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Definition of kinship care should be enshrined in legislation

A single definition of kinship care should be written into legislation and there should be guaranteed support for kinship carers and their children.

This is the message from the Family Rights Group which says it is time to define a clear and simple legal framework for kinship care.

“Without an agreed definition, kinship carers can quickly run into a myriad of confusion and misunderstanding” says Family Rights Group’s Principal Legal Adviser, Caroline Lynch. “At the very moment when the child they are caring for needs stability and support, kinship carers find they are having to constantly explain who they are and what they need.”

Kinship carers are family and friends who are raising children who are unable to live with their parents. Such situations often arise as a result of tragedy or trauma. However, there is no single definition of kinship care in legislation and, as a result, the child’s carer can face many challenges including not being recognised by hospital services or schools.

Many carers are also currently entitled to little or no support for the child and themselves, especially if they have stepped in during an emergency.

The FRG is proposing a universal definition of kinship care to be written into primary legislation which would encompass the different types of kinship care arrangement. Meeting the definition would then automatically passport kinship carers and their children to entitlement to a minimum level of support and services.

The charity is calling for:

  • Global definition of kinship care

A simple, clear to understand, definition of kinship care written into primary legislation would help address the challenge of kinship care not being perceived and kinship care not being properly understood.

  • Types of kinship care arrangements which fall within the definition (about identifying the type of kinship carer)

Primary legislation should also define those specific forms of kinship care arrangement which fall within the scope of the definition.

This would require clearly setting out what it means to raise a child under each of the following existing arrangements:

  • Private family arrangement
  • Private fostering arrangement
  • Child arrangements order
  • Special Guardianship Order
  • Kinship care
  • Adoption
  • Meeting the global definition of kinship care and being identifiable as a kinship carer in the guise of one of those specified arrangements, would then serve as a passport to specific services and support.

The FRG says that it would propose that the minimum level of support would include ensuring parity with looked after children and their carers on the following forms of support:

  • priority school admission
  • Pupil Premium Plus
  • Free childcare for 2-year-olds
  • A designated member of school staff to promote educational achievement
  • Access to the Adoption Support Fund
  • Counselling and therapeutic support
  •  Assistance with managing contact and family relationships
  • Help with children’s emotional and behavioural needs
  • Life story work
  • Access to courses to support preparation and on-going parenting to meet the needs of the children

The charity also urges further support for kinship carers including paid employment leave similar to adoption leave, access to a local kinship care support team, access to free legal advice, access to local kinship care support groups, access to a local family group conference service and mediation services and a requirement in legislation for a designated kinship lead in the local authority.

Furthermore, each local authority’s family and friends care sets out what support is available to kinship households, a right to an assessment for local authority support if required, exemption from the benefit cap for kinship carers, bedroom tax should not apply to kinship households, no kinship carer who has to move onto universal credit as a result of taking on a child in kinship care should be financially penalised and no kinship care household should be financially penalised as a result of kinship carers of pension age moving from child tax credit to pension credit.

Finally the FRG campaign says that there should be a national financial allowance for all kinship carers who are raising children who would otherwise be in the care system.

More information on the FRG campaign here.

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