Grandparents Plus welcomes the report published today by the Local Government Ombudsman.  The majority of Special Guardians are kinship carers – relatives who’ve stepped in to care for children who aren’t able to live with their parents.  The report’s findings echo what we’ve repeatedly heard from kinship carers: in our last survey, 61% of kinship carers said they didn’t get the support they needed when the children first moved in, and only 13% said that they were currently getting the support they need to bring them up.  We’re full of admiration for the kinship carers who’ve challenged the unjust policies and actions highlighted here. 

Through our work with local authority teams, we’re seeing an increase in awareness of the support needs of Special Guardians, and we’re committed to continuing to work with local authorities to enact change on the ground.  It’s clear that this will be a long process, and while there is emerging good practice within local authorities, we’re calling on central Government to ensure that there are policies and resources in place that make supporting kinship carers a priority. 

Lucy Peake, Chief Executive at Grandparents Plus, said:

This report is so important in validating the experiences we often hear from kinship carers, and we’re grateful to the LGSCO for highlighting these issues.  We know Special Guardians across the country face a postcode lottery when it comes to trying to get support from local authorities, as well as opaque policies and huge variation in practice.

However, we also know that there are many social workers out there who want to give Special Guardians the support they need, but are hamstrung by chronic budget shortages and a tightening focus on those who are entitled to statutory support.  We have to be realistic that the real problem is that by only providing guidance, with no statutory entitlements for Special Guardians, central Government is making them easy targets for cash-strapped local authorities to bend the rules.  If the Government is serious about supporting Special Guardians, they need to be recognised in policy and there needs to be investment at all levels.