The Department for Education has today published its long-awaited National Kinship Strategy, promising much needed greater support for children who grow up in kinship care and improved recognition of the vital role kinship carers play. Building on investments announced last year, the government has confirmed an additional £20 million will be spent in the next financial year, to include piloting a weekly financial allowance for kinship carers in line with that paid to foster carers and £3.8 million to expand the role of Virtual School Heads to improve the educational attendance, attainment and progress of children in kinship care. 

Also announced, a new statutory definition of Kinship Care to help enable kinship carers access support and recognition; a support and training package for kinship carers starting in Spring 2024; and a renaming of the Adoption Support Fund to reflect Special Guardianship eligibility. Many of the commitments set out today have been championed by kinship carers and the sector in a long-running campaign to raise the status of kinship families and the support they crucially need. 

Missing, there is no commitment to equalise paid parental leave entitlements for kinship carers, in line with statutory adoption pay and as called for by Adoption UK and others across the sector. Instead, the government has announced the publication of best practice guidance for employers whilst it continues to ‘explore options’. Despite the commitment to introduce a weekly allowance for kinship carers, many of whom face financial hardship, the slow roll out of the pilot across up to eight local authority areas will be hugely disappointing for the thousands of kinship families across the country who won’t benefit for some time. 

The move to strengthen the role of the Virtual School Head for children in kinship care is welcomed, as is the £3.8 million investment to support this. A forthcoming Adoption UK report will highlight the challenges faced by kinship children in education, many of whom miss out on vital support because they were never in state care, despite often having similar support needs as looked after and previously looked after children. Under the new non-statutory guidance, all kinship carers will be able to access advice and guidance from the virtual school, and Virtual School Heads will take on a strategic role in promoting the education of kinship children. 

This strategy acknowledges that children raised within kinship care, like many of their care experienced peers, can have a very complex life story.  Their early experiences can include experiences of trauma or challenging conditions, and they are impacted by family separation. This means that they and their families can benefit from, and often require, therapeutic support to help them to thrive. 

Adoption UK host the Kinship Care Advice Service for Scotland and the Foundations for Families project which provides vital access to information, advice and support for kinship families. We see first-hand the value and impact of services for kinship care families where support is accessible, relevant and informed by those who have lived experience. 

Permanence decisions for children who cannot live with their birth parents should always be based upon the individual needs of the child and there can never one ‘best’ option for all children. However, today’s publication marks a significant milestone in raising the profile of kinship care across the social care, education and justice sectors. This reflects a greater recognition that children benefit from the stability and familiarity of being raised within their family networks where it is possible but also acknowledges that support is needed to ensure kinship families can thrive.