Lack of kinship care policies leaves support for carers in jeopardy and force councils into explicit commitments to family and friends care, charity says
Family Rights Group wants local authorities to be forced to make explicit commitments to kinship carers after finding many councils have no policy on the care of children by family and friends.
Up to 300,000 children who cannot live with their parents are cared for by friends or relatives, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, in most cases outside the formal care system.
But Freedom of Information requests made to English and Welsh councils by FRG, which supports families involved with children’s social services, found 70% lacked an overall written policy on family and friends care.
Of those councils that stated kinship care should be the first option for children in need of alternative care – 49% of the total – more than half did not have a family and friends care policy.
The charity’s chief executive, Cathy Ashley (pictured), said the government should act on this gap in its framework for family and friends carers, which was promised in the 2007 Care Matters white paper and is due out in December.
FRG received responses from 83% of local authorities to its survey in 2007. It has since been analysed with Birmingham University and was published this week, along with a best practice guide for local authorities.
Family and friends carers
More than 60% of councils did not have any workers dedicated to supporting family and friends carers. In addition, 95% did not have explicit eligibility criteria stating which kinship carers of children outside the formal care system should receive financial support. Some authorities admitted their policy of keeping children outside the care system was financially driven.
Ashley said she was concerned that support for family and friends carers could deteriorate if councils faced more demands on their budgets as the number of children taken formally into care increased.
There has been a massive hike in care applications since the baby Peter case. Community Care has estimated that if trends continue this could add more than £80m to annual care placement costs for English authorities.
FRG and other organisations will lobby Parliament on 28 October to call for a national financial allowance and effective support system for family and friends carers.
A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokesperson said the forthcoming guidance would set out clear expectations for services to support family and friends carers and clarify councils’ responsibilities.
Read the report from http://www.frg.org.uk
Children in care: System buckling under the strain
● 49% of councils said family and friends should be considered as the first option for children having to live away from their parents.
● 73% had a policy for children cared for by family and friends in the looked-after system.
● 43% had a policy for children cared for by family and friends outside the looked-after system.