Kirklees Family and Friends Policy: Is it the good, the bad or the non existent?
Family and friends carers (or “kinship carers”) are grandparents, other relatives or family who step in to care for children who cannot safely live at home with their parents. This may be because of parental difficulties, mental or physical ill health, domestic abuse, alcohol or substance misuse, imprisonment or bereavement.
There are an estimated 200,000-300,000 children living with family and friends carers.
In March 2011 the Government published Family and Friends Care: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities
A key aspect of the guidance was a requirement for all English local authorities to publish a family and friends care policy by 30th September 2011. It also included detailed guidance on what local policies should address and the need for a senior manager in each authority to have overall responsibility for the family and friends care policy.
The Family Rights Group has today published a study which examines the extent to which local authorities are complying with this statutory guidance and also identifies best practice on family and friends care.
The study is called: “Understanding family and friends care: local authority policies – the good, the bad and the non existent”
Nigel Priestley, a trustee of FRG and Senior Partner at Ridley and Hall said “Kirklees, one of the countries largest local authorities appears to have missed the deadline by a mile.
The Government saw this as a crucial document for the growing number of kinship carers – but search on line and there’s nothing to see. Leeds proudly sets out its policy – but where is Kirklees? Perhaps they are keeping it secret – otherwise they are over 7 months late. There’s no excuse for such a delay.
Mr Priestley set out the key findings of the study:
1 Local authorities have to produce a family and friends care policy. This is both something that they have to do, because the statutory guidance requires it, and also something that they ought to do, because it will help to ensure good outcomes for vulnerable children.
2 Policies should observe both the letter and the spirit of the statutory guidance, as a minimum, in order to provide a service that will be sensitive to the needs of family and friends carers and the children they are raising.
3 The policy should not just be a procedural document for social workers and practitioners. It should be a document that family and friends carers, who may be unfamiliar with social work and legal terms, can read and understand. This means that it should be written as far as possible in non-technical language, with a glossary to explain terms and abbreviations.
Policies should include all the issues covered by the statutory guidance. The analysis of the policies received has highlighted the most significant deficiencies needing to be addressed:
a. Policies need to contain clear information about the support, including financial help, that is available and eligibility for receiving it. Sections of the policies dealing with financial arrangements need to be legally compliant.
b. There should be a clear explanation of the different legal arrangements that may be open to family and friends carers, including what finance and support would be available, to assist them with making an informed choice about what would be best for them and the child.
c. Policies should be based on evidence of the actual needs and wishes of carers and children, drawing both from research information and from local consultations with carers, children and parents and local demographic data.
d. Policies should include information about types of support specifically for older family and friends carers, those with multiple caring responsibilities and younger carers. This should include more joined up working with Adult Social Services.
e. Policies should require discussions with and dissemination of information to colleagues in other council departments and external service providers including schools, colleges and health centres, to develop improved understanding and partnership working to address the particular challenges facing family and friends carers.
f. Finally, FRG recommends that policies should be clear about any help they give with legal fees to family and friends carers and the eligibility criteria that will be applied.