Family placement postcode lottery for children in care

New research has found that children going into care face a postcode lottery for the opportunity to stay with relatives, with less than one in five children going into care initially placed with a friend or relative.

Law firm Ridley & Hall Legal Limited asked councils in England to reveal how many of the children that went into care last year were initially placed with a close friend or relative – also known as Kinship Care - with the freedom of information requests finding that only 4,758 out of 27,791 children were initially placed with relatives or close family friends.

With 124 councils responded to the request, the figure represents an average of 17 per cent nationally, largely the result of councils in the North East placing 37 per cent of children in kinship care. Conversely, the figure is as low as 11 per cent in the East of England.

Nigel Priestley, specialist adoption solicitor for Ridley & Hall, said: “We found a significant difference between local authorities that appear to be particularly keen to utilise kinship foster care and those that only place a small number of children in this type of care. Given the value of family and friends care to the children, more needs to be done to make this a preferred option wherever possible, across the country.

“In some local authorities, a third or more children are initially placed in care with someone they know. In others, it was only a handful. It is clear from the figures that more needs to be done to ensure children who could safely be looked after by someone they know, are given every opportunity to do just that. The odds of siblings going into care together then staying together, where this is the best option for them, are far greater if they are allowed to move in with a close friend or relative. There are far fewer approved foster carers that are allowed to or interested in caring for more than two or three children at the same time.

“A lot of those applying to be a kinship carer are grandparents. I simply do not believe that grandparents are more willing to step in and help in one local authority and not in another. It looks like for many children, it is a postcode lottery. Some local authorities are clearly more enthusiastic about the concept than others. That needs to change for the benefit of families and, especially, for the sake of the children. Meeting the needs of siblings includes allowing them to maintain a relationship with their friends, family, and especially each other. It’s vital to try to keep them in the same schools – family and friends are always prepared to work hard to make this happen. It seems that, in certain places across England, children are missing out on the opportunity for temporary kinship care.”

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