Children in kinship care are likely to live in poverty and deprivation, research has revealed.
A briefing paper, published today, analysed 2011 census data and estimated that 152,910 children – 1.4% of the 11.3 million children in England in 2011 – lived in kinship care.
However, despite kinship care being the most prevalent form of non-parental care in England, the University of Bristol study revealed that three-quarters (76%) of kinship children were living in a deprived household.
“Forty percent of all children in kinship care in England were living in households located in the 20% of the poorest areas in England. This is an improvement of only 4% since 2001, which implies that the financial burden on kinship families still remain an area of concern,” the study by the Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies said.
“The high prevalence of kinship children in the most deprived households in England and the low prevalence of kinship children in the households with no deprivation indicate a pressing need for support and services to be provided to these children and their kinship families.”
Dinithi Wijedasa, lead author of the report, said: “Given that a large majority of these children and their families will be not known to the local authorities, it is imperative that measures are taken to enable them to receive adequate support.”
Black children are more likely to be growing up in the care of a relative than any other ethnic group, the study found. One in 37 black children are in kinship care, compared to one in every 83 white children.
Grandparents were the main carer in more than half of kinship arrangements.
‘Potentially disastrous’ cuts
Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the Family Rights Group, said: “This research is reinforced by findings from a new report by the Family Rights Group, [which] has found that almost half (49 per cent) of kinship carers have had to give up work permanently to care for the kinchild.”
The findings from the Family Rights Group, also published today, warned that looming tax credit and welfare reforms were “potentially disastrous” for kinship carer households. Drawing on a survey of 579 kinship carers in the UK, the charity found that more than one in five kinship care households had three or more children aged 18 or under. Of these, 63% currently receive child tax credit, and 34% receive housing benefit.
Ashley said: “By safely keeping the vast majority of children living in kinship care out of the care system (95%), kinship carers are saving the tax payer billions of pounds each year in costs.”
The Family Rights Group recommended that local authorities recognise and meet the needs of children in kinship care by providing practical, emotional and financial support backed by government funding. It also suggested that a duty be placed on local authorities to ensure kinship placements are explored and assessed for suitability before a child becomes looked after, and that the government adequately fund free, specialist, and independent legal advice and information services for kinship carers who are considering taking on, or have taken on, a child.