On Wednesday 19 October, a group of wonderful Kinship campaigners and staff ventured to Westminster to host a parliamentary reception to mark the launch of Kinship’s first national campaign – #ValueOurLove.
Sponsored by long term kinship champion – Munira Wilson MP – the parliamentary reception provided a unique space for people with lived experience of kinship care to share their experiences with over 30 MPs and Peers, and many other key stakeholders across children’s social care and education, highlighting the additional help and support that kinship families so urgently need.
Kinship CEO Dr Lucy Peake introduced our new #ValueOurLove campaign, sharing key findings from our new report The Cost of Loving, before welcoming a fantastic range of speakers. Munira Wilson MP championed kinship carers and called for colleagues from across the house to do more to support and advocate for kinship families. Daily Mail columnist Bel Mooney admitted that she was unaware of the challenges that kinship families face despite a long career writing on family issues. Bel spoke eloquently about her experience as a grandmother and wrote about the event and the #ValueOurLove campaign in her column, which attracts up to 6 million readers per week.
Kinship staff and campaign steering group members Kelly Taylor and Janice Santos captivated the room with their own stories as kinship carers, and shared how they support kinship families in their local areas every single day. We were delighted to welcome Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Bridget Phillipson MP, who set out Labour’s ambitions for kinship care and promised that “kinship families will not be forgotten”. Finally, Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel De Souza, shared a colleague’s touching story of how her life was changed overnight when she became a kinship carer with little support or guidance, and encouraged the Government to acknowledge the strong evidence and get behind kinship care.
Following the moving speeches, we screened the #ValueOurLove poem, written by poet Kitty Dimbleby, and read by kinship carers, young adults who grew up in kinship care, and our campaign ambassador – Emmerdale Actor, Jay Kontzle. There were many tears in the room, with everyone agreeing that the poem encapsulates the struggles and rewards of kinship care. We also demonstrated the #ValueOurLove kinship care constituency map, which arms MPs with figures on the estimated number of kinship children in their constituency, urging them to consider kinship families in both local and national decision making.
The event was well-attended by a mix of high-profile MPs including then Education Select Committee chair and new Minister of State in the Department for Education – Robert Halfon MP, Shadow Minister for Children and Early Years – Helen Hayes MP, and Michael Gove MP – new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Other guests included senior representatives from the Department for Education and Ofsted, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, and colleagues from organisations supporting kinship families across England and Wales.
The room was decked out in #ValueOurLove banners and placards encouraging MPs to take photos to share with their constituents with the aim of raising awareness around the issues that kinship families face. Many MPs who attended the event have publicly pledged support for the campaign by taking to social media and sharing their support with local media.
Kinship carer and #ValueOurLove campaign steering group member, Jackie said: “The event was a brilliant experience. It was exciting to meet people who are genuinely interested and willing to help our campaign.” Jackie also said that she was “amazed at how many guests engaged with Mollie and Liam”, her two kinship children. Mollie added “there was a good turn out and people seemed really interested and eager to learn more about the campaign”.
Kinship carer and #ValueOurLove campaign steering group member John said: “It was great to meet other Kinship Carers from around the country. Being able to bring the #ValueOurLove campaign to the heart of Parliament, meet movers and shakers who are as passionate about the children that we love and care for as we are, whilst being able to tell those that didn’t know about kinship and why they should support our children was empowering. On top of this, hearing the poem read out by kinship carers, brought me to tears.”
Many thanks to all of those who attended our parliamentary reception and helped us increase support for and awareness of kinship care amongst MPs, and push the Government to ensure that kinship care is front and centre of their upcoming response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.
To find out more about the #ValueOurLove campaign, sign our petition calling for better support for kinship carers, and learn about kinship care in your local area, please visit valueourlove.kinship.org.uk