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A recent study by charity Family Rights Group has found that the failure of local authorities to implement central government policy has meant that family and friends carers, who are raising some of the nation’s most vulnerable children, are being left without adequate support.

When children are unable to live with either of their parents, official guidance stipulates they should be enabled to live with a member of their extended family or social network, provided this is feasible and in the child’s best interests. It is estimated that around  250,000 children live with such kinship carers.

The study, which included: a survey of more than 490 carers raising more than 750 children; 95 in-depth interviews; an analysis of government data and a Freedom of Information request to local authorities, show that:

  • One in five children (20%) being cared for by a friend or family member had first been placed in unrelated foster care before eventually being moved to a kinship arrangement, creating twice the upheaval and placing unnecessary burdens on an already stretched care system.
  • Forty-five per cent of English local authorities had not published a family and friends care policy, more than five months after the government required them to do so.
  • Almost half of carers (44%) surveyed said they had received no practical help from their local authority and 95% identified at least one form of support they had needed, but not received - most mentioned several. The great majority – more than 70% - rated the support they had received from their local authority as poor or very poor.
  • Seventy-six per cent of carers surveyed felt they did not have enough understanding of the legal options and the implications for the level of support they would receive to make informed decisions.
  • Interviews with carers show that more than a third (38%) of children living with family and friends carers suffer emotional and behavioural problems and many have learning and physical disabilities.
  • Carers bringing up those children face significant challenges, with almost two-thirds having raised stress levels - twice the national average - and 38% exhibiting high levels of stress.

Family Rights Group chief executive, Cathy Ashley, said: “Councils’ failure to help and support people through the legal minefield when they are raising children that would otherwise be the authority’s responsibility is a dereliction of duty. The consequence is that carers, and, by direct implication, the children, are denied the legal, financial and practical support they are rightly entitled to.”

The Children’s Rights Director, Roger Morgan, has recently published the After Care report, which looked at views from 308 care leavers both who had recently left care and those still in care but preparing to leave.

The Bar Council has written to members of the House of Lords to voice its concerns around the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (‘the Bill’) and the impact it will have on private family law cases.

A teenager from Worcestershire has lost her legal bid to be allowed to raise her two-year-old daughter after an Appeal Court judge upheld a ruling that the child should be put in a permanent placement, reports the Telegraph.

A recent report has found that disabled children and young people are having difficulty accessing advocacy services that could bring real improvements to their lives.

The latest figures from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) have shown that during the month of August there were 885 care applications – the highest  figures for this individual month, and the second highest ever recorded for a single month in Cafcass's ten year history. 

The family justice system is being put under increasing pressure as the number of care cases reach record levels, reports the Law Society Gazette.

The Children's Commissioner, Maggie Atkinson, is supporting the development of a blueprint for advocacy services that will enable vulnerable children to access support to allow them to have more of a say in decisions that will affect their lives.