Kinship care

Kinship care is where a child is unable to live with their birth parent and resides instead with a relative or other individual with whom they have a pre-existing relationship e.g. a sibling, or close family friend, as outlined in the Looked After Children (Scotland) Regulations 2009. The carer is referred to as a kinship carer.

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:

  • following a full and comprehensive procurement process, the Kinship Care Advice Service for Scotland is now delivered jointly by Adoption UK Scotland and the Association for Fostering, Kinship and Adoption Scotland
  • the Service runs a confidential helpline on 0808 800 0006, they provide assistance with legal and financial matters, including benefits advice
  • the Service also manage, the national website providing kinship families with information and advice, local and national support groups and the latest news and events across Scotland

Kinship allowances

In August 2023, we introduced the Scottish Recommended Allowance for foster and kinship carers. Following agreement with CoSLA, this marks the first time a set rate, which all local authorities must pay, has been introduced across Scotland.

The introduction of the payment means every eligible kinship carer will receive at least a standard, national allowance which recognises the valuable support they provide, no matter where they live.

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

  • all 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 eligible for the Scottish Recommended Allowance 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 their 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
  • any other relevant information

Interaction between allowances and child-related benefits

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.

Kinship care and the Promise

The Scottish Government has committed to keeping the Promise by 2030. The Promise is the conclusions to the Independent Care Review which ran from 2017 to 2020. 

Kinship care is a key part of the Promise. We set out its response in March 2023 when it published Keeping the Promise implementation plan. That plan set our approach to a good childhood which included support for caregivers including kinship carers.

Some of the work that we are doing to support kinship carers in line with the Promise is:

  • working with councils to introduce and implement the Scottish Recommended Allowance for foster and kinship carers
  • working with stakeholders as part of the National Trauma Training Programme to consider what additional resources may be required to support kinship carers to provide trauma-informed care for their children and young people
  • committing investment of £500m in Whole Family Wellbeing funding to improve holistic family support so that families get the right support, in the right way and at the right time
  • establishing the Kinship Care Collaborative to consider current policy and legislation and explore changes required to drive improvements
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