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Kinship carers need greater support from local authorities

Local authorities must do more to support kinship carers in their areas, a charity has warned.

Publishing its annual survey of kinship carers, Grandparents Plus said that providing better support for kinship carers is especially urgent given the impact Covid-19 is having on kinship families.

“Grandparents Plus annual survey of kinship carers shows that kinship carers have been left struggling without the support and advice they need to keep their families together. 82% lack the professional support and information they need from local authorities and this is despite many of these families raising children who have suffered trauma and 30% diagnosed with additional needs,” said the report.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, this lack of formal support puts even more pressure on already vulnerable families,” it added.

The report found:

  • 70% of respondents found managing during the crisis difficult or very difficult
  • 51% said their children had also struggled
  • 24% said they are worried they will be unable to cope with a second lockdown.

The annual survey revealed that 87% of kinship carers feel proud of their role, 91% of kinship carers say the child they are raising in kinship care feels positive about the arrangement and 89% of kinship carers feel confident to tell people about their role.

However, 71% of kinship carers feel that people don’t understand what kinship care is and 67% also said they feel that people make judgements about their situation.

However, becoming a kinship carer also has a significant impact on people’s lives and 82% said that they miss aspects of their lives before they took on the care of the children.

At a time when more children are coming into care, kinship is a positive alternative to other forms of care with 97% of carers feeling that the child has settled well or very well into their family. But kinship carers, who want to do their part, must have the support they need when they need it, to ensure the longer-term benefits kinship care offers are fulfilled, Grandparents Plus warns.

“The findings from our survey highlights most kinship carers continue to feel they do not receive adequate support from their local authorities. Grandparents Plus is calling for all kinship carers to be adequately supported and make a number of recommendations,” the report said.

Grandparents Plus is calling for:

  • A Kinship Care Act recognising kinship care in law to ensure all kinship carers and the children they care for have access to the support and information they need when they need it.
  • Local authorities to do more to support kinship carers in their areas.
  • Specialist and independent advice be universally available to kinship carers to ensure they are made aware of their rights as soon as possible. They need access to free, independent legal advice in order to make informed decisions about the care arrangements they make for the child.
  • Comprehensive support to be universally available to kinship carers – specific to the needs of every kinship family as soon as they begin looking after the child.
  • Financial support to be universally available for kinship carers with a national minimum allowance to cover the costs of bringing up a child in kinship care and exemption from the benefits cap.
  • A better understanding of kinship care among professionals and wider society – to ensure kinship carers feel valued for the important role they take on and the sacrifices they make.
  • A greater voice for kinship carers to ensure kinship carers’ experiences are at the heart of all decisions made about them. Their experiences should also be a foundation for any services offered to them.

The report comes after the parliamentary taskforce on kinship care stated that kinship care should always be considered as first option for children needing care.

The taskforce also recommended that local authorities should provide clear and comprehensive information to kinship carers about the options available to them and any support that they may be eligible for, including access to benefits advice.

The state of the nation annual survey is available here

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