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'Kinship carers' left to fend for themselves

Family and friends carers, who are raising some of the nation’s most vulnerable children, are being left to fend for themselves and suffer significant levels of hardship as local authorities fail to implement central government policy, according to new research from advice charity Family Rights Group.

 

When children are unable to live with either of their parents, official guidance stipulates they should be enabled to live with a member of their extended family or social network, provided this is feasible and in the child’s best interests.

 

Yet one of the largest series of studies to date, by Family Rights Group, in partnership with Oxford University’s Centre for Family Law and Policy, has uncovered a major lack of support for family and friends carers or ‘kinship carers’ and the estimated 250,000 children living with them.

Key findings of the study include:

  • One in five children (20%) being cared for by a friend or family member had first been placed in unrelated foster care before eventually being moved to a kinship arrangement, creating twice the upheaval and placing unnecessary burdens on an already stretched care system.
  • Almost half of carers (44%) surveyed said they had received no practical help from their local authority and 95% identified at least one form of support they had needed, but not received - most mentioned several. The great majority – more than 70% - rated the support they had received from their local authority as poor or very poor.
  • Seventy-six per cent of carers surveyed felt they did not have enough understanding of the legal options and the implications for the level of support they would receive to make informed decisions.

 

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