Kinship Care Week (2-8 October 2023) is an opportunity to raise awareness about the role of kinship carers in children’s lives and the valuable support that they can provide. Kinship carers are those family members who put themselves forward to care for children of their relatives in circumstances when the children cannot be cared for by their own parents. Often, grandparents are kinship carers but aunts, uncles, cousins and other distant relatives can also be kinship carers. A family friend can also be a kinship carer.
The Government recently published its findings from the public consultation in response to the ‘Children’s Social Care: Stable Homes, Built on Love’ strategy for reform. In particular, the consultation requested views on proposals for support for kinship carers and wider family members.
Almost half (44.9%) of those that responded were kinship carers. When asked about support for kinship carers, the common response was that financial support should be in line with the financial support provided to foster carers. The role of a kinship carer is similar to a foster carer yet the level of financial support is a lot less and this can make kinship carers feel less valued.
Similarly, the level of resources and services put in place to support foster carers is much higher than the support provided to kinship carers. For example, access to training, professionals and therapeutic support. Practical, financial and emotional support is so important in ensuring that a child or young person can remain within their family network.
The Government has already introduced the Family Network Support Packages through the Family First for Children pilot scheme which has started in a few selected Local Authorities. The packages will include practical and financial support to enable extended family networks to provide additional care for children and to prevent them from entering the care system. It remains to be seen how well this is working.
The Government has committed to publishing a Kinship Care Strategy by the end of 2023. A new Kinship Carer Reference Group has been established to inform the development of the Kinship Care Strategy as well as consultation with social workers, charities, academics and other professionals. It seems that the following will be considered and explored:
- Financial allowance for all kinship carers with Special Guardianship Orders and Child Arrangements Orders in every Local Authority
- A finalised definition of ‘kinship care’
- Mediation and consultation with family members
- Sharing information and early intervention/involvement
Keeping children or young people within their family network is always the preferred outcome if it is in their best interests. We will have to wait to see if the Kinship Care Strategy does enough to promote and support this. If family members feel that they will be adequately supported, they are more likely to put themselves forward to be a kinship carer and formalise a child’s placement with them under appropriate court orders such as a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order.