Children’s and families’ charities have renewed calls for kinship carers to receive more financial support at a Community Care conference this week.
Family Rights Group head Cathy Ashley told delegates that the organisation was looking to amend the Children and Young Persons Bill to ensure councils provided support to kinship carers. She said: “The purpose of these amendments is to enable kinship carers, who are raising children on the brink of care, to receive the practical and financial support necessary to enhance these children’s well-being.” So far the government has rejected the amendments, tabled through Baroness Massey, but there would be further opportunities to amend the bill in the Commons from late April, Ashley said.
FRG is also seeking to amend the bill, which is designed to reform the care system, to offer families a family group conference before a child becomes looked after. This would help identify family members who might be able to step in and prevent the child from entering the formal care system, Ashley said.
Need for more accurate figures
However, she said that the government would find it difficult to provide funding for this until there were more accurate figures on the number of children being looked after by extended families.
Delegates also heard Fostering Network head Robert Tapsfield press the case for allowing kinship carers to look after children more easily and criticised the bill for not including a right to an assessment as a child in need. He said kinship carers would continue to struggle unless they were considered foster carers, but suggested the government was considering delivering reform.
Inconsistent picture on use of kinship carers
Tapsfield and the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ advisor on looked-after children, Helen Jones, were also critical of the huge variation in local authorities’ use of kinship care. Tapsfield produced figures showing that in some councils over 30% of fostered children were with family carers, while in others the figure was just 8%.