Date: 11 March 2022

Last week we were privileged to hear from Joan Hunt, OBE in our February ‘Learning from Research’ webinar (watch again here). Joan has over thirty years’ experience as a social policy researcher, but for 20 of these she has focused on research on kinship care. Her webinar focused on the key messages learned from her 2020 research review Key findings from the last two decades of UK research on kinship care - Family Rights Group and in particular what support needs to look like for kinship families.

I have been a kinship social worker for over 14 years and have often referenced and used Joan’s research, at a time when research around Kinship was more of a niche area. Thankfully, increasing interest in Kinship is resulting in more research, and as a sector we need this research to inform positive policy and practice changes for our families.

Joan shared the research evidence which highlights recurrent patterns of significant unmet need in the support provided for Kinship families. The unmet need covers a range of different areas including financial, information and advice, respite, emotional support, peer support, therapy, changed family relationships and contact, support to meet children’s needs, carer training, and direct support for children. For many of us working in the sector this is all too familiar.

The Parliamentary Taskforce on Kinship Care (2020) states: ‘Kinship carers are doing the right thing by their families, and we believe the state needs to do the right thing by them… we envisage a society where the contribution of kinship carers is recognized, valued and the support needs of them and their kin children are met. (pg 74). The report goes on to state ‘Our vision is that family is valued as a trusted resource and kinship carers can seek out the necessary support they need to enable children to thrive in their care, and that kinship care children are not only entitled to but are able to access a minimum level of support regardless of postcode’ (pg 84).

Joan invited us to reflect on what respective local authorities were doing to realise this vision, to share examples of good practice, and to reflect on some of the barriers to achieving this vision.

I found the discussion that followed thought-provoking but also encouraging and hopeful. It’s clear that many of us working in kinship care are deeply committed to trying to realise the vision so eloquently put by the Parliamentary Taskforce (now the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kinship Care) and there were many examples of good practice.

But sadly, the barriers faced by many are also all too familiar and require strategic leadership to achieve meaningful change. Many local authorities described a lack of resources, and a lack of priority or value given to kinship practice, and in the context of recovery from Covid-19 and year on year cuts to local authorities funding, we can also understand the budget pressures on local authority decision-makers.

Therefore, change at a local level requires change at a national level, and a national kinship strategy would be a significant first step in achieving this. CoramBAAF has submitted feedback to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care calling for this; it is evident so far that the Care Review is shining a welcome light on kinship care, and we wait with anticipation for its recommendations.

Joan’s presentation enabled a timely and thought-provoking discussion; I am sure there will be plenty more to come and in particular when the Care Review recommendations become known. Watch this space.


Ann Horne, Kinship Care Consultant, CoramBAAF