MPs seek to improve support for kinship carers

By Gabriella Jozwiak

| 05 December 2018

A cross-party taskforce of MPs and peers has been established to push for a universal offer of support for kinship carers.

Anna Turley said the taskforce hopes to work constructively with national and local government to transform support on offer for kinship carers. Picture: Kinship Care Parliamentary Taskforce

The taskforce, which formally launched this week, said its year-long project will challenge "patchy and inadequate" support for kinship carers and their families.

Its formation comes on the back of publication earlier this year of the findings of the Care Crisis Review, which called for more children suffering abuse or neglect to be placed with their wider family in order to reduce numbers coming into the care system.

Last month the Department for Education released figures showing the number of children in care has risen again, topping 75,000 for the first time. 

Unlike foster or adoptive parents, kinship carers are not entitled to allowances to cover the cost of raising a child. As a result, the taskforce estimates half of the more than 180,000 kinship carers in the UK have given up work in order to care for a child.

Labour MP Anna Turley, who established the taskforce, said even though kinship carers fulfilled the same roles as foster carers, many receive little help because they are not recognised on the same statutory basis.

"Yet in taking on the care of their loved ones, they are keeping children within their family network and saving many from joining an already pressured care system," she said.

"Our cross-party group wants to change that and we hope to work constructively with national and local government to transform the support on offer."

The group plans to gather evidence from kinship carers and young people raised in kinship care about their experiences, as well as engaging with support organisations, local authorities, and public agencies, among others.

Cathy Ashley, chief executive of charity Family Rights Group, which is co-secretariat for the taskforce, said some kinship carers have fallen into severe debt and lost their homes as a result of the lack of support on offer. 

"Where the child or carer lives, whether the carer stepped in early to prevent the child entering the care system, whether the carer had legal advice, all affect what local authority help the child or carer may get," she said.

"This taskforce is the first time a cross-party group of MPs and peers have specifically explored kinship care.

"It is a hugely welcome and very timely initiative to raise awareness and consider what steps can be taken to support children remaining in family networks."

The group will publish its recommendations next year.

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