This week marks Kinship Care Week in Scotland, a chance to celebrate and recognise the vital difference that kinship carers make every day to children and families across Scotland.
Back in 2006, the Changing Lives : Report of the 21st Century Social Work Review described family as the ‘greatest utility of the 21 century’. During this national week of kinship care, this has never been more important.
Glasgow has embraced this view and positioned a kinship strategy which not only acknowledges the commitment from kinship carers but also seeks to capitalise by increasing investment and resourcing new approaches. With nearly 1,300 children and young people cared by almost 1,000 carers in Glasgow this is a big ask and requires a flexible approach informed by carers and young people led by a vision which places ‘family first’.
Since 2015, we have ensured that all kinship placements made by social work receive a payment comparable with foster care. We have enhanced investment in family support delivered by key third sector partners ensuring a stronger connection between carers and neighbourhood support. In consultation with kinship carers and the Citizens Advice Bureau, we have also introduced our new kinship website in Glasgow’s ‘your support your way’ detailing frequently asked questions and outlining local supports.
Local kinship groups ensure critical support to carers who can access the experience and support of their peers. In recent years, these groups have played a vital role in developing our successful kinship events covering topics such as education attainment, recovery and family support. The role played by third sector partners supporting kinship carers in Glasgow is impressive and constantly evolving.
Implementing evidence-based programmes is nothing new to Glasgow and Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) has proven to support and sustain kinship placements improving shared decision making between carers and social work wherever possible. FGDM is now widely available across Glasgow Social Work Services with additional investment in our ‘Life Long Links’ approach which seeks to extend our reach pursuing extended family networks wherever possible.
Kinship care has exposed the growing need for responsive and targeted support. This, in turn, has produced a dynamic and creative workforce who are attuned the needs of carers and the young people in their care. Such a committed workforce is mirrored in our leadership who understand the value of kinship care as a core feature of our children’s transformational programme. A financial commitment - in excess of £10 million per year - reflects the sense of corporate responsibility supporting kinship initiatives and responding to changing trends. A recent decision to triple the financial support towards Kinship Orders to £1,500 provides another example of policy change amended to support permanence planning in kinship. More recently we have alleviated the pressures of overcrowding in kinship placements with an approach which financially supports home alterations and adaptation where appropriate.
Progress is notable and more can always be done. The continual engagement with kinship carers in response to future challenges associated with universal credit, educational attainment and young people/mental health for example will remain key.
Glasgow is not alone in some of this work – there are teams working tirelessly up-and-done the country to improve support for kinship carers and their families. This week, we celebrate the role of kinship carers across all of Scotland, who have ensured family connectedness and identity for those young people who are unable to live with their parents. This rightly deserves formal acknowledgment and we look forward to continuing our working relationship with kinship carers who will always share their views and help shape our practice. Well done and congratulations to all our kinship carers.