Please be assured that I would like to see our social care system making kinship care much more financially viable as happens in Germany where this option is very popular and also saves money. I have argued for this in the past and will continue to do so. Very sadly, I was not able to attend the Westminster Hall debate due to prior commitments, but I will continue to argue to make kinship carer more feasible for more people.
Moreover, family and friends play a vital role in caring for children who are unable to live with their parents. Quite understandably, most children benefit from living with someone they already know and trust, rather than a stranger.
I am aware that a Private Member's Bill was tabled by Munira Wilson MP which seeks to provide a statutory definition of kinship care. Further it intends to make a provision about allowances and parental leave for kinship carers. I can assure you that this Government has long been committed to providing support for kinship carers.
The Government published its Children’s Social Care Implementation Strategy in February this year. This strategy outlined measures to transform children’s social care, properly supporting families, integrating the child protection system, improving foster carer recruitment, and hiring more social workers. As part of this, there will be a focus on keeping children in the care of family and loved ones through improved support and reducing barriers to kinship care. This includes investing £9 million in kinship care training and support.
The Government is also committed to publishing a national kinship care strategy by the end of 2023. This will provide an update on reform activity such as exploring financial allowances. The strategy will set out a long-term vision for kinship care, and detail how we can better support children and carers. The Government sees this as a pivotal moment for kinship care and will be an opportunity to make real and lasting change.
I know that the Government recognises the value of family arrangements, including kinship care. The Government has committed to implement or explore each of the recommendations on kinship care from the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, including a commitment to invest £9 million to establish a new kinship carer training offer in this Spending Review period and over £45 million to begin implementing family network support packages through the Families First for Children pathfinder.
As part of this, the Government will also invest in pilots that solely focus on Family Network Support Packages, in seven local areas. These pilots will allow us to test and evaluate the impact of these packages on keeping families together and keeping children out of care, and build on the investment we have already made to establish a network of up to 100 peer support groups for kinship carers across England.
I know that the Government understands the difficulties that some grandparents face in continuing relationships with their grandchildren following disputes arising from parental separation. Work is underway to review the operation of the Child Arrangements Programme. I understand ministers will monitor how this work develops before deciding whether something specific is needed in respect of grandparents and, if so, what that might be.
Further, statutory guidance for local authorities on supporting kinship carers has been issued. This makes it clear that children and young people should receive the support that they and their carers need to safeguard and promote their welfare. It explains that support, including financial support, can be provided under the Children Act 1989. Local authorities should also have clear eligibility criteria in place in relation to the support services they provide.
Local authorities are also required by central government to publish a policy that sets out their approach to promoting and supporting the needs of all children living with kinship carers. The policy should be clear, updated regularly, and made freely and widely available. I would encourage you to contact our local authority for more information about the policy in our area. I am also aware that the Government is supporting the Kinship charity to deliver up to 100 peer-to-peer support groups across England to support kinship carers.
I hope this reassures you that the importance and value of kinship carers in the care system is recognised. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for working tirelessly for those you care for.