Kinship carers getting ‘far less’ support

Monday 1st July 2019

A study into looked-after children is concluding that more support needs to be in place for extended family members who become kinship carers when a child cannot remain with their birth parents.

Dr Helen Whincup, lead researcher on a study looking at the outcomes of children who have been taken into care in Scotland, is telling the needs of kinship carers are being overlooked.

Speaking about the findings of the Permanently Progressing project, Dr Whincup says kinship carers – defined by the Scottish Government as a close friend or extended family member with a pre-existing relationship with the child – often get “far less” support than adoptive or foster carers.

That’s despite kinship care being the preferred option if a child cannot stay with their birth parents.

As part of the study, which looked at the experiences of all children in Scotland who were looked after in 2012-13 when they were aged five or under, adoptive and foster parents and kinship carers were asked about the support they accessed.

“What was really interesting”, says Dr Whincup, “…was that the services accessed by children and caregivers in different setting really varied, so foster carers accessed much more formal support, for example through child and adolescent mental health services.”

“Children who resided with adoptive parents tended to get their support from informal sources such as family and friends.

“Kinship carers and the children in their care got far less support from either formal or informal services.

“That’s really interesting given the 2014 legislation which brought in kinship care orders, which essentially said in terms of permanence the first route should be remaining with parents but the second route should be with other family members – something supported by kinship care orders.”

“…In policy and practice there is a real drive towards kinship care but what the kinship carers told us was that then the children they were looking after received less support.

“We’ve said [in our report] that local authorities do need to think about what strategies they can put in place to make sure there are flexible and responsive services for all carers and adoptive parents as well as unrelated foster carers and children in their care.”

Read a longer version of Dr Whincup’s interview here.