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Our advice service

We provide advice to parents, grandparents, relatives, friends and kinship carers who are involved with children’s services in England or need their help. We can help you understand processes and options when social workers or courts are making decisions about your child’s welfare.

Our advice service is free, independent and confidential.

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By phone or email

To speak to an adviser, please call our free and confidential advice line 0808 801 0366 (Monday to Friday 9.30am to 3pm, excluding Bank Holidays). For Textphone dial 18001 followed by the advice line number. Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

Discuss on our forums

Our online advice forums are an anonymous space where parents and kinship carers (also known as family and friends carers) can get legal and practical advice, build a support network and learn from other people’s experiences.

Advice on our website

Our get help and advice section describes the processes that you and your family are likely to go through, so that you know what to expect. Our webchat service can help you find the information and advice on our website which will help you understand the law and your rights.

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How can someone find out what support their local children’s services department provides for kinship carers?

In England, all children’s services department in local authorities (councils) should have a family and friends care policy. It is government statutory guidance called Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities that says this. This is guidance which should be followed unless there is good reason not to.

The policy should:

  • Be published
  • Be designed to make sure that children living in kinship care receive the support they and their carers need to keep them safe and well
  • Have details of the support services that children’s services can provide, and
  • Set out services that are available to kinship carers whatever the type of kinship care arrangement. Services should be particularly aimed at preventing children becoming (or remaining) looked after in the care system, wherever possible (see paragraphs 2.12, 4.2 and 4.6 of the statutory guidance).

Children’s services should publish information in leaflets and on their website about the services on offer. This should include information about how to access the services.

How to find a local policy

A copy of this policy can be requested from the council or may be on the council website. Or, follow this link on our website to see policies that have been shared with us.

What the support available from children’s services in a local area should include:

  • Help to obtain suitable accommodation. Housing and social care departments should work together to make sure kinship care housing needs are prioritised
  • Help with contact, including signposting to suitable contact centres and mediation services
  • Support groups for family and friends carers
  • Financial help. This includes one off help and ongoing support. Local children’s services departments should have their own measures for deciding which children in their areas are in need enough to get help and services. This should be set out in a local threshold document. See further information about threshold documents below
  • Information about the law and the powers and duties children’s services departments have.

This is set out in Chapter 5 of the Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities.

A local threshold document helps social workers decide if a child is likely to get any extra help or services. It should explain the measures used in the local area to decide what help children can receive.  The threshold document (or the measures in it) may be called ‘eligibly criteria’ in some areas. Slightly different measures or ‘thresholds’ apply in different local areas.

Queries, concerns and complaints about local services

There should also be a senior manager in each council with lead responsibility for kinship care. It is a good idea to ask for their name and contact details. If services for kinship carers are not on offer, families can ask that manager about this. Or, consider making a complaint. See our Complaints page for more information about who can make a complaint and the process.

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