Every child needs a loving, caring home, and if that can’t be with their own parents it is vital that there are genuine, caring alternatives. Kinship care can often be exactly that.
We should do more every day for kinship carers, but given it is Kinship Care Week, it is a chance to celebrate the children living in kinship arrangements, as well as their carers. Let me start by paying testament to the thousands of kinship carers across the country, who are doing amazing things for children. That will include many who don’t even realise they are kinship carers because they are just doing what families do. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need support or care or recognition. So many children I speak to are so grateful to wider family and friends for loving and caring for them when their birth parents can’t. What you do is truly incredible. You are changing lives.
For those who are not familiar with what kinship care is, it is when a child lives with a relative or friend who isn’t their parent. There are different types of kinship care, including: living in an informal arrangement; being on a Child Arrangements Order or Special Guardianship Order and being ‘looked after’ by the local authority and placed with kinship foster carers. The latest census published last week by the Office for National Statistics shows that, in England and Wales there are 121,000 children living in kinship arrangement, with over half (59%) of children living with at least one grandparent. i
As I set out in my response to the government’s consultation on the Stable Homes, Built on Love strategy, it is good to see the focus on expanding kinship arrangements and providing intensive support for a child’s family network when issues are identified. In my Family Review I heard that many families turn to their own network when things get tough. Families told me that they often choose first to access help and support from their parents, grandparents, and friends. We must nurture these wider family networks, and give kinship carers the recognition and support they need.
There is a role for everyone to play in supporting children in kinship arrangements and their parents. I look forward to the government’s publication of its Kinship Care strategy by the end of this year. I would like to see the strategy set a clear direction for how kinship families will be supported and sustained through enhanced mental health support, greater financial support, and support with employment as well. It needs to look to leading examples of good practice from employers for carers who step in, often unexpectedly to care for children. For example, I was pleased to see Tesco recently introducing paid leave for kinship carers.
Schools are a central source of support in children’s lives and must be equipped to recognise the needs of children in kinship arrangements and effectively signpost them to support. That’s why last year I produced a resource with Kinship Liverpool that I hope sparks conversations about the need to understand the variations in family arrangements and the needs of children living in kinship care.
I will continue to champion the need for children in kinship care and their carers to get the recognition they deserve. I hope this week inspires conversations across the country about the value of kinship in children’s lives.