The Department for Education (DfE) announced the outcome of the VCS National Prospectus 2015-16 on March 25, which includes a proposal submitted by a consortium of organisations led by Grandparents Plus, with contributions from Mentor, 4Children and the Childhood Bereavement Network (part of the National Children’s Bureau).
Our proposal is to develop an early help model for kinship care, which will improve outcomes for children and address DfE priorities of supporting families to access children’s services, provide access to advice and information on family law and address specific issues of kinship carers raising teenagers.
I'm delighted to give this injection of support to the voluntary sector, which offers life-changing services to children and their families.Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education
Mentor will help train kinship care professionals to support kinship carers and those they care for to establish and sustain family relationships. Support will be provided to address relationship issues, provide respite, develop parenting skills and manage behavioural difficulties. Mentor will also contribute to the development of a substance misuse training manual and a kinship care training programme.
Chief Executive Michael O’Toole said of the announcement: “Kinship carers make huge personal sacrifices; we are therefore delighted to be partnering with Grandparents Plus, building upon our experience delivering such services in Scotland, to help enable kinship care professionals to support kinship carers.”
Grandparents Plus highlighted many of the challenges facing kinship carers and the young people they look after in a recent report on discrimination against family (kinship) carers: 7 in 10 kinship carers report feeling stressed, depressed or isolated, and almost half (43%) experienced stigma and discrimination from teachers, social workers and/or parents. Many report that their child is bullied or excluded from activities by other children. 90% say it is more challenging to bring up a relative’s child than raising their own, and while 77% of kinship carers have asked for professional help, two thirds of these did not receive the support they needed.
Kinship carers need access to practical information, advocacy and support around complex issues, including finance and specialist services. Unfortunately, many receive little or no practical support in managing complex family situations and ensuring positive child development.Michael O'Toole, Chief Executive at Mentor
There are an estimated 200,000 grandparents and family (kinship) carers raising up to 300,000 children who cannot live with their parents. Close to half of these children (47%) are in kinship care because of parental drug or alcohol misuse, and 1 in 10 is in kinship care due to bereavement. 36% are younger than 3 years old at the start of the kinship care arrangement.
Early support for young people and those who care for them is essential – which is why an early help model is particularly important to this group of charities.
With an early help model we can provide cost-effective support, preventing children from coming into care. We will:
- address the barriers, improve understanding and enable service providers to identify family carers and situations that may require early intervention;
- provide information for family carers at an early stage, to reduce the risk of isolation and enhance their ability to make informed decisions;
- improve outcomes for children by facilitating permanence and stability;
- provide additional professional advice and peer support via the Grandparents Plus advice and support networks;
- embed and scale these practices by training service providers;
- put kinship carers at the heart of the model.
Being able to act on our proposal will mean children will benefit from greater stability and certainty; carers will get the financial, legal and practical help they need to make informed decisions. Research shows they are often not informed about the options open to them or the support available. As a result, the children they care for often do not receive the help they need. An early help model will address this by both facilitating intervention in the early years and also in the early stages of kinship care.
We are excited to be working alongside these charities with such great experience of supporting children, young people and kinship carers. We look forward to building on our work in Scotland to provide better support for the hundreds of thousands of carers whose work in caring for some of the UK’s most vulnerable children too often goes unnoticed.