In response to the publication of the Department for Education’s Review of the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) Covid-19 Scheme, published this week, Kinship is encouraged that over a third of the 23,000 families supported were those raising children under a Special Guardianship Order. This is considerably higher than the 10-15% that access the core ASF. However, the charity is concerned that this still does not reflect the higher number of children leaving care on an SGO than on an Adoption Order.
The Scheme was set up during the pandemic to provide extra funding to local authorities and regional adoption agencies to commission a broader scope of support services, such as access to information and advice and peer-to-peer support for adoptive parents and special guardians whose children were previously looked after, in addition to the therapeutic support provided by the core ASF.
The expansion of the scope of the ASF enabled 69 local authorities and over 2,000 special guardians to access Kinship services.
The review acknowledges the positive impact of Kinship’s services, in particular one-to-one and peer support for special guardians, stating that they “benefitted from memberships during COVID as they have felt isolated and now there is an additional organisation who can provide advice, and support them through this difficult period.”
However, Kinship’s recent Annual Survey found that 70% of carers still did not receive support they felt they needed from their local authorities over the last year. In March 2020, its advice service saw a 63% increase in enquiries, with almost one quarter relating specifically to the impact of the virus.
“The broadening of scope of the ASF to include advice, information and peer support for special guardians was a very positive development. Support provided relatively quickly and without fuss can be of great benefit to parents, carers and families.
“And we’re encouraged to see the increased number of SGO families supported by the fund, but the majority of kinship carers are still not eligible to access the support they so desperately need.
“Therefore, we welcome the report’s findings that show there could be benefit in making reforms to the core ASF that would better meet the needs of kinship families. In particular, we agree that support needs to be marketed and offered in a way that is accessible, relevant and from a provider they trust.” – Dr Lucy Peake, Kinship CEO
Kinship also supports points highlighted in the Review:
- ‘Top slicing’ of the core ASF for block commissioned early targeted help for SGO families, as this can be more efficient and effective than spot purchasing, benefiting special guardians who are more likely to access support.
- Support directed towards adoptive parents and SGO carers rather than always direct to the child can be important to generate the right environment for children to thrive
- Agencies recognising the value of more preventative forms of support for families, particularly peer support and advice and information
- Developing a regional core offer, which would be particularly relevant for special guardian families where there is much disparity in support between local authorities
The government has committed to the ASF, which has been consistently under review since its conception, until 2022. Kinship is calling for further reform to better serve the needs of kinship families and recommends:
- Funding must be accessible to all special guardians and other kinship families based on their unique needs (only 10-15% of applications are made for special guardians and only for those whose children were previously looked after, which does not reflect the proportion of children on SGO vs AO).
- The fund should be renamed to better reflect those entitled, and should be more widely promoted to relevant parties
- The scope of the ASF should include services that support special guardian families to address their basic needs through one-to-one support e.g. securing housing, to enable them to then access therapeutic interventions, such as complex behaviour-based interventions, when the time is right
- There is a need for a robust monitoring and evaluation programme to measure the impact of support provided by the fund
Kinship’s response to the pandemic
In response to the pandemic Kinship launched its Kinship Response Membership service to support kinship carers, providing advice and information, assessments of need, peer-to-peer support services, assistance with grant applications, and one-to-one virtual support. Thanks to the extra funding:
- 2,381 special guardians received advice and information, including financial advice such as benefits checks
- £138,562 worth of essential items were delivered over 372 grants
- 922 special guardians received one-to-one virtual casework support from a project worker
- 87% felt more confident to ask for and access support to help them manage their role as a special guardian
- 91% felt more resilient to fulfil their role as a kinship carer
“Kinship has been a lifeline. I couldn’t sleep, I was in a very deep, dark place. I can’t believe that I didn’t use this support earlier. Thank you.” – kinship carer.