Kinship carers ‘being let down’

Children being cared for by family and friends who are not their parents are being let down by local authorities, a charity has said.

Family Rights Group has conducted research with Oxford University’s Centre for Family Law and Policy which, it says, shows “a major lack of support” for “kinship carers”.

The organisation says there are estimated to be 250,000 children living with family or friends in situations where they are unable to live with either of their parents for whatever reason. It found almost 44% of those surveyed said they had received no practical help from their local authority.

The charity said 95% identified at least one form of support they had needed but not received and more than 70% rated the support they had received from their local authority as poor or very poor.

The Family Rights Group’s research included a survey of more than 490 carers raising more than 750 children; 95 in-depth interviews; an analysis of Government data and a Freedom of Information request to local authorities.

It showed 20% of children being cared for by a friend or family member had first been placed in unrelated foster care before eventually being moved to a kinship arrangement.

The group said interviews with carers showed more than a third (38%) of children living with family and friends carers suffer emotional and behavioural problems and many have learning and physical disabilities.

Family Rights Group chief executive Cathy Ashley said the system cannot cope at the moment with increasing numbers of children going into care. She said this was leading to children having multiple moves, which has a big impact on them.

She said: “The amount and type of support carers receive from local authorities appears to bear little or no relationship to the child’s or carer’s needs, which is absolutely shocking.”

The Family Rights Group said that in the longer term it was pushing for legislation to establish and fund a support framework and a national financial allowance for family and friends carers.