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The poor relations: children and informal kinship carers speak out

A Summary Research Report 2013

Authors: Julie Selwyn, Elaine Farmer, Sarah Meakings and Paula Vaisey

Buttle UK is the largest individual grant giving charity for children and young people. Importantly, these kinship carers make up a significant and growing proportion of applicants to our entire grant giving programmes. We have seen over recent years how kinship carers are under a vast amount of pressure. Despite taking on a huge burden from the state by looking after children who would otherwise end up in the care system, kinship carers and the children they look after are still an overlooked group who experience high levels of poverty and disadvantage with little or no statutory support.

Since kinship care, and in particular, children’s experiences of living with kin have been under-researched, developments within policy and practice have been limited, although campaigning groups have begun advocating for change. We therefore sought to gain a more vivid and accurate picture of how informal kinship carers - the group about whom we know least - and the children they look after view their lives. Most importantly, we wanted to know about the experience of these children and how their outcomes compared to children looked after by the state and those in the general population. From this, we hope to identify better practical ways to support informal kinship carers and the children they care for.