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Kinship care

Kinship care is when a child is looked after by their extended family or close friends if they cannot remain with their birth parents.

Under the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009, a kinship carer is defined as "a person who is related to the child (through blood, marriage or civil partnership) or a person with whom the child has a pre-existing relationship".

Kinship care includes both:

  • looked after children who have been placed with kinship carers by the local authority
  • non-looked after children who live in an informal kinship care arrangement (these children may be subject to an order under Section 11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 or may be living in a completely private arrangement with extended family, with no local authority involvement)

Supporting kinship carers

We recognise the important role played by kinship carers in providing secure, stable and nurturing homes for children who cannot be cared for by their birth parents.

We fund the following organisations and services to provide kinship care support, advice and information:

  • Children 1st helps kinship families to access the local services they need, in addition to providing emotional support, training and awareness sessions on issues such as attachment and managing relationships within the family. Its Kinship Care National Training and Outreach Service is a confidential telephone support service specifically for kinship carers that is available all year-round on 0800 028 2233
  • Citizens Advice Scotland runs a confidential Kinship Care Advice and Information Service that provides assistance with legal and financial matters, including benefits advice. Its helpline is available all year round on 0808 800 0006
  • the free Kinship Care Guide published by Mentor UK contains clear and concise information on kinship care issues and provides contact details of services that meet the needs of kinship carers and the young people in their care
  • Mentor UK has launched the National Kinship Care Website for Scotland which provides kinship families with information and advice, access to training, policy updates, local and national support, and the latest news and events across Scotland

Kinship allowances

In September 2015 we announced that we would give local authorities an additional £10.1 million of funding per year with which to pay kinship care allowances.

The aim of the additional funding is to ensure local parity (i.e. within their local authority area) of allowances between kinship and foster carers (however, foster care fees are not included in this agreement and are separate from it).

This agreement will not apply to all kinship carers. It applies to:

  • all formal kinship carers where the child has looked after status
  • some informal kinship carers, where the child is not a looked after child but is subject to a Section 11 Order (to be known as a Kinship Care Order), and is or was:
    • previously looked after
    • placed with involvement from the local authority
    • at risk of becoming looked after

Kinship carers covered by this agreement should receive an allowance at a minimum of the same rate as foster carers in their local authority area.

In the interests of transparency, each local authority should publish a revised Kinship and Fostering Allowances Policy which should include key details of entitlement, eligibility criteria, how it will be assessed, where more information can be found, where complaints can be made and any other relevant information.

We are setting up a National Allowance Review Group to review the allowances for foster and kinship care in light of recent changes including the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Funding started on 1 October 2015. We accept that it is taking some local authorities a while to determine how much each kinship carer should now receive, but where there is a delay we expect payments to be backdated to 1 October 2015.

Some kinship carers will be eligible for child-related benefits, which are intended to cover accommodation and maintenance.

If a kinship carer is in receipt of any child-related benefits, then the local authority may deduct these from the amount of allowance that it pays to the kinship carer.

In this situation, any additional payment to bring the allowance rate up to that of a foster carer is to be considered a wellbeing payment – the kinship carer is already receiving payment from the state for accommodation and maintenance and the additional money is to ensure that the kinship child is able to benefit from opportunities that many children have but that they would otherwise be unable to access.