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91% say kinship care would be their number one option if they couldn’t care for their child

Published: 10th January 2022

4 minute read

New polling carried out by Opinium on behalf of Family Rights Group shows 91% of people would most trust relatives or friends to care for their children, if they couldn’t care for them.

Over 104,000 children and young people are currently being raised in the care system in the UK. The highest number in over 30 years. The child welfare system is under huge pressure.

Most are living with unrelated foster carers or in residential care away from their family network. In England, only 15% of these children are being raised by relatives or friends who have become their foster carers (kinship foster care) and the proportion varies significantly between local authorities. In Wales, 22% of looked after children are in kinship foster care, and in Scotland, 31% of all looked after children are placed formally with kinship carers.

This new polling data shows that the vast majority of the public would prefer their children to be raised in kinship care, by relatives or friends, if they were unable to remain at home.

When a child’s parents are unable to look after them, the people that the public most trust to look after them are:

38%

Grandparents

14%

Aunt/uncle

11%

Brothers/sisters

21%

Other relatives

In total, 83% said they most trusted relatives, followed by friends on 8%. Children’s services were on 3%, while adopters were on 2%.[i]

The proportion of children raised in kinship foster care varies significantly between local authorities

New government data from parliamentary questions submitted to the Department for Education by Helen Hayes MP shows huge variation between local authorities in England in the likelihood of a child being placed with family or friend foster carers, compared to unrelated foster carers and residential care.

For example, 29% of looked after children in Leeds are in kinship foster care compared to only 7.5% in County Durham.

In Wales, 22% of looked after children are living with kinship foster carers. This ranges from 9% in Casnewydd to 30% in Abertawe (Data provided by Y Bont).

When compared internationally, the 15% of children in care in England in kinship care is much lower than a third in the US, just over half in Australia and nearly two thirds in New Zealand.

Family Rights Group, alongside the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kinship Care and the Kinship Care Alliance, have called for kinship care to be explored as the first point of call when there are concerns about a child’s welfare.

The public also support increased help for kinship carers

Alongside children in kinship foster care, there are many more children who are not in the care system but are being raised by kinship carers under other types of legal arrangement. In total, more than 180,000 children across the UK are raised in kinship care. Many have experienced similar adversities to those in the care system but they and their carers are entitled to much less support.

For example, more than half of kinship carers have to give up work or reduce their hours when a child comes to live with them, plunging many into poverty.

  • 83% of the public think that a family member should get paid leave (similar to adoption leave) if a child goes to live with them. Just 17% disagree.

Many kinship carers also face crippling legal costs to secure the child’s future.

  • 83% of the public think that relatives should have their legal costs covered if a child goes to live with them. 17% think they should cover the costs themselves.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Kinship Care has been campaigning for paid employment leave for kinship carers and the extension of legal aid to cover legal advice and representation for current and prospective kinship carers. Conservative MP, Katherine Fletcher, also has an upcoming Private Members’ Bill on kinship carers leave.

Commenting on the new data, Cathy Ashley, Chief Executive to Family Rights Group, said:

“Kinship care should be the first thought not an afterthought for children who cannot remain with their parents. The new polling data finds that the vast majority of us would want our child to be raised by a family member or friend, if we couldn’t care for them. We overwhelmingly prefer this to our child going into unrelated foster or residential care or being adopted.

“Research also bears out that children raised in kinship care report feeling loved and secure, and overall do better than other children in the care system. Kinship carers often go above and beyond for the children.

“Unfortunately, just 15% of children in care in England are being raised by relatives or friends, compared to nearly a third in the US and nearly two thirds in New Zealand. Moreover, there is huge variation between English local authorities in the chances of a child in care being placed with a family member, with nearly 30% of looked after children in Leeds in kinship foster care compared to only 7% in County Durham.

“All children should have the right to be raised within their family, where it is safe. Their chance to do so shouldn’t depend on which part of the country they are born.”


[i] Note on polling data:

All percentages have been calculated based on the exclusion of ‘don’t knows’ and rounded to the nearest whole number. Polling was UK wide and carried out between 29th November and 2nd December 2021. Full data tables can be viewed here.

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