The Labour Party has proposed new rights for children brought up by other family members.
These “kinship rights” were announced by shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt, and would be introduced if the party wins this year’s general election. The measures include giving priority to such children in school admissions.
Kinship carers are relatives, such as siblings, grandparents, uncles and aunts, who look after children when their parents cannot. There are currently between 200,000 and 300,000 children in kinship care across the country. According to the BBC, almost half of these children are placed with other family members because of drug or alcohol abuse by their parents and 28 per cent because of physical abuse or neglect.
Hunt said that it was important for the next government to recognise “the ties of love” in such families. When parents cannot look after their children, he added, “other family members go to extraordinary lengths to provide care for vulnerable children and young people”.
He announced that, if Labour return to power after 7 May, these new rights would “ensure that vulnerable children are given access to great schools”. Of the children who are looked after by kinship carers, 4,700 have a court-appointed special guardian. If the proposed kinship rights are put into effect, these children will be given the same priority as children in care when it comes to school placements.
Former cabinet minister Alan Johnson also voiced his support for the measures. The Labour MP, who was raised by his sister, said it was “absolutely right” that children in kinship care have access to a quality education.
Children’s charity Family Rights Group (FRG) welcomed the proposal. Chief executive Cathy Ashley said society should put a greater focus on the needs of such children, whose carers “go to enormous lengths, often at considerable personal cost”.
FRG recently published a series of recommendations for the government in relation to kinship carers.