Date: 13 June 2022
The inaugural meeting of the Advisory Committee for Kinship Care was held on 8 June. It was attended by 20 committee members who represent local authorities from around the country as well as kinship carers, researchers and partner organisations. CoramBAAF has also established separate advisory committees for Fostering and Adoption in recognition that we want to focus in more on these areas. The wealth of knowledge and experience available was inspiring and the conversations that started today will continue into the future.
We discussed the recently published final report of the Independent review of children’s social care, and shared our initial reflections on the recommendations with a particular focus on the implications for kinship care. In general, we welcomed the spotlight that the review gives to kinship care and the recognition that children should live within their families wherever possible and receive the support that the families and the children need. We also considered areas which need further exploration and detail for us to fully understand the impact that the recommendations would have for all kinship carers. These included the need for more information about Family Network Plans, how recommendations for support to kinship families will be resourced, and the complex care planning considerations that we know are integral to kinship care.
There were concerns that kinship carers may be steered towards applying for a Special Guardianship Order or a Child Arrangement Order before they are able to fully consider or understand the ramifications. We acknowledged Kinship’s hope that the criteria of ‘a child who would otherwise be looked after’ is removed from the recommendations so that all kinship carers are able to access financial support.
The second half of the meeting explored unregulated placements in kinship care and this will be the focus of our Exploring Expertise session on 12 July “Square peg in a round hole” – Kinship Care. Unregulated placements can occur when the completion of the assessment (and associated checks) exceeds statutory timescales. In some cases, this leads to kinship carers not having the support and supervision that they would have in a regulated placement. We know that unregulated placements can occur for a variety of reasons that are compounded by the complex nature of care planning for children in kinship arrangements. Assessments may take longer than Regulation 24 and 25 allow (16 weeks and a further 8 weeks respectively and assessments happen at a time of family crisis often causing stress and anxiety); statutory checks may be delayed; kinship carers may need more time to consider their support needs and those of the children they are caring for. This is a thorny issue and a frequent challenge to those assessing kinship carers, and we at CoramBAAF are thinking through how we can best support our members navigate this and making sure they are legally compliant.
The committee considered its future work plan. This will include consultation on the contents of the Good Practice Guide for Supporting Kinship Care (in draft), review of CoramBAAF’s Form C for assessment of kinship carers and development of a Support Needs Assessment template to make sure that kinship carers are receiving robust support. The committee also thought a focus on the language used in kinship care should be a priority, recognising that the language of the legislation and regulations do not represent the voices and feelings of kinship carers and the children they care for. Committee members also reflected on the need for culturally sensitive assessment and support services and a skilled workforce to undertake assessments.
We want the work of the advisory committee to inform discussion at the Practice Forums and vice versa. This will enable us to continue to consult with our members about the most important issues relating to kinship care, helping us identify important projects and how we should respond to the government’s response to the Care Review in due course. There is much work to be done and this first meeting was an exciting start.
The Practice Forum for Kinship Care is taking place on 22 June, 2 – 4.30pm. To book a place, please email email@example.com.
Claire Seth, Kinship Care Consultant, CoramBAAF