A recent study conducted by Grandparents Plus has highlighted a desperate need for more support for ‘kinship carers’ across the UK. Family Solicitor Lucy Birch explains.
Up until recently, there was always been a widespread assumption that contact with natural parents is usually beneficial for children of parents with addiction issues or are involved in crime.
However, the findings of a recent research project carried out by Grandparents Plus reviewed the effects of parental contact on children being cared for by relatives other than their parents. The findings suggest that contact with mothers which was of a difficult nature could have a lasting impact on children late into their teens, and even into adulthood.
The study found that contact with parents with drug or alcohol-related problems in an unsupervised environment can have a seriously detrimental effect on children. Under section 1 of the Children Act 1989, the child’s welfare is the court’s paramount consideration; in the above kind of situations, they believe that the children are not being put first. The study highlights the importance of considering whether contact is supervised, the nature of that parent’s relationship with the child to date, and what type of support is offered.
‘Kinship caring’ is an increasing trend with more than 180,000 children in the UK being raised by a member of their family other than their parents. In the majority of these cases, the family courts have decided that the parents are unfit to care for their children due to drug or alcohol misuse and often have been convicted of crimes. The research has found that 52% of children in kinship care have experienced neglect or abuse in their previous home environments.
The study conducted by Grandparents Plus is based on a survey completed by over 650 kinship carers. This shows that, despite many carers stepping in to care for children who would have otherwise gone into local authority care, only one in ten feel they’re getting the support they need. 47% of carers say they are not getting the financial support they need, including 28% who feel very poorly supported. There are an estimated 180,000 children in the care of relatives in the UK, and it’s likely that up to 95% of carers are not entitled to any statutory support.
In light of the findings from the survey, a series of recommendations for future policy and practice have been put forward. These include reviewing the status of children in kinship care to be closer to that of ‘looked-after’ children in relation to the extremely difficult circumstances they find themselves in. In addition to this, the research highlights the importance of advice and support for kinship carers, as well as calling for greater financial support and increased awareness of these often complex situations.
If you would like more legal advice relating to child contact or any other matter around kinship carers, please contact our Family Law department on 01708 229444 or email us using the form to the right to arrange a free initial consultation.The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of February 2018.