Family members who take on the responsibility of caring for children who are not their own risk being penalised due to a lack of support and independent advice, a charity has warned.
A survey of over 1,100 kinship carers by Grandparents Plus found that many kinship carers step in quickly to look after children in a climate of crisis and often do not receive the support they require.
The charity’s State of the Nation 2019 report shows that 75% of carers were asked to look after the children. Of these, 79% were asked by a social worker, 18% by a parent, and 6% by police.
In 83% of cases, children’s services had been involved with the child’s family and 30% of the children were previously in foster or residential care.
The report also revealed that 53% of kinship carers were given no notice and took on the children in a crisis situation. In 70% of cases, carers understood that the children would be taken into care if they did not step in.
Half of kinship carers felt under pressure when making this decision, according to the survey findings.
Over 80% said they had not got the advice and information they needed when the child moved in and 95% said they had not had any form of training to help prepare them for their kinship care role.
Around 90% said they had not been told by their local authority where to access peer support.
Responding to the report, Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said that councils were ‘doing what they can’ to help carers.
‘Kinship carers provide a vital service to society, stepping in to provide love and care for children who are no longer able to live with their birth parents,’ she said.
‘Councils are doing what they can to make sure families get the help they need and have policies in place to support the needs of children living with kinship carers.
‘There are many examples of good practice in terms of support for kinship carers and we need to make sure practice is consistent across the country.’
Cllr Blake warned that financial pressures were undermining the ability of councils to provide the support required to kinship carers.
It was estimated in January that children’s services face a £3.1bn funding gap by 2025 just to maintain the current levels of service.
‘Demand for child protection services has increased significantly while councils’ budgets to support children and families continue to be under increasing pressure, with money being diverted to protect those children at most immediate risk of harm,’ Cllr Blake said.
‘Extra funding for next year will help, but Government needs to ensure that councils receive the long-term, consistent funding they need to make sure all children and families are able to thrive.’