State of the Nation 2021: Kinship 2021

Kinship’s State of the Nation Survey is an annual survey that explores what life is like for kinship carers in England and Wales. It enables the charity and wider sector to identify and respond to emerging issues, and to track issues over time.

Key Findings:

Kinship care provides permanence Kinship carers are dedicated to the children they care for. Ninety-six percent of kinship carers believed the children would be living with them permanently. Eighty-one percent of carers were already planning to care for the children into adulthood and only 2% did not think the children would remain with them once they reached the age of 18.

Most carers did not regard respite as an opportunity to get away from the children. Instead, they regarded it as a chance to catch up on daily tasks while their children were at school, or to take a family holiday together.

Children in kinship care often have a high level of needs Children in kinship care are often vulnerable. Sixty-two percent of carers believed that their children had long-term physical and mental health needs. Thirty-six percent of children in kinship care had special educational needs – three times the national average of 12%. Forty percent of kinship carers reported their children displayed risk-taking behaviour including self-harming and drug and alcohol misuse.

Child-on-carer violence continues to be a significant issue, which 26% of carers reported experiencing over the past year. Kinship carers are older than other groups raising children, and over one-third of kinship carers have support needs of their own.

The majority of kinship carers who responded to the survey were older, with 65% ranging in age from 55 to 85. Kinship carers were primarily grandparents, making them an older group than the majority of parents raising children. Thirty-nine percent of carers reported they had additional needs that they felt required more support.

Covid-19 has put kinship families under additional strain. The impact of Covid-19 and the related lockdown restrictions continued to put kinship families under additional strain. Sixty-three percent of kinship carers stated that the lockdown restrictions had a negative impact on their physical and mental wellbeing. Sixty-four percent of carers reported that the Covid-19 restrictions had a negative impact on their children’s physical and mental wellbeing. Fifty-four percent of carers strongly agreed or agreed that reducing lockdown restrictions would improve their overall well-being.

Kinship families are not getting the support they need A child’s formal diagnosis can be a gateway to receiving support. Although 62% of carers stated they believed their children had additional physical and mental health needs, only 33% of children had received a formal diagnosis.

Parenting children in kinship care can be difficult due to children’s additional needs, however, 70% of carers did not receive the support they felt they needed from their local authorities. Contact between children in kinship care and their parents is often identified as an area where kinship carers need support. Despite this, only 11% of carers were receiving support from their local authorities to help with contact and a further 23% said they needed support but did not receive it. Twenty-four percent of kinship carers reported they never got a break from caring for the children. Schools are an important source of support for kinship families.

Schools could be an important source of support for kinship carers and their children. Fifty-two percent of carers said that their children receive additional support at school. Forty-seven percent of carers said that their children’s schools met their children’s needs either extremely well or quite well.

Post-18 support is almost non-existent for kinship families. Only 3% of carers had been offered post-18 support.