Our new report – Out of the Shadows – sets out Kinship’s vision for a radically reformed kinship care system in England. We’re calling for better support for kinship carers and their children and imploring the Chair of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care to consider these recommendations as he prepares to report to Government.
What is the state of kinship care today?
There are estimated to be more than 162,000 children in England and Wales being brought up by family or friends – known as ‘kinship carers’ – because their parents are unable to look after them. Children growing up in kinship care have often experienced significant trauma and loss, and many have experienced abuse and/or neglect in their parents’ care, similar to those who enter the care system.
Yet struggles to be recognised alongside foster carers or adopters, and to access financial support or priority health or education support for their children, have long been documented by kinship carers.
Kinship’s advice service dealt with more than 3,500 enquiries in 2021, of which 64% were about financial concerns, a situation likely to get worse as the predicted cost of living crisis begins to take effect.
What changes do we want to see?
The urgent changes demanded by the report include:
- Guaranteed financial support for all kinship carers, including immediate support to help a child settle in, as well as access to a universal, standard, non means tested allowance that matches the current national minimum fostering allowance. This also includes introducing a right to paid kinship care leave on a par with adoption leave.
- Access to independent information and advice that is clear, accessible, and relevant to the needs of each kinship family and their challenges. This includes free legal advice.
- Improved practical and emotional support for all kinship families. This includes health, education, and therapeutic support for children as well as preparation and training, practical, emotional and therapeutic support, peer support, and support with contact for carers.
The report also makes the case for a future fit for kinship care, calling for:
- Further research and data collection so we know exactly how many kinship families there are, where they are, what support they need, and how best to help them.
- Legal rights for all kinship carers to ensure all carers have access to legal aid and a role in legal proceedings.
- Policy making and public services that understand kinship care. This means asking health, education and other public services which have direct contact with kinship families to consider how these services will meet their needs.
- A plan to raise awareness of kinship care amongst professionals and the public.
- Workforce development to establish specialist kinship care teams in local authorities and make sure all social workers and other professionals working with kinship families have the training they need to support them.
“The big message we hear directly from kinship carers time and again is that the support available to their families is inadequate.
Despite the challenges they face, kinship carers fight to provide children with loving and stable homes. But many are now at breaking point.
There is no clear national strategy on how they should be supported. At the moment the support a kinship family receives is determined by the legal status of the child and where they live rather than on their needs, which is unfair and leaves some of the most vulnerable families without help.
With a long-term strategy and the right investment kinship care should thrive as a place of safety, security and aspiration for even more children who would otherwise be in the care system. It’s time for the Government to step up and act, just as thousands of kinship carers do every year for children who cannot live with their parents.”