Kinship carers play a valuable role in children’s lives.  The national charity, Grandparents Plus has launched its “State of the Nation” survey to gather information from kinship carers as to the challenges they currently face. The survey, which will have its results published later this year, aims to identify ways in which support can be improved.

Looking after a family member’s child can be an extremely hard task.  Often, the need for a family member to become a kinship carer can come out of nowhere, leaving the individual with little time to consider what may happen if they fail to agree to assist.

A lack of financial and practical support can also be hard on carers as they are left to cope on their own.

Very often, kinship carers will be asked to apply for a Special Guardianship Order to secure the long term placement of a child with them. Whilst obtaining such an Order can be massively important to a child’s wellbeing, as well as giving the carer parental responsibility to make decisions for that child, it can also exclude the immediate parent’s legal rights if it is deemed to be in the child’s best interest.

Special Guardianship Orders can also have advantages for the local authority.  It is quicker when compared to adoption, and a much more cost effective option when compared to care proceedings and the need for long-term foster care.

However, full support is often lacking. Prior to the court making a final Order, a Special Guardianship report is prepared. The report should set out what financial support is being offered, when this will be reviewed and the support with contact arrangements between the child and the parents.  Very often, this part fails to offer adequate help and without prompt legal advice, kinship carers can find that they face difficulties when the Order is made.

Once the survey is complete, it is hoped that some of the challenges can be identified and improved upon.