In his earlier talk What happens when children can’t stay with their families John Paul explained that 20% of children and young people in Scotland who become the subject of compulsory intervention are placed in kinship care arrangements. The latest published figures indicate that this has risen slightly with 28% being placed with friends and/or relatives.
Kinship care is where a child or young person lives full-time or most of the time with a relative or family friend because they are not able to live with their birth parents. There are two different types of kinship care: formal care arrangements - where the child’s legal status is ‘looked after’ by the local authority - and informal care arrangements - where the legal status of the child is ‘non-looked after’ by the local authority. Looked after and non-looked after refers to the involvement or not of the Children’s Hearing system.
Children 1st outline how a local authority has responsibility for the care of a child or young person living in formal kinship care even though the everyday care is provided by kinship carers. This means that the local authority has a duty to assess the needs of looked after children and put a child’s plan in place outlining the services and supports the child will receive. The local authority still has duties towards children living in informal kinship care arrangements, but these duties are the same as they have towards all children in their area. Some local authorities across Scotland have dedicated kinship care social workers, but this is not the case in all areas.
In his talk John Paul highlighted how the rights and responsibilities of kinship carers can often be fraught with complexity. He also highlights that in any given country it will be extremely difficult to accurately establish how many children are living in informal kinship care arrangements.
John Paul also commented upon how kinship care, especially the more informal arrangements, can be viewed as a cheap option of care, removing costs from the state and this perhaps explains why exact figures are not always known.
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