Improve consistency and transparency in the delivery of information and support for families and carers
During the Group’s discussions, the needs and rights of children in foster and kinship care, as well as those who were adopted, went beyond allowances administered by local authorities and providers and the Group thought it was important to address many of the issues that were raised via the survey and the Communities of Interest. Several of the following recommendations are built on the tenet that carers do not undertake the role for financial gain and would welcome smoother access to the services and support available, including the benefits system, care system, universal services and third sector organisations that are designed to support care experienced children and their families. With regard to other payments made to foster carers, approximately two-thirds of foster carer survey respondents (64%) stated that they did not have a clear understanding of what additional payments foster carers in their area may receive. Similarly, the majority of foster carer respondents (83%) felt they did not have a clear understanding of what exceptional payments foster carers in their area may receive.
Throughout the consultation, there was also specific mention of the needs of kinship carers, who can often face different challenges to foster carers and therefore require different support. The consultation findings highlighted that kinship carers do not feel particularly well informed at the beginning of the process and would welcome greater support from local authorities around what they are entitled to, both relating to allowances, but also, training, support (including peer support) and advocacy. With regard to support for adoptive families, the Group considered the vital role post-adoption support can play, often years after a child has been adopted, in helping address issues and reduce the number of disruptions. Families can sometimes be reluctant to return to a local authority and the recommendation is aimed at addressing stigma and breaking down the barriers that some adoptive parents feel.
As part of the Group’s approach, young people were asked what further support they would welcome and many said that they would like someone else they could talk to and have fun with – they spoke about some kids having befrienders and some stated that they would like this. They also asked for a greater focus on their health and wellbeing, with a particular focus on their mental health, which could be supported via better equipping their carers and parents to meet their needs.
|Rec 4||In line with Getting It Right For Every Child, additional and exceptional payments beyond the child allowance should be linked to the identified needs of children in foster care and information about such payments should be shared with foster carers at the earliest opportunity. Local authorities should have an approach to decisions around these allowances which is clear and transparent and which supports a single planning framework, via a Child’s Plan.|
|Rec 5||Scottish Government should undertake a mapping exercise of policy objectives linked to foster, kinship and adopted children, to ensure their needs are represented and policies continue to be aligned.|
|Rec 6||Information about benefits and tax should be readily available and accurate, with the information provided by UK Government departments, including DWP & HMRC, taking account of the differences between carers in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Support for local authority staff responsible for advising carers should be developed, particularly relating to the implementation of Universal Credit.|
|Rec 7||As part of the information provided to carers by local authorities, a ‘Carer’s letter’ should be developed to enable kinship families to have a clear understanding of what they are entitled to. This should include access to allowances, benefits, training and peer support.|
|Rec 8||Learning from best practice, local authorities’ support for kinship families should focus on the identified needs of carers and young people. Examples include support linked to trauma and loss, peer support, as well as dedicated workers for carers and children in kinship care.|
|Rec 9||In line with GIRFEC, all local authorities as corporate parents should continue to work collaboratively, particularly driving attainment within schools in order to address the needs of children in kinship and foster care, as well as adopted children.|
|Rec 10||Consideration should be given as to how to mitigate the impact of Universal Credit on kinship families, which now disregards the “child element” for a looked after and accommodated child.|
|Rec 11||We know that many adoptive families benefit from post adoption support, long after the Adoption Order is granted. To support adoptive placements throughout childhood, adoption agencies should consider the provision of an annual post adoption contact for all adoptive families, aimed at providing early and appropriate support to the child and family in line with GIRFEC. Particular consideration should be given to out-of-authority placements and the transition from placing to residing authority.|
|Rec 12||A knowledge hub should be established to enable the sharing of best practice between the services and providers that support care experienced children and their families.|
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