The Family Rights Group has launched a campaign urging people to raise awareness of kinship care ahead of the General Election.
The FRG highlights that around 200,000 children in the UK are being raised by kinship carers including grandparents, older siblings, other relatives or friends, and largely due to tragedy or trauma.
These children are unable to live with their parents either because they have experienced abuse or neglect or because their parents are no longer around meaning they have dealt with extreme difficulties.
The FRG, which advises parents and grandparents on their rights and options when the family experiences social work involvement, warns that there are also some children in the care system for whom the option of being raised by members of their wider family or friendship network has been too readily dismissed or even overlooked altogether.
Many kinship carers get little or no practical or financial support. In September, the organisation published a report which found that kinship carers are often left in the dark, without legal advice and representation.
The survey of 845 kinship carers raising at least 1252 kinship children found that three in four kinship carers say they did not have enough information about their legal options when taking on the children to make an informed decision and are facing financial hardship as a result of doing right by the children.
The legal status of the kinship child has significant and lasting ramifications as to whether or not the child is entitled to support and the kinship carer to a financial allowance. However, the survey found that three-quarters of respondents said that they felt that they did not have enough information about legal options when they took on the care of the kinship child/children to make an informed decision.
Furthermore, four in 10 kinship carers who have incurred legal costs, for example, to secure a legal order to provide the child with permanence, had to pay the costs entirely themselves. The survey found that kinship carers who paid themselves for part or all of the legal costs spent on average £5,446.
Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive of Family Rights Group said: “There are now more children in the care system than at any time since 1985. The system has been described as being in crisis. A Care Crisis Review we facilitated in 2018 found that a culture of blame, shame and fear has permeated the child welfare and family justice system. This inhibits partnership working between the state and families, yet partnership working is in the interests of children. This report illustrates how many kinship carers experience an environment in which they feel done to, cajoled and put upon, despite trying to do their best for the children."
The charity is now calling for people to raise awareness about kinship care and support their campaign to ensure children who cannot live with their parents have the opportunity to live with wider family and friends and get the support they need.
To support the campaign and raise awareness, simply visit their website, enter your postcode to find your parliamentary candidates for the general election and email them with the template email provided or with your experiences of kinship care in a bid to raise awareness about kinship care.
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