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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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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). Or you can ask us a question via email using our advice enquiry form.

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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.

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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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Time To Define Kinship Care

Time to Define is a major campaign from Family Rights Group to recognise, value and support kinship care for children who cannot remain at home. It starts with a single definition of kinship care written into legislation.

Time to Define is a major campaign by Family Rights Group to improve recognition and understanding of kinship care with a single definition written into legislation.

What is kinship care?

Thousands of family and friends step in every year to raise children who are unable to live with their parents. Such situations often arise out of tragedy or trauma. Often the children would otherwise live with strangers in the care system.

Kinship care can take different forms including kinship foster care, special guardianship, child arrangements orders, private fostering or private family arrangements.

Kinship care is often overlooked and undervalued

Currently, there is no single definition of kinship care in primary legislation. As a result, kinship carers can face many challenges including not being recognised in their parenting role by hospital services, schools, or employers.

It also means kinship care is interpreted in different ways by government, state agencies, services, and the public including kinship carers themselves. Families then face a postcode lottery in the support available to them locally. For many, there is little or no support for the child or themselves, particularly those with informal arrangements.

We know this is preventing children from receiving the support they need to live safely and thrive in their families

Caroline Lynch, Principal Legal Adviser, Family Rights Group

“Without an agreed definition, kinship carers can quickly run into a myriad of confusion and misunderstanding. At the very moment when the child they are caring for needs stability and support, kinship carers find they are having to constantly explain who they are and what they need.”

Read more from Caroline about why this is needed

Kinship carer, Clare Walsh, faced problems when taking her nephew to hospital:

“If a legal definition had been in place, my nephew and I would still have had the usual scary experiences of early childhood illness – but we wouldn’t have had the extreme stress and fear that was forced on us because we had no legal status. I know so many carers who have experienced this, and we all felt the same fear and panic.”

Read more from Clare about her experience

We are calling on the Government to define kinship care clearly in law

A single definition of kinship care must be broad enough to ensure that no kinship carer is left out. It would cover all the different types of kinship care arrangement. It should be applied across national government and all parts of public life at a local level. From school admissions forms to DWP benefits assessments. From the NHS to local authority services.

This would provide the foundation for an effective kinship care support system

Meeting the definition could automatically passport kinship carers and their children to a minimum level of support and services. All kinship children, regardless of the type of arrangement they have, should be able to access crucial support to live safely and thrive in their family.

That support should include access to free legal aid and advice, paid employment leave akin to adoption leave, improved financial support, practical help including peer support, and educational and therapeutic support for kinship children.

Read our full proposal

The proposal has been informed by the views of thousands of kinship carers including members of our kinship carers’ panel and those who contact our specialist national advice service every year. It has also been influenced by research, and the policy and practice insights of Family Rights Group and other members of the Kinship Care Alliance.


How kinship care could be defined

Our second paper considers what the legal definition of kinship carers could look like. We have drawn on our unique combination of legal and social work expertise, and direct work with families, to devise this draft definition. Kinship carers from our panel have helped us to think through language and practicalities.


Our progress so far

In May 2022, the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care adopted our proposal for a new legal definition of kinship care, as part of a “fundamental shift in children’s social care”.

Fast forward to February 2023, the Government published their plans for children’s social care reform, Stable Homes, Built on Love. They include a working definition of kinship care to be consulted on.

We encourage supporters of our Time To Define campaign to respond to the Government’s consultation on the definition. See our briefing here.

Our campaign has gathered support from kinship carers, practitioners, politicians and organisations from across the sector, including:

Local Government Association

“We support the recommendation of the review to develop a new legal definition of kinship care, building on work by the Family Rights Group, to ensure that those caring for children in a range of circumstances are able to receive the support they are entitled to.”

Rt Hon Alan Johnson

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Kinship Care

“National government should ensure kinship care in all its forms is recognised and understood including in national and local government policy making, by legislating for a universal definition of kinship care. It is time to define kinship care.”

Kinship Care Bill

In July 2022, Liberal Democrat MP and Education Spokesperson, Munira Wilson, introduced the Kinship Care Bill in the House of Commons. The Bill would provide a statutory definition of kinship care and make it easier for kinship carers to access support.

How you can help support the Time to Define Kinship Care campaign:

  • Share the proposal on social media using the hashtag #TimeToDefine and tag us in @familyrightsgp
  • Endorse the campaign either individually or as an organisation by completing the form below
  • Write to your Member of Parliament or your local lead councillor for children’s services, and ask them to support the campaign
  • Consider how your local authority or organisation can implement any of the recommendations in our proposal

Sign up to support our Time to Define Kinship Care campaign:

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