Over 9 million people saw or listened to news coverage about kinship care during Kinship Care Week – an awareness week led by Grandparents Plus that takes place in October each year to raise awareness, understanding and recognition of the role of kinship carers.
As the results of our Kinship Care State of the Nation 2019 survey hit national headlines, kinship carers from our 6,000-strong kinship carer community took their place in the spotlight, to tell their personal stories and speak about the changes they wish to see. They more than rose to the challenge alongside our CEO and project workers with appearances on Sky News, Channel Five News, BBC Radio 4, Tees, Surrey and Sussex, and in print and online in The Times, Express, Daily Mail, Yorkshire Post and more.
Kinship Care Week was started by our friends at Kinship Carers Liverpool and identified as a national priority at a Reimagining Kinship Care social design workshop led by Grandparents Plus and Bristol University in 2017 which involved kinship carers, social workers, academics and charities working with kinship carers. Kinship carers said they wanted to be recognised, like foster carers and adopters, with a national awareness week.
In 2018 Grandparents Plus joined forces with Kinship Carers Liverpool to give the week a national impact and it has gone from strength to strength. This year Kinship Care Week was a priority for organisations who make up the Kinship Care Alliance and many of them – Adfam, CFAB, CoramBAAF, Family Rights Group, and Kinship Carers UK – joined our working group and got involved to spread the word about the challenges that kinship carers face and how this needs to change.
Our ‘What is kinship care?’ web page became one of the most viewed on our site during the week and enquiries to our Kinship Advice service soared, showing that we reached many new kinship carers – some of whom may not have even known they were kinship carers in the first place.
It was a busy week for our team, our volunteers and kinship carers, which kicked off on a chilly Saturday, with over 470 kinship carers and children joining us at five celebration days around England to have a fun family day out. Some children and carers had never met another kinship family before, other carers are regulars at our support groups and meetings, but they all enjoyed theme parks, explored museums and had the opportunity to meet and spend the day with other kinship children and carers in their area – forming lasting friendships that will help them reduce the isolation that many kinship carers tell us they feel.
Our kinship advice team hit the road, heading to Newcastle and London to meet kinship carers in person. They were supported by a family law solicitor from Goodman Derrick Solicitors on one of the days. Ridley & Hall Solicitors also ran a live Facebook advice session specifically for kinship carers during the week.
Around the country, 12 local authorities that commission our Kinship Connected programme, which provides intensive one-to-one family support and develops peer support groups, lent their support for Kinship Care Week on social media, as well as arranging afternoon teas or special support group meetings for carers as part of their celebrations.
MPs also got involved with the week, with some writing to the minister for children and families, Michelle Donelan MP, to ask what she plans to do to support kinship carers. 11 MPs – including the children’s minister – tweeted about kinship care, four MPs met kinship care support groups in their constituencies, including cabinet member Theresa Villiers MP. Now that an election has been called, we’ll be working to ensure that kinship care is on the agenda during the campaign and in the new parliament.
But what difference will this all make for kinship carers?
As well as giving kinship carers a voice, connecting them with each other and thanking them for everything they do raising children often with complex needs, we launched our campaign manifesto, which has been built in partnership with kinship carers. Our campaign is calling for a Kinship Care Act with legislation and resources to ensure that kinship carers get the support they need. We will be standing beside and supporting kinship carers 100% to bring about this change over the coming years.
Watch this space for Kinship Care Week 3-9 October 2020.