End unfair treatment of kinship carers, says Sir James Munby


The former president of the Family Division of the High Court has called for an end to the “unfair treatment” of kinship carers.

Some 83 per cent of kinship carers asked said they were grandparents. Picture: Adobe Stock
Some 83 per cent of kinship carers asked said they were grandparents. Picture: Adobe Stock

Speaking at Coram Children's Legal Centre, Sir James Munby called on the government to provide more funding for kinship carers.

Sir James branded the financial, professional and emotional support available to kinship carers “seriously inadequate” and “in stark comparison to the support available to foster carers and adoptive parents”.

He said: “There is an intractable problem … providing the financial and other support that kinship carers so desperately need. Substantial increases are essential in the funding made available by central government to local authorities, which are under-resourced and gravely over-stretched.”

It is wrong for kinship carers to be treated the same as any other parent, Munby added.

“Kinship carers are not parents: often they are required to take over the care of children at short notice and, as in the case of grandparents, with unsuitable accommodation and inadequate resources.

“Children who have passed through the care system into kinship care typically have greater needs than other children: they, and their kinship carers, need more support, more services, than other children,” he said.

Munby’s comments came as he called for urgent action in four areas of the current care system:

  • More research into and analysis of what is going on in the care system, including research into regional and local variations, for example, in the differing legal frameworks used for kinship care.
  • A serious revamp of the independent reviewing officer system.
  • A review of the leaving care system.
  • A drastic increase in the resources necessary if these problems are to be tackled effectively.

In a recent report into kinship carers by charity Grandparents Plus, 53 per cent of 1,114 carers said they were given no notice when asked to take on a child.

Some 95 per cent of respondents reported having been given no training to help them prepare for the role of a kinship carer and 84 per cent said they felt they had not been given the support they needed when the child moved in.

Of those asked, 83 per cent were grandparents and the most common reason for a child to be placed in kinship care was cited as neglect.

Children’s services had already been involved in 83 per cent of cases, kinship carers said.

A further 30 per cent of children in kinship care had previously been in foster or residential care, the survey found.

Lucy Peake, chief executive of Grandparents Plus, said: “Kinship carers say the lack of financial, practical and emotional support for their role has had a negative impact on their physical and mental health. Worryingly, one-third say they are concerned about their ability to continue. If they can't there's a real risk that many more children will enter the care system.

“The national government needs to take a lead – it needs to set out a national offer of support for kinship families, including financial support and practical support for carers and children. It needs to ensure adequate funding for local authorities and the voluntary sector to deliver that support. And it needs to do this now.”

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