Kinship’s #ValueOurLove campaign is calling on the Government to value the love of kinship carers and take urgent action to improve support available for kinship families.
Kinship carers in England have until 11 May 2023 to have their voices heard as part of the Government’s consultation on their proposed reforms to children’s social care, which includes kinship care. Government consultations are like an online survey or questionnaire. They are open to the public and have the power to make an enormous difference to policy. This is the single most important thing you can do to support the #ValueOurLove campaign right now. This handy guide will tell you everything you need to know about responding.
There is a lot of information below on how to respond to the consultation but if you want to go straight to it, take the following steps:
In this guide you will find:
- The #ValueOurLove Campaign: The story so far
- What is a government consultation?
- How to make your voice heard
- Which questions to answer
- How to answer the questions
1. #ValueOurLove: The story so far
Kinship launched the #ValueOurLove campaign in October 2022 to highlight the crippling lack of support available for kinship families. Together with kinship carers we are campaigning to:
- Equalise allowances between foster and kinship families.
- Equalise access to training and support between kinship carers and foster carers.
- Equalise leave between adoptive and kinship families.
- Equalise support between children in kinship care and those in care.
Kinship carers identified these four priorities for change. Change in these areas would transform life for kinship families. But too often politicians undervalue the role that kinship carers play in keeping children out of the care system and in safe, loving, stable homes.
In February 2023, the Government made its first ever major commitment to kinship families announcing funding for training and support for kinship carers and a new approach to supporting kinship families. They have listened to our #ValueOurLove campaign calls for change but there is still a long way to go before all kinship families get the support they need. Kinship carers are the experts in what needs change. That’s where you come in.
The Government has announced a public consultation, closing on 11 May 2023, which includes questions about the types of support kinship carers need, how they can encourage local authorities to better understand and value kinship families and what a new legal definition of kinship care would look like to enable access to support. They need to hear from the people who would be most affected by their proposals – you. This guide will show you how to make your voice heard and share your views and expertise.
2. What is a government consultation?
Government consultations can take many forms. They are usually run once a policy has been drafted and follow a specific set of rules. All consultations should be open to anyone with an opinion on the proposed policy and they are an excellent way to make your voice heard. Consultations have the power to make an enormous difference to policy. The Government must publish a summary of responses to its consultation and set out clearly what it has heard and how this information has impacted its decision. The most common responses and themes raised by kinship carers will receive more prominence.
This consultation is on children’s social care with specific questions on kinship care. It is essentially a long survey with questions on a range of areas relating to the Government’s plans in this area. Some are multiple choice or yes/no questions. Others are more open – it’s here that policymakers are interested in hearing about your personal experience as a kinship carer.
3. How to make your voice heard
Consultations are one of the most direct ways to influence policymakers in Government. Here’s all the information you need to make sure that what you need to tell them will cut through, step by step.
- It will be easiest to do this on a computer or tablet, but you can do it on a smart phone if you need to.
- You don’t have to answer every question, only the ones that are relevant to you or that you have a strong opinion on.
- Some of the questions have text boxes to allow you to write longer answers if you wish. If you have a lot to say, it can be better to draft this in a word document or in notes first, just in case the website refreshes or times out before you’ve had a chance to finish.
- Remember to save your answers – you can do this as you go by clicking the “save and come back later” button in the bottom left corner.
- Wherever possible, keep your answers short, simple and focused on the issues that are most important to you – use one or two short sentences to explain each point you want to make, to help the reader understand your opinion.
- Remember – you are the expert on your experience. You don’t need to worry about writing formally, just keep it clear, polite and personal in order to have a bigger impact.
4. Which questions to answer
The Government is consulting on a number of questions relating to children’s social care, including its plans to improve support for kinship carers. You do not have to read any reports or documents to answer any of the consultation questions.
We have pulled out the relevant information you need to answer the questions about kinship care below (which to the Government refers to as ‘Unlocking the potential of family networks’).
You will also find links to specific pages of the Government’s draft proposals under each of the questions below in case you wanted to know more:
- Go to the consultation website here
- Answer the ‘About you’ section (more information on this below):
- Answer questions on the proposed reforms:
If you only have time to respond to one set of questions, we recommend you focus on: Chapter 4: Unlocking the potential of family networks, which contains the most important questions on kinship care.
We recommend you focus on: Chapter 4: Unlocking the potential of family networks.
- Chapter 4, Q1: Creating a culture of “family first” in children’s social care.
- Chapter 4, Q2: Support for family networks.
- Chapter 4, Q3: Support provided to special guardians, and to those with a child arrangement order.
- Chapter 4, Q4: A working definition of kinship care.
