Hearing from kinship carers on the case for change 

It’s been five weeks since we published the Case for Change, I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to offer feedback. You have until the 13th August to respond via our feedback form, please take some time to share your views. 

Working through pre-set questions in the form is one way to respond, we’re also hearing directly from a lot of people through events brought together by organisations representing care experienced people. And this week we’ve held a lot of events with local authorities to hear directly from the social care workforce, with many more in the diary over August. Thank you in advance to all of you who will give up an hour in the sunshine this summer to instead share your views and experiences with the review team. 

I had the pleasure of taking part in a panel organised by the Family Rights Group (FRG) this week. A few months ago the FRG brought together around 50 people to speak to us while we were drafting the Case for Change, this week was an opportunity to take stock on how our early thinking was landing with this group – many of whom are kinship carers or have Special Guardianship arrangements. 

Kinship care featured prominently in the case for change, and we made clear our view that arrangements which allow children to grow up with carers who already know and love them should be prioritised and supported. 

Policy makers slip into using language and shorthand and sometimes the people who are actually being described don’t realise the conversation is about them. Lots of grandparents have told us that they hadn’t realised they were in the ‘care system’ or that there were so many others in their position until they connected with charities or support groups.

The charity Kinship (who have also been really generous with their time and in connecting us with their members) describes kinship care as: when a child lives full-time or most of the time with a relative or friend who isn’t their parent, usually because their parents aren’t able to care for them. Around half of kinship carers are grandparents, but many other relatives including older siblings, aunts, uncles, as well as family friends and neighbours can also be kinship carers.

Children being cared for by a relative or friend don’t grab the attention of policy makers or headline writers in the way other parts of children’s social care can. And yet Census data suggests one in 74 children are growing up in the care of relatives – without this support children and young people would miss out on the lifelong love and stability a relative can offer. 

Reaching out to kinship carers feels important precisely because they may not consider a review of children’s social care to be relevant to them.  

This week’s debrief with FRG suggested the themes in the Case for Change broadly chimed with their experiences however many were keen for us to think about the support that is offered to children and kinship carers to process the children’s life story, trauma, grief or attachment. 

Unlike foster care or adoption, kinship carers are stepping up and into a role they may not have sought or expected. They are providing love and support for a child, while processing the events which will have thrust them into the role. That stretches people really thin. As one participant said in the workshop “it would be nice to have a little hand holding to support us on the journey”. 

Given the part kinship carers play, that feels like a small ask.

 

SHAZIA HUSSAIN

 

 

 

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