The government must end its “dump and run” approach to children being cared for by family members, a charity has said, after carers are “pushed to breaking point”.
Thousands of children in Yorkshire are being raised by relatives instead of entering the care system. However 95 per cent of kinship carers, as they’re known, have no training or support, research by Grandparents Plus, which gives advice to grandparents and other family members who find themselves caring for children, shows.
Lucy Peake, chief executive of the charity said: “The Government needs to take a lead in ending the dump and run approach to kinship care. Kinship carers play a vital role in raising children who would otherwise be in local authority care, but the system is broken and unfair and too many children and carers are being pushed off a cliff with no support.”
Councils in the region and across the UK have called for more funding to support kinship carers.
This week is Kinship Care Week, a national week to raise awareness, understanding and recognition of the role of kinship carers.
There are estimated to be around 17,420 children growing up with relatives in the Yorkshire and the Humber. These figures could be even higher as they do not include children being looked after by family friends.
In three quarters of cases where a family member was looking after a child, they did not volunteer and were asked to do so, in the majority of cases by social services.
Just over half were given no notice and took on the children in a crisis situation and reported feeling under pressure as in 70 per cent of cases, kinship carers understood that the children would be taken into care if they did not step in.
Family and friends become kinship carers for many reasons, the most commonly cited were substance misuse by birth parents, neglect, domestic violence, and mental health issues.
More than eight out of 10 said they had not got the advice and information they needed when the child moved in and nine out of 10 said they hadn’t been told by their local authority where to access peer support.
Ms Peake added: “We’re working with pioneering local authorities who can see that it makes sense to invest in kinship care – it’s part of the solution to the rising number of children in care. Frontline social workers are doing their best, but resources are conspicuously missing.
“The Government needs to stop turning a blind eye to 200,000 children in kinship care and accept its guidance is not enough. Legislation is needed to ensure that kinship care is recognised in law and there must be immediate investment to ensure local authorities are funded to give kinship carers the support they need.”
Grandparents Plus is currently working with the local authorities in Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Calderdale and Kirklees.
Coun Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council and chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”