News round-up: this week we have a look at the issues around kinship care and catch up with a few other bits and pieces.
Spotlight on kinship care
Financial hardships and deprivation faced by kinship carers and the children they look after came under the spotlight last week at a one-day event hosted by kinship carer organisation Grandparents Plus. The event saw the launch of two pieces of research into the circumstances of kinship caring families and the outcomes of the children they care for. The organisation called urgently for more support for children in kinship care and kinship care leavers. Grandparents Plus was featured on the Victoria Derbyshire programme and in Community Care.
Bristol University’s Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies which has been researching the nature of kinship care households calculated that around 180,000 children live in kinship care, although other estimates put the figure at 200,000 plus. Most of these kinship care arrangements are informal with minimal involvement from the local authority, so the Hadley Centre figures are gleaned from census data rather than from local authorities reporting to government. This also means that unlike formal foster care the majority of kinship carers are not getting financial or other support for themselves and the children they care for, with many saying they gave up work to care for children and are substantially worse off as a result. The Hadley researchers found that children growing up in kinship care are far more likely to be living in households facing deprivation than the general population, with two in every three children in kinship care living in households located in 40% of the poorest areas in England. The report also noted that the number of children in kinship care in England and Wales had been rising faster than the general population rate since 2001.
Meanwhile a small-scale study into young people’s experiences of growing up in kinship care was published alongside the Hadley Centre research after being trailed in the Guardian last week (TWiF 30 November). The report sought to underline how little research was available to compare the experiences and outcomes of young people in kinship care with peers in general foster care. Among a series of recommendations, Grandparents Plus says that children in kinship care should have access to a local authority assessment of their needs and continued support into adulthood, similar to those in formal foster care, regardless of their legal care status. Kinship carers face a massive postcode lottery in terms of the support they receive, Kate O’Brien, director of business development and programmes at Grandparents Plus, told Victoria Derbyshire. “We need a national strategy for kinship carers so their children are not disadvantaged,” she said.
Reporting the reports…
The report emanating from the fostering stocktake will be delivered to the government next week, Sir Martin Narey, one of the authors revealed this week. Meanwhile the Commons education select committee’s website says the report following its inquiry into fostering is “in preparation”. And a recently launched “review into the care crisis“, facilitated by the Family Rights Group (TWiF 16 November) is calling for organisations and individuals to submit evidence “about the drivers for the rise in care proceedings and number of children in the care system” and “any research findings that you know of about policies and practices that may safely lead to reductions in care applications and children coming into or remaining in care”.
How to design an offer for care leavers
Local authorities developing their offer for care leavers, a requirement under the 2017 Children and Social Work Act, are being offered advice by the Children’s Society, which has published a 72-page guide to producing a local offer covering everything from housing to health. Young people leaving care may want little to do with the local authority initially, even when they may benefit, and so “should be periodically reminded of the services and opportunities contained within the offer and invited to take them up”, the organisation says.
Welsh care costs treble
And finally, Welsh council spending on looked-after children has trebled from £76 million in 2001-02 to £256 million this year, with one specialist placement costing £16,000 a week, the BBC reports. Cardiff council, which spends the most in Wales, saw its costs rise by 388% from £8.5 million in 2001-02 to £41.5 million in 2016-17, the BBC said.
Next week will be the final This Week in Fostering for 2017 and we will be rounding up the Year in Fostering.
Photo by Jordan Whitt/Unsplash