The COVID-19 global pandemic is having a significant impact on already vulnerable kinship families, placing additional stress on their already difficult situations. Prior to the pandemic, lack of support meant many kinship carers were just about coping, and the lockdown amplified the challenges they already faced. Currently, continued uncertainty means that some families feel more vulnerable than ever.
At the outset of the pandemic, kinship carers reported to us feeling scared about catching the virus, and what would happen to their children if they fell seriously ill or died. As the lockdown continued their concerns moved from home-schooling and the impact of lockdown on the children in their care, to exhaustion from caring for the children 24 hours a day without a break. They were, and continue to be, deeply concerned about the uncertainties of living with a ‘new normal’.
When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Kinship Response was adapted from our existing Kinship Connected programme in order to meet the evolving and growing needs of kinship carers. It was developed in consultation with local authorities and with feedback from special guardians, to provide targeted and time limited telephone and virtual support during the pandemic. Funded through the Adoption Support Fund (ASF), Kinship Response offers a comprehensive package of support beyond the specialist therapeutic support normally funded by the ASF. This includes tailored advice and one-to-one and peer support which is what kinship carers have told us they need and for which there is strong evidence of impact.
Kinship Response has been active for six months so far, and the impact to date is positive for special guardians and the children they care for. Our evaluation found that the special guardians feel less isolated, more confident in their role, and report reduced concerns about their children’s wellbeing.
Over the past six months:
- 378 kinship carers, between them, raising 527 kinship children, have received one-to-one support from project workers
- Over 200 kinship carers have been matched with a Someone Like Me volunteer working on our peer-to-peer telephone support service
Of the kinship carers who have been referred to Kinship Response:
- 93% say they feel more confident in their caring role
- 68% say they are more able to manage family relationships
- 92% report having reduced concerns about their child’s wellbeing
- 78% feel less lonely and 79% feel less isolated
Special guardians and other kinship carers need sustained support to develop resilience to protect against the effects of the pandemic and any future unforeseen crises. Without additional tailored support there is a real risk that kinship carers will no longer be able to look after the children in their care.
We recommend the Adoption Support Fund to be adequately funded in future, with funds tailored for special guardianship and other kinship families, based on their unique needs.