Kinship carers in England are being failed by their local authorities, according to “shocking” research by the Family Rights Group and Oxford University.
The study, published today, surveyed 493 kinship carers from across the UK and found 70% rated the support they get from their local council as poor or very poor.
Nearly half (45%) of England’s councils have yet to publish a family and friends care policy, despite the government telling them to have done so by 30 September 2011.
One in five children now looked after by family or friends were initially placed in unrelated foster care, causing more disruption to their lives, the research revealed.
Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the Family Rights Group, said the lack of support offered to the country’s kinship carers and the 250,000 children who live with them was “absolutely shocking”.
“Our research shows many local authorities are not fully exploring and supporting opportunities to place children with family and friends, who can offer the security, continuity and love they so desperately need,” she said.
“These people are relieving a great deal of pressure from the state care system and acting in the best interests of incredibly vulnerable children, benefiting the rest of society. They deserve better.”
Often family and friends carers fall through the gaps in local services because they don’t fit neatly into remit of social services or family support, Ashley said.
“There are far more children living with families or friends than will ever be adopted but they appear to be invisible to local authorities,” she said.
She continued: “We want to see local authorities being audited and properly funded to ensure that guidance is being effectively implemented across the country. At present, that clearly isn’t happening.”
More than three quarters (76%) of kinship carers surveyed felt they did not have a sufficient understanding of the legal options and support available to them to make informed decisions about the children they care for.
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