Children in care face postcode lottery over family placements

 In Grandparents Legal Centre, Grandparents rights, Kinship Care, Placement orders

Children in care face postcode lottery over family placements

North East leads on promoting child placements within the family

Children going into care face a postcode lottery for the opportunity to stay with relatives, new research has found.

On average, less than 1 in 5 of children going into care are initially placed with a friend or relative. That number should be far higher according to a family lawyer – especially in those regions where the average is just 1 in 10.

Under Freedom of Information, law firm Ridley & Hall Legal Limited asked councils in England to reveal how many of the children that went into care last year, were initially placed with a close friend or relative – also known as Kinship Care.

124 councils responded to the request, which showed that 4,758 out of 27,791 children were initially placed with relatives or close family friends. Nationally, that represents an average of 17%, but that figure is largely improved due to councils in the North East placing 37% of children in kinship care.  In the East of England, it is as low as 11%.

Specialist adoption solicitor, Nigel Priestley of Ridley & Hall, says some local authorities need to embrace the opportunity for children to remain within a family or friends network with greater enthusiasm.

Nigel says: “We found a significant difference between local authorities that appear to be particularly keen to utilise kinship foster care, and those that only place a small number of children in this type of care. Given the value of family and friends care to the children, more needs to be done to make this a preferred option wherever possible, across the country.”

 

Councils How many children became looked-after in your local authority in the 2016-2017 financial year? How many of these children were initially placed in Kinship/ Connected Persons care? Percentage of children initially placed in kinship care
North East 1679 625 37%
North West 4660 908 19%
East Midlands 2229 423 19%
South West 1988 375 19%
West Midlands 2701 465 17%
Yorkshire and the Humber 2765 480 17%
South East 3399 505 15%
London 5107 629 12%
East of England 3263 348 11%
ALL COUNCILS 27,791** 4758** 17%

*In the year ending 31 March 2017, 32,810 children started to be looked after (Department for Education figures)

**Figure representing the total for the 124 councils that answered Ridley & Hall’s FOI request in full

Last year, the Family Rights Group published its good practice guide on family and friends care. In it, they write: “The importance of considering family and friends care within the range of possible options and solutions when children may not be able to remain with their parents cannot be overstated. It is an issue that is firmly embedded within a human rights and legal framework, as set out in Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Children Act 1989. It is also embedded in our fundamental beliefs about family life as being core to society. Nevertheless family and friends care struggles to attain the same prominence as other forms of child placement – specifically adoption and foster care.”

Nigel Priestley of Ridley & Hall adds: “In some local authorities, a third or more children are initially placed in care with someone they know. In others, it was only a handful. This could be because fewer relatives succeed in progressing beyond the viability assessment, or because they give up on the process along the way. Or perhaps because the concept isn’t promoted as actively in some regions as it is in others. It is clear from the figures that more needs to be done to ensure children who could safely be looked after by someone they know, are given every opportunity to do just that.

“The odds of siblings going into care together then staying together, where this is the best option for them, are far greater if they are allowed to move in with a close friend or relative. There are far fewer approved foster carers that are allowed to or interested in caring for more than 2 or 3 children at the same time. And even though a local authority is able to find enough foster homes for two or three children from the same home at the same time, geographically they could be too far apart to be able to see each other easily and regularly.

“A lot of those applying to be a kinship carer are grandparents. I simply do not believe that grandparents are more willing to step in and help in one local authority and not in another. It looks like for many children, it is a postcode lottery. Some local authorities are clearly more enthusiastic about the concept than others. That needs to change for the benefit of families and, especially, for the sake of the children.

“Meeting the needs of siblings includes allowing them to maintain a relationship with their friends, family, and especially each other. It’s vital to try to keep them in the same schools – family and friends are always prepared to work hard to make this happen. It seems that, in certain places across England, children are missing out on the opportunity for temporary kinship care.”

For the full Family Rights Group report, click here.

For a copy of the full response and figures provided by individual local authorities, please email: christina@rtsmedia.co.uk

If you require legal help or advice please contact us on 0800 8 60 62 65.

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