200,000 UK children live with kinship carers

Kinship carers are relatives who look after a child most or all of the time because their parent is not able to care for them.

Around 200,000 children in the UK live in kinship care and about half of these do so because their parents have drug or alcohol issues. Other reasons include bereavement, imprisonment, parental abuse or neglect and parental ill health.

‘In our experience most Kinship carers tend to be grandparents,’ says Jo Dolby, ‘not only are they dealing with the issues of their own adult children, their grandchildren often have special needs and emotional and behavioural problems. Yet despite this, kinship carers receive very little support in comparison with a foster carer.’

The Council were really positive

Jo got in contact with Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) Council’s Family Placement Team,  offering space in their 150-year-old, Grade II listed Baptist church.

‘They were really positive,’ says Jo, ‘It turned out that the Family Placement Team were also aware how little support kinship carers in the area got. The problem was, they had no space or staff for a support group.’

Oasis Church Bath now runs the monthly Kinship Carers’ Support Group with help from BANES Council. About 20 carers are on the books.

‘They support each other as well as being able to talk with social care professionals about assessments, legal issues etc . We can signpost them to relevant support and resources, such as our community pantry if there are food poverty issues. Luckily, groups like kinship carers can still meet under Covid restrictions.’

Partnership working is more sustainable

Jo explains how Oasis Church Bath has three levels of working:

  • Hosted delivery – we just rent space to various 12 step fellowship group and to the local charity, Focus Counselling. Bath MIND are refurbishing our basement and will run a daily a mental health drop-in project.
  • Partnership delivery is where we work with a partner, like the Council.
  • Direct delivery is where our staff and volunteers deliver a service such as our weekly food pantry.

‘You get a higher quality of service if you work with others who are more specialised and you also reach more people,’ says Jo. ‘We can listen sympathetically to a kinship carer but sometimes what they need is professional advice from social care.’

Do social action projects detract from Church life?

‘No’, says Jo. ‘They are one of the ways we express our Christ-centred community. It’s our goal that people see God’s love in action. There’s no expectation that people will come to church services.’