MPs and Peers call on Government to act now to tackle nightmare legal labyrinth faced by kinship carers
Published: 16th May 2022
4 minute read
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kinship Care has today issued a new report – ‘Lost in the Legal Labyrinth’ – which found that prospective kinship carers do not have access to the legal advice and representation they need, with sometimes devastating consequences for them and the children.
- Some children ended up living with strangers in the care system, who could otherwise have been living safely with loving relatives
- A third of kinship carers said that they were dissatisfied with the child’s current legal arrangement. Yet the legal arrangement for the child can have lasting consequences for their entitlement to emotional, practical and financial support and who can make key decisions about the child
- Prospective kinship carers frequently were unrepresented in key court proceedings about the child or ended up paying out significant sums of their own monies to be represented, even where this left them in financial hardship or debt.
There are more children now in the care system in England and Wales, than at any time since 1985, and the system has been described as in crisis. Yet the APPG heard from hundreds of kinship carers across England and Wales, and found evidence of instances where, rather than supporting family and friends who wanted to give children a safe and loving home, the system made the process so confusing and stressful it seemed designed to actively discourage them.
- 82% of kinship carers did not feel they knew enough about their legal options to make an in-formed decision about the best options for their kinship child.
- A third (35%) said they were not satisfied with their current legal arrangement for their kin-ship child
- Almost 4 in 10 (38%) kinship carers had NOT received any legal advice about their rights and options for their kinship child.
- For those who had experience of court proceedings in relation to their kinship children, al-most a third (30%) had to represent themselves at least for some of the time.
- Over a third (37%) of kinship carers had made personal contributions to the costs of legal advice, court fees and legal representation. Of those carers: 47% had costs up to £1000; 27% between £1001 and £5000; 16% between £5001 and £10,000; and 9% in excess of £10,000.
The inquiry, launched in January 2022, also heard from leading legal practitioners and organisations in child and family law, and from non-for-profit advice services. The evidence received points to a broken child welfare and family justice system that does not sufficiently support relatives and friends to step in to prevent children entering the care system and be cared for by strangers.
The APPG’s work follows some welcome but currently undelivered commitments, made by the Ministry of Justice in 2019, to expand the scope of legal aid to cover kinship carers applying for special guardianship orders in private law. The APPG has called on the government to implement those proposals urgently and urged them to go further by mirroring the provision in public law and without means testing. The Ministry of Justice has recently published proposals to reform the means test but the APPG says the new thresholds will still exclude many impoverished carers.
Other recommendations the APPG has made for national and local government and the family courts include:
- For kinship care to be clearly defined in law, to ensure it is recognised by public services with clearer access to support
- Adequate funding for not-for-profit independent legal advice, information services and advocacy services specialising in child welfare and family court law and practice
- For local authorities to review their family and friends care policies to clearly set out local arrangements for funding legal support
- Improved monitoring of the family justice system’s approach to kinship care.
For further information, please contact: Cathy Ashley, email@example.com, 07931 570149
Download the full report: ‘Lost in the legal labyrinth: How a lack of legal aid and advice is undermining kinship care’
More information about the APPG and its inquiry can be found on the Group’s website here.
About The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kinship Care
The APPG on Kinship Care is a cross party group of MPs and Peers who share a common interest in championing kinship care and improving support for kinship carers. The APPG seeks to raise awareness of kinship care and to promote policy and practice which supports more children to live safely within their family and friends network, when they cannot live with their parents.
About Family Rights Group Family Rights Group (FRG)
Family Rights Group is a national charity that promotes policies and practices that keep children safe within their family and strengthen the family and community networks of those children who cannot live at home. The charity works with parents whose children are in need, at risk or are in the care system and with wider family members and friends who are raising children (known as kinship
carers). They run a free, independent and confidential child welfare practice and legally-based advice service for parents, grandparents, relatives and friends about their rights and options when social workers or courts make decisions about their children’s welfare. Advice line 0808 801 0366 Mon-Friday 9.30am-3pm