Debate on kinship care

We asked:- What do grandparents need from statutory
authorities and voluntary groups to help them look after children
full time?

These are some of the comments we received:-

“I feel grandparents needs are firstly financial help
similar to foster care, respite, group support and parenting skills
as society has changed since they were bringing up their children.
All of this could be offered at the very beginning not when they
are physically, mentally and financially drained unable to care for
their grandchild any longer.
This would cause stress and guilt to the grandparents not to
mention the effect on the grandchildren. Prevention is better and
cheaper than the cure.”
Mary Womersley

“As a supervisor of grandparent kinship carers I believe
they are in need of:

* Financial support because many are retired, or if they aren’t,
they have to give up their usual working pattern to accommodate the
child, causing a diminished standard of living. 

* Support in dealing with difficult contact with

* Advice in managing challenging child behaviour.

* To be left alone if the above are under control”

Denise Martin
Family Placements Team

“Our pilot project has demonstrated that grandparents need
accurate accessible information about their rights and entitlement,
recognition of the role they undertake and access to financial
support as appropriate, support from other grandparents, informed
understanding by statutory services of the vital role they are
undertaking and practical support to help with the challenges of
parenting in a different time when they expected to be

Alan Hatton-Yeo
The Beth Johnson Foundation

“Grandparents Plus, the Grandparents Association and Family
Rights Group believe that all children benefit from being part of
an extended family.  Family life in the UK is rich in variety and
complex in its relationships.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles,
step-grandparents, god-parents and family friends may all
contribute to the rich tapestry of family life which nurtures and
protects a child.  For example, three quarters of the UK population
is part of a family of three or more generations, providing
children with a strong sense of their culture and heritage. 
Grandparents often provide an important safety net for parents: 82%
of children receive some care from their grandparents; nearly 5
million grandparents each spend the equivalent of three days a week
caring for their grandchildren; and 1% have grandchildren living
with them.  Importantly, many of these grandparents and other
family and friends are also in paid work and/or are caring for
other family members, as well as having other interests and
pursuits.  However, an estimated 1 million grandchildren are denied
contact with their grandparents as a result of adoption, divorce,
separation or family feud.
Despite this huge and vital contribution to family and community
life, local and national policies neither sufficiently recognise
the diversity of families nor address the role of grandparents and
other relatives in caring for children. 
Grandparents Plus, the Grandparents Association and Family Rights
Group call upon the UK government to develop policies and practice
that recognise and support the wider family’s role in caring
for children.  Parliamentary candidates are asked to support the


1. Increase the profile and awareness of the vital role that
grandparents and the wider family play in families, and especially
in the emotional and cultural lives of children. 

2. Improve training to increase social workers’,
lawyers’ and other professionals’ understanding and
awareness of the importance of these family relationships to
children, of helping the wider family to support vulnerable
children and of the right to family life under the Human Rights Act

Vulnerable children

3. Ensure policies and procedures are in place to implement the
requirement under Section 23(6) of the Children Act 1989 to place
children who are looked after by the local authority with family
members or friends, before placing them with foster carers or
adopters whom they do not know.
Challenging discrimination

4. Challenge the ageist assumptions made about grandparents’
ability to care for their grandchildren.
Streamline procedures  

5. Review the requirement that grandparents have to apply for leave
to go to court for a residence or contact order – this can
unnecessarily delay a key process for deciding whether a child
should have continuing contact with family members.

Effective support for grandparents and the extended

6. Ensure better support for grandparents and the wider family when
making choices about the extent and type of care they are able to
provide to children.

7. Ensure that grandparents and other family members who are caring
for children have access to appropriate information and support at
all stages of a child’s development.

8. Review the arrangements for providing effective support to
family and friends who are raising a child – kinship carers. 
Options include: 

o introducing a right to an assessment for support under s 17
Children Act 1989;

o standardising local authority Section 17 payments to kinship
carers through central guidance;

o extending pension contributions to grandparents and other family
members and friends who give up work to raise a child; and

o introducing an additional element to tax credits for kinship
carers to reflect the extra costs they face in raising a

9. Extend the right to ask for flexible working to formal
kinship carers for the first two years that the child is living
with them, or until the child reaches five years old – which
ever is the later.

10. Improve the availability of family group conferencing to ensure
that that the wider family are properly involved in decisions when
a child enters the care system.  Specifically family group
conferencing should be available to all families who request it
when their children are subject to state intervention.

11. Support voluntary organisations to facilitate contact between
grandparents and grandchildren following divorce, separation and
adoption through family mediation or family group

12. Ensure that all services for parents, such as Sure Start and
children’s centres, are available and accessible to
grandparents and other family caring for children.

13. Consult grandparents and the extended family about what they
need in order to provide family support in other areas such as
housing, transport and the community.

Raising the issue in parliament

14. Successful candidates are urged to join the All Party Group on

For further information please contact: 
020 8981 8001
01279 428040  020 7923


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