Understanding the variation in support for kinship carers

A survey of local authorities in England

Understanding the variation in support for kinship carers

Highlights

This report provides a summary of findings about the type support provided to kinship carers across 80 local authorities. We found significant variation in the support that kinship carers receive, both across LAs as well as across different kinship care arrangement.

This is a foundational piece of research, and further research is required to understand this area further, and ensure that kinship carers receive effective support which ultimately enables children to thrive. Key information such as eligibility criteria, take-up rates, and when support was introduced, has not yet been systematically gathered. Further reseach and policy work should have a focus on prioritising and amplifying the voices of minoritised ethnic and informal kinship carers.

Annex

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Full Report

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Summary

This report summarises the findings from a survey of 80 local authorities in England, mapping the different types of support provided by local authorities (LAs) to kinship carers. The report is supplemented by an annex detailing the full findings of the survey. The survey aimed to improve understanding of variation in support for kinship carers and focused on the following types of arrangement: family and friends foster care, Special Guardianship Orders (SGOs) and Child Arrangement Orders (CAOs)/Residence Orders (ROs).

Aims

The aim of this project was to map out the extent of variation in support for kinship carers across both LAs and types of kinship care arrangements, to aid identification of promising interventions for further evaluation. Another aim of the project was to shed light on the support provided to specific groups of kinship carers, particularly those who may face additional challenges, such as those involved in informal kinship care arrangements and kinship carers from minoritised ethnic backgrounds.

Method

This project used three data collection methods:

  • Survey – we sent a survey to all 153 English local authorities which covered a range of topics related to support for kinship carers in their area. We received 80 responses, representing 52% of all LAs in England
  • Interviews – we conducted 35 semi-structured interviews with practitioners from LAs who responded to the survey
  • Roundtables – we held three roundtables with a total of 31 kinship carers, to discuss their personal experiences of receiving support from LAs. One round table was virtual, with the other two being conducted in person in Bradford and London.

Key Findings

Our study found that there is significant variation in the support that kinship carers receive, both across LAs as well as across different kinship care arrangements.

Across different areas, support tends to be highest for Family and Friends Foster Carers, followed by Special Guardians, with the least support provided to kinship carers on a Child Arrangements Order (CAO/RO). Within SGOs and CAO/RO arrangements, support is more common if the child has previously been looked after by the LA.

The topics covered by the study are wide-ranging. The report discusses findings related to: service structure; panel process; financial support (ongoing and one-off); legal support training; emotional/therapeutic support; support for managing contact; support to help prevent breakdown of arrangements; information provision; support for minoritised ethnic kinship families; and support for informal kinship care arrangements.

Implications for future research

This is a foundational piece of research which we hope will be a catalyst for further research and knowledge generation, to ensure that kinship carers receive effective support which ultimately enables children to thrive.

Subsequent steps are needed for future robust evaluations of LA support for kinship carers. Key information such as eligibility criteria, take-up rates, and when support was introduced, has not yet been systematically gathered.

Furthermore, the voices of minoritised ethnic and informal kinship carers should be prioritised and amplified in future research and policy work. While this report has illuminated some findings regarding LA practices for these groups, we know very little about their experiences.

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