Kinship care is treated as the “Cinderella permanence option”, the chief executive of the Family Rights Group has warned.
Cathy Ashley compared the plight of kinship carers to the government’s focus on adoption, in an impassioned debate at Community Care Live this week.
“What I do challenge is why children with almost identical needs and prior experiences don’t get access to that same care. Kinship care is treated as the ‘Cinderella’ permanence option,” she said.
Ashley argued that children who are adopted and children placed in kinship care often have the same needs, but the level of support on offer to kinship carers is a “scandal”.
Ashley added: “Most councillors are alert to adoption and fostering, they may not know all of their responsibilities, but they are aware they are a corporate parent. But how many have read their kinship care policy?
“How many even know if their authority has a kinship care policy? In the last five years we’ve seen no secretary of state make a speech about kinship care. Compare that to the number of times that adoption has been mentioned,” she said.
In an event billed as ‘The Great Adoption Debate’, Ashley spoke alongside Sir Martin Narey, chair of the Adoption Leadership Board, on whether the government’s adoption reform agenda has overshadowed kinship care.
Narey said the reform programme was “well overdue” and rescued from demise “something that was not just declining but almost disappearing as an option for children”.
He said the programme had rejuvenated adoption, increased the number of adoptions and provided better support for adopters.
But Ashley highlighted that while councils must have an adoption support group, kinship groups are “very thin on the ground”.
She warned nearly a fifth (18%) of English local authorities do not have a family and friends carer policy, “four years after it became a statutory requirement”.
Kinship carers have been “desperate” for help, Ashley said, and she compared funding for kinship care with the £150m adoption reform grant, and the £19.3m adoption support fund.
“That’s why I do feel really passionate when you compare that to what investment has been going around in adoption. They are the same children, and we need to level the playing field.
“Rather than focus on whether the drive for adoption has overshadowed kinship care in the past, I hope that what we can do now is unite in acknowledging the campaign to improve the support system for children in kinship care in the future,” Ashley said.