Information & advice for kinship carers

Do you care full time for your grandchild, niece, nephew, brother or sister? If so, you are a kinship carer and this page will provide you with information about the support that Mentor can offer you.

Kinship care in the UK


Kinship care is the most common form of non-parental care for children who are unable to live with their parents in England. At the time of the 2011 Census, there were an estimated 152,910 children (1 in 74) living in kinship care, according to research by Bristol UniversityFamily Rights Group now puts this number at between 200,000 and 300,000.

Reliable estimates suggest that two thirds (67%) of children in kinship care are being looked after because their parents have experienced difficulties related to drug and alcohol misuse.

Family walking cropped.jpg As a prevention charity, part of Mentor's work involves providing personalised support, information, advice and peer group opportunities for kinship carers and young people they care for. This improves family relationships, builds confidence and helps kinship families be more positively integrated within their local community.

Kinship carers can face several challenges, including financial hardship, emotional and behavioural difficulties, and feelings of stress, isolation and stigma. Despite the importance of their role, only 1 in 3 carers who say they need help report getting the support they need.

The children they're raising are often also struggling themselves. Many have special needs, or behavioural difficulties as a result of their circumstances. Others are trying to overcome great loss or trauma, and feel out of place among their peers.

Since 2004, Mentor has worked with hundreds of kinship care families to identify their specific needs and to develop ways in which carers and children can be better supported in the community. We also worked with several partners to develop the Early Help Model, a training programme for professionals working with kinship carers.

Mentor's kinship care projects

Families Together

Since 2004, Mentor has led numerous projects that aim to help kinship care families out of our office in Edinburgh. In April 2013, we were delighted to be chosen as the Scottish Government's strategic partner in kinship care, enabling us to build an effective strategy and services to support the specific needs of these families. From 2012 to 2015 we worked with 247 families in East Lothian, Midlothian and Edinburgh as part of our Families Together project.

Learn about Families Together



The Early Help Model

In 2015 we worked in partnership with Grandparents Plus, 4Children and the Child Bereavement Network to develop an Early Help Model, a training programme for professionals working with kinship carers. Our aim is to improve outcomes for children, provide access to services, advice and information and address specific issues of kinship carers raising teenagers.

Learn about the Early Help Model


Big Hearts Kinship Care Programme

We are the lead partner in a new Scottish kinship care programme run by Big Hearts Community Trust that seeks to use "the power of the club's crest" to support kinship care families in Edinburgh and beyond. The scheme runs a weekly after-school club for children offering football coaching, music tuition and other activities, as well as a support group for carers providing information, advice and peer support.

Learn about the Big Hearts programme


How to talk to your child about alcohol and drugs

Are you worried about the child you are looking after using drugs or alcohol now or in the future? Don’t know how to start talking to them about drugs and alcohol?

The first thing to remember is that you can make a big difference.

The love you have for the children you care for can make a crucial difference to their lives. Giving them the time and space to talk with you about their worries is the first step to keeping them safe.

Second, it is important to realise that you are not alone.

There are thousands of other kinship carers in the same position as you, who may have struggled to cope with their children misusing drugs and alcohol and who are now afraid of what will happen in the future.

TIPS for talking about drugs and alcohol

Who to contact for support


Mentor-Kinship-Care-Pack-2016-cover (2).jpg For more information and advice, kinship carers in Scotland can call us on 0131 334 8512 or email us at

For a clear outline of the rights and responsibilities of kinship carers, you can access a free copy of Mentor's Kinship Care Guide for Scotland (click the image on the right).

Citizen's Advice Scotland also provides information for Scottish kinship carers on their website.


For information and advice, kinship carers in England can call the Grandparents Plus advice line on 0300 123 7015. 

To find a local support group for kinship carers, there's a great list on the Grandparent Plus website.

Learn more about the Early Help Model for Kinship Care we are developing for professionals working with kinship care families in England.

You can also access the Kinship Care Guide for England, produced by Grandparents Plus and Mentor.


Resources for kinship carers

We have developed and curated several resources that kinship carers have found helpful, with information on services and support available. Please click on the links below to access each resource and for more information.

Alcohol & Drugs: A guide for kinship carers (5.0 MB)

This guidance leaflet, written with the help of kinship carers, offers advice and information based on the experiences of people like you.

Kinship Care Guide for Scotland

Mentor produced this definitive guide for kinship carers living in Scotland in November 2011, which was later republished by Scottish Government. It has been produced so that kinship carers can gain a clearer outline of their roles and responsibilities when thinking about becoming a full time carer of a close relative or friend’s child, and has been compiled with kinship carers themselves.

This guide gives advice on each step of the process kinship carers will be involved in, what support they may receive from their Local Authority, and their financial and legal rights.

Kinship Care Guide for England

The Kinship Care Guide for England is a vital resource written for grandparents and other family and friends (kinship) carers who are raising children who can not live with their parents. It is also designed to be useful for social workers and others who work with special guardians, family and friends foster carers and other kinship carers.

Additional Support for Learning (ASL)

For information and advice about education and/or additional support for learning (ASL), Enquire have a helpline and provide a useful summary of the myths of ASL and looked-after children, as well as a comprehensive briefing with details of the rights of children in kinship care.

FRANK: worried about a child

FRANK has a page for those worried about a child who may be using drugs, and details on getting in touch with local services in England.


Further information and resources