational change for kinship carers requires specialist experience, expertise and evidence and we are proud that our more than two decades of work alongside kinship carers has been instrumental in supporting the Government’s prioritisation of kinship care reform and demonstrating the value of investing in kinship care. We’ve stepped up to develop the services and communities which kinship carers have told us they would value, and we’re proud to see this recognised in the National Kinship Care Strategy, and through recent investments in Kinship to deliver the National Peer Support Programme and a national training and information offer. The Strategy also commits to further investment in peer support groups and alongside the Strategy, a tender for the peer support service has been released today.
While lacking in the scale and ambition needed, this National Kinship Care Strategy shows that the efforts made by kinship carer campaigners are paying off; decision makers in Government and across the political spectrum all agree that recognising and investing in kinship care should be a priority.
The National Kinship Care Strategy has begun to address our key #ValueOurLove campaign calls:
- To equalise allowances between foster and kinship families.
- To equalise access to training and support between kinship carers and foster carers.
- To equalise leave between adoptive and kinship families.
- To equalise support between children in kinship care and those in care.
This is an enormous achievement and testament to every kinship carer who has fought for change.
The commitments made today provide kinship carers in England with more support and recognition than ever before, but we must be clear that this Strategy should be seen as only the very start of providing kinship families with what they need and deserve.
Alongside kinship families, Kinship’s #ValueOurLove campaign will continue to push for the comprehensive reforms necessary to support children in need of stable, loving homes, and the inspirational kinship carers who sacrifice so much to provide better outcomes for them and for our society.