If you have more time and the questions are relevant to your experience, you might also want to answer questions in other chapters of the consultation:
- Chapter 1, Q1: Six Pillars of reform.
- Chapter 1, Q2: Make sure reforms work for disabled children.
- Chapter 2, Q1: A joined up “Family Help” Service in local areas.
4. Submit your consultation response as soon as possible and by 11 May 2023 deadline.
5. How to answer the questions
Please use the following as a guide when responding to the consultation. You don’t have to answer every question.
Fill in the About You section:
- About you, Question 1: You must respond to this question for your response to be counted.
- About you, Question 2: asks about who you are in relation to this issue. It is helpful for the people reading responses to know that you are also a kinship carer, and it may mean that your response is taken more seriously. You can select as many as apply to you so do say if you are also specifically a Special Guardian or a Family Support Worker, Care Leaver etc.
- About you, Question 3: asks if you’re responding on behalf of an organisation. In this context you are not, even if you work for Kinship or participate in one of our support groups. We will be responding as an organisation separately and ensuring kinship carers can feed into this too.
- About you, Questions 4, 5, and 6: are all about privacy. If you are happy for your answers to be shared anonymously or would rather your response be confidential, these questions allow you to make your preferences clear.
Chapter 4: Unlocking the potential power of family networks
Chapter 4, Question 1: In your view, how can we make a success of embedding a “family first” culture?
A “family first” culture means that local authorities will actively seek out and work with a child’s direct and extended family and friends in considering the best forms of support for a child and their family – right from the moment children’s social care services become involved. You can read more about this on the Government website.
In your answer you can talk about:
- What you think could be done to encourage children’s social care services in your local authority to better understand the needs of kinship carers and how they can work with, and support, family networks as early as possible.
- Your own experiences when you first became a kinship carer.
- Did children’s services get in touch with you early on or only at crisis point? Were you asked and offered support to help with caring for your kinship child before they came to live with you permanently? Did you take part in any kind of meeting or process – like a Family Group Conference – to help with this?
- What worked well? What do you think needs to change so future kinship carers have a good experience at this stage?
- Did you have a particularly good social worker? What did they do differently? How did this help?
- To get you started, here are some things we’ve heard from kinship carers
- The assessment processes can be invasive and repetitive
- There can be a lack of understanding amongst some social workers on what they can fund
- Sometimes kinship carers are only involved once there is a crisis situation despite opportunities to bring them in before that point.
- You can refer to any of these issues if they reflect your experience or focus on challenges you faced.
Chapter 4, Question 2: In your view, what would be the most helpful forms of support that could be provided to a family network, in order to enable them to step in to provide care for a child?
The Government has committed to exploring new ways to support kinship carers. This question wants to know what support would be the most helpful to support kinship carers to look after a child.
In your answer you can talk about:
- Support you would find helpful as a kinship carer. This could include:
- financial allowances like those given to foster carers
- paid leave from work
- access to support with legal costs
- training on topics like trauma and behaviour
- better advice and information
- extra mental health or educational support for your child
- help managing contact with birth parents
- Or anything else you’ve struggled with
- Focus on two or three points that would have made the most difference to you and your family
- Any support you already receive that makes a big difference for your family.
- Any personal experiences where you’ve been let down by a specific lack of support and what happened as a result.
- If you’ve had kinship arrangements break down due to a lack of support, what would you have needed to make a difference in that situation?
- Any barriers you have faced that have prevented you accessing the support you need.
Chapter 4, Question 3: What support does your local authority provide to Special Guardians or to a nonparental party with a Child Arrangements Order?
This question is aimed at Special Guardians and kinship carers with a Child Arrangements Order. You can also answer this question if you have a good knowledge of SGOs or CAOs and your own local authority’s policy. .
To answer this question:
- There are seven options to select from and you can select all that apply.
- If you have an SGO/CAO and do not know what support your local authority provides, please say so. It is important that the Government get a clear picture of how local authorities are currently supporting kinship families, and whether they are communicating this clearly to kinship carers.
- You could also write about how easy or difficult your local authority’s policy is to understand, and if it has been followed in your experience. If you have links to their policies to hand you can drop these in the text box, too.
Chapter 4, Question 4: To what extent are you supportive of the working definition of kinship care?
The Government has proposed a working definition of kinship care. Done well, this definition would give kinship carers and children a clearer picture of their rights and entitlements and make it easier to access support. It would also make kinship carers more easily recognised in the healthcare system and in schools. You can read the working definition of kinship care on the consultation page.
To answer this question:
- Choose from a sliding scale from fully supportive to strongly oppose, or don’t know. There’s also space to provide an explanation as to why you feel that way.
