Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, has welcomed the launch of a new report by the Kinship Care Parliamentary Taskforce, of which he is a member, and is calling for more support for kinship carers.
There are over 180,000 children in the UK who are not living with their parents but are being raised by relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings or friends.
A new report, published by the cross Parliamentary Taskforce on Kinship Care, finds kinship care is a crucial but neglected part of the children’s social care system, often regarded as an afterthought.
The number of children in the care system at its highest level since 1985 and the child welfare and family justice system has been described as being in crisis. The Taskforce believes that the wider family and community is often an untapped resource which could be better supported to keep children out of the care system.
The Taskforce’s research also highlights the strain many carers are under and the urgent need for better support that is responsive to their needs and not their legal status or the procedures of their local authority.
The Taskforce report, titled First Thought Not Afterthought, presents a vision for a good quality system of kinship care support. Key recommendations include:
- New legal duties on local authorities, delivered as part of a Kinship Care Bill, to ensure family and friends networks are the first point of call and that kinship care placements and the needs of children and families are properly supported.
- Expansion of legal aid and specialist legal advice, information and advocacy services so that potential kinship carers know their rights and options from the outset of their assessment.
- Extending the right to paid employment leave and protection (currently available to adopters) to kinship carers.
- A number of reforms to the welfare system so that kinship carers are not penalised for taking on additional children.
- Extending the Adoption Support Fund so that children in kinship care have access to therapeutic support.
- The extension of Pupil Premium Plus, Virtual School Heads, and the National Tutoring Programme to all children being raised in kinship care who cannot live safely at home, to ensure they can reach their full potential.
Andrew Gwynne said:
“This is a really important report, shining a light on an issue that is often forgotten.
“Kinship carers play such a vital role in our communities, providing love, support and protection to children and young people.
“The Government needs to provide far more support to kinship carers and I would encourage ministers to look very closely at the recommendations in this report.”
Catherine McKinnell MP, MP for Newcastle North and Chair of the Taskforce, said:
“Thousands of grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters are doing their best by their kinship children, in extremely different circumstances. For too long their experiences have been ignored and with this inquiry we wanted to bring them into the public spotlight.
“We’ve heard from kinship carers in every part of England and Wales and many of the stories we have heard have been heart-breaking. Families being plunged into poverty, having to give up work, spending thousands on legal fees, struggling in overcrowded housing, all to give children a safe and loving home.
“Kinship carers are doing the right thing by their families, and we believe the state needs to do the right thing by them, to ensure those placements are a success and that the children are supported to reach their full potential.
“Many more children could also be safely living with family and friends instead of in a care system which is bursting at the seams, if placements were better supported.
“These families have been an afterthought for too long and our report presents a plan to change that. We hope government will take our suggestions forward.”