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Is kinship care in crisis?
The Grandparents Plus charity recently carried out a survey of kindship carers in England and noted that the current situation is in a state of crisis:
For the full report - ‘State of the Nation Survey Report’- see link https://www.grandparentsplus.org.uk/state-of-the-nation-2018-survey-report
Over 1,100 kinship carers took part in the survey, the findings highlighted the chaos and confusion experienced by new kinship carers when they take responsibility for children within their family. The issues are made worse by a lack of support and independent advice which means many kinship carers are under a great deal of pressure. They also risk being penalised by the authorities for stepping in to keep their families together.
The survey found the following:
- 75% of carers were asked to look after children of family members – of these, 79% by a social worker, 18% by a parent, 6% by police.
- Children's services had been involved with the child's family in 83% of cases.
- 30% of the children were previously in foster or residential care.
The survey also highlighted, many kinship carers step in quickly in a climate of crisis and fear despite children's services involvement. The kinship carers have little access to independent information and advice, or support to consider what their options are. It is only later that they are informed that the level support is determined by the legal order of the child or children are subject to any financial support is usually discretionary and it can be means tested and/or time limited.
Dr Lucy Peake (Chief Executive – Grandparents Plus) commented upon the findings of the study
‘It is essential that independent information, advice and support are available to all kinship carers as soon as possible, regardless of where they live or their child’s legal status. This is why Grandparents Plus are campaigning for a Kinship Care Act to ensure that every family raising a child in kinship care is supported to provide the stability and care the child needs.
It’s time the government acted and provided kinship carers with the support and recognition they need. We’re calling on the government to ensure greater support for all kinship families from the very beginning’.
Other findings are:
- 53% of carers were given no notice and took on the children in a crisis situation.
- In 70% of cases, kinship carers believed that the children would be taken into care if they did not step in
- 50% felt under pressure when making this decision
- 84% said they had not received advice and information they needed when the child moved in
- 95% said they had not had any form of training to help prepare them for their kinship care role.
- 90% said they hadn't been told by their local authority where to access peer support.
Extended family and friends become kinship carers for several reasons, the most common were; neglect by birth parents, domestic abuse and mental health issues.
Pressure and Crisis:
When people choose to foster or adopt children they are supported to adjust and prepare for a child joining their family. However, there is very little preparation and support for kinship carers who generally step in to care for children in challenging circumstances.
Pressure -50% of kinship carers felt under pressure when making the decision to care for a child within their extended family. The pressure for most kinship carers was who would care for the children if they did not want to.
When asked what they were told would happen to the children if they did not take them, 70% understood that the children would be taken into care or adopted. Many were told their family would be separated. Therefore, they felt forced into making a quick decision.
Many described pressure from social workers pushing a specific legal order and others described navigating around a complex system with either no advice or contradictory advice
Crisis -53% of kinship carers take children into their care in a crisis situation with no notice at all. When asked about the challenges that most concerned them:
- 63% of kinship carers told us it was the children’s well-being.
- 59% had financial concerns.
- 47% were worried about the impact on their family.
- 23% were worried about their own well-being.
- 21% were worried about housing.
At Johnson Astills Solicitors, we have a dedicated family and child care team. If you have any further questions and require legal advice, please contact the office on 0116 255 4855 (Leicester) or 01509 610 312 (Loughborough).