- You might want to look at the definition and check that your family situation would be covered by this. If not, you should make this clear as any definition should be as inclusive as possible.
- What do you think about the use of the phrases “significant amount of the time” and “temporary or longer term”? Does this reflect your own situation?
- What benefits – if any – do you think would come from an accepted definition of ‘kinship care’? Have you had experiences where having a clear definition like this could have helped you or your family?
- If you are a kinship carer without a legal order, you may want to think about any difficulties you have had in accessing support due to a lack of understanding of what part you play in your child(ren)’s life. Do you think this new definition would help?
Thank you from #ValueOurLove
Those are the most important questions for you to answer as a kinship carer.
Thank you so much for taking the time to work through them. Please skip down to “Finishing up” for information on submitting your responses.
If you would like to respond to more, please save your answers and go back to Chapter 1.
Further questions you may wish to respond to
Chapter 1: Our vision and making reform work for everyone
Chapter 1, Question 1: Overall, to what extent do you agree these six pillars are the right ones on which to base our reforms for children’s social care?
The Government’s proposed reforms to the whole children’s social care system are set out in its new plan across six different areas, called ‘pillars’. The pillar which is most important for kinship families and details the Government’s plans for kinship care is ‘Pillar 3: Unlocking the potential of family networks’. You can read more about the six pillars on the Government website.
In your answer you can talk about:
- Why kinship care should be a priority for reform
- Why it is important that kinship families are given the same attention and support as foster and adoptive families.
- Your views on any of the other pillars– every person is unique and has a different set of experiences that are valuable to the people reading these responses.
If your kinship child has a disability, please also respond to the following question.
Chapter 1, Question 2: What more can be done by government, local authorities and service providers to make sure that disabled children and young people can access the right types of help and support?
In your answer you can talk about:
- The care and support needs that your kinship child has and whether those needs are being met or not.
- Any experiences where you have not been able to access support for your child, or respite services because of your legal status as a kinship carer.
- Ways that the system could be made more accessible to kinship carers and children.
Chapter 2: Family help
Chapter 2, Question 1: To what extent are you supportive of the proposal for a system that brings together targeted early help and child in need into a single ‘Family Help Service’ in local areas?
This question considers plans around targeted early help which would be offered on a voluntary basis and come before a child is recognised as being at risk or ‘in need’.
We hear from kinship carers that support early on is very disjointed and that you will often need to repeat yourself to multiple service providers and social workers. This plan is an attempt to bring those different strands together as part of one “Family Help Service” where a single case worker would oversee all aspects of a new kinship family arrangement.
To answer this question:
- Choose from the sliding scale from fully supportive to strongly oppose and explain why you feel that way.
- Write specifically about how bringing together and offering the support of different services and practitioners to a family before a child or young person is recognised as ‘at risk’ or ‘in need’ by social services would benefit the whole family.
- Describe the ways in which the new Family Help service could create more opportunities for potential kinship carers to prepare for the arrival of a kinship child(ren).
- Share your experiences of becoming a kinship carer, particularly if you received a crisis call and had to take on your kinship child(ren) with very little notice.
- If you had little notice before becoming a kinship carer, it is important to tell the Government about preparation (financial assessments, training, legal advice, funding to make adaptations to your home etc) that would have helped at this stage in your kinship journey.
Once you are happy with your answers, please remember to save and submit your answers by returning to the contents place and clicking the “Finish” button in the bottom right corner.
If you’ve been typing them up in a word document, simply copy and paste them into the correct question boxes, save and press Finish.
Do you need more support?
If you need any further support to complete the consultation or have any questions about the campaign, please contact our Campaigns Manager, Sadie at email@example.com
In February 2023, the Government published a document outlining proposed reforms to the Children’s Social Care system. The document, called the ‘Children’s Social Care Implementation Strategy’, was published in response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and two other important reviews. The Implementation Strategy sets out the Government’s proposed reforms across six different areas, called ‘pillars’. The pillar which is most important for kinship families and details the Government’s plans for kinship care is ‘Unlocking the potential of family networks’. You can read all about this pillar and kinship care in Chapter 4 of the Implementation Strategy (starting at page 75).
As well as publishing the Implementation Strategy, the Government opened this consultation called ‘Children’s social care strategy: Stable Homes, Bulit on Love’ to get your views on their plans.
Links for further information:
- Full consultation document for Stable Homes, Built on Love: Implementation Strategy and Consultation Children’s Social Care Reform 2023
- Independent Review of Children’s Social Care
- Kinship’s analysis of the Government Response
- Kinship’s kinship care policy tracker
- #ValueOurLove campaign – petition, email your MP and map of children in kinship care in your area