Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Poor support for family and friends carers

Research by the Family Rights Group and Oxford University’s Centre for Family Law and Policy, has found significant shortfalls in support for children who are being cared for by family and friends. http://www.frg.org.uk/

Nearly 500 carers, caring for more than 750 children, were surveyed. Ninety-five in-depth interviews were also conducted. In addition local and central government data was analysed.

Some of the main findings were:
  • 44% of carers surveyed said they had received no practical help from their local authority
  • 95% identified at least one form of support they had needed, but had not received
  • 70% rated the support they received from their local authority as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’
In addition it was found that:
  • 76% of carers surveyed felt they did not have enough understanding of the legal options to make informed decisions
  • 38% of the children living with family and friends carers suffered emotional and behavioural problems
  • Two thirds of the carers had raised stress levels - twice the national average 
  • 38% of carers exhibited high levels of stress
Care by family and friends is often seen often as preferable to foster care because it helps retain children’s links with their families. In some circumstances it can also be an attractive alternative to formal care proceedings, especially where a court has made a Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order.

Under-resourcing care by family and friends is clearly counter-productive. Breakdowns in family and friends placements result in more expensive foster care, so creating a vicious spiral. Local authorities and central government need to take steps to ensure that financial and professional support for this important resource is properly planned for and provided at an appropriate